the day the women sat on the chairs
the message had moved swiftly from house to house and soon the whole village was buzzing with the news. the chief wanted all his subjects at his court in the morning. People were astonished. the chief rarely called meeting for all people usually preferring to deal with the men only who would in turn relay his messages to their wives. But this was different all the people were wanted. at the first light the women got up and started preparations, they lit the fire and prepared breakfast for their children and husbands.
soon a line formed as the women moved in a group towards the chiefs compound. the neat white chairs were arranged in the centre of the courtyard. the men were already seated in the chairs, the women meekly made their way to the back and started spreading their cloths on the ground to sit. the chief's men stopped them and asked them to occupy the vacant chairs. horrified the women slunk away, was this some kind of joke they mused. the chairs were the reserve of men and boys, their place was in the dirty mud were many were bitten by the sly red ants. they had to bear the pain silently. However women sitting on chairs was unheard of. it took a lot of cajoling for the women to finally sit on the chairs. Mother of peter was the first to sit and when no one rebuked her slowly one by one the other women joined her. the chairs were comfortable and allowed them to see the chief and hear him clearly. They started ululating with joy, the unheard of had happened they were sitting on chairs. the men had demanded the chairs to be bought because they felt the stools were to near to the women on the ground. some screwed their faces obviously unhappy about this new development. Why should women sit on chairs: then who would sit in the dirt. such a waste they exclaimed.
the chief began his speech. he had gone to the city and had been impressed by the values there. from today onwards all people were equal, men and women. the women ululated and rose up in dance and song. Never again he declared would any men be allowed to beat his wife- the men raised their voices in disagreement they needed to keep their wives in check after all they were their property. the chief was not done/ any men who broke the rule would be brought to his court. The women were ecstatic but many pinched themselves as they felt this was a dream. Beating wives was a pastime for the men.
the chief continued and stated that all the children should be registered for school including the girls. the men were flabbergasted. the chief had lost his mind. ts ts ts they said it must be because of a charm his wife had given him. She was too clever and unwomanly. They asked the chief who then would work in the fields if the girls went to school? maidei the chief's wife stood up and with a nod from the chief explained that the benefits of educating the girl child were many including the fact that she could make better reproductive health decisions, it would reduce infant mortality and bring economic empowerment. also they could become tomorrow's leaders. the men were angry how dare a woman speak in front of them, this was laying a bad example for their wives. The chief hushed them and continued, he was putting an immediate ban on all early marriage, the girls had a right to decide their husband and could only marry after completing school. the women were also going to learn about business and start income generation projects to earn money that they would use. the way of life of the whole family would benefit. The women could not contain themselves any more and broke into song and dance. finally their voices had been heard, they wanted to scream with joy. Mother of Thomas had another request for the chief-could the older women also go to school. they wanted to be able to count their children's ears when asked by the doctor and also to read his notes on their children's cards.
the men smelled their defeat. many consoled themselves by envisioning their daughters as nurses teachers and even engineers. They had heard that in the city the women worked in garages and the men cooked. the wind of change had caught up and they could do nothing. grandmother farisai who was the oldest woman at 89 grinned toothlessly. her dream of becoming a nurse could become a reality and she smiled confidently as she called out her name for grade one. The chance once denied her by her father 83 years back had come back and no one could stop her from going to school now. she was going to school.
all women were also going to get access to heath facilities when they were in labour and would be attended to by professional midwives aided by the traditional midwives. no life had to be lost during childbirth. tears were brimming in the women's eyes all this was too good to be true.
as the sun rose high up in the sky mother of samba planted herself firmly in the chair. Never again would she sit on the ground. she remembered her sister in the neighbouring village and she prayed that all that had happened here also happen in all the villages.it was indeed a new day, a new beginning for the women and their daughters, the day the women sat on the chairs.
my vision is to see an end to maternal mortality, infant mortality, poverty, child abuse and unequal opportunities for boys and girls in my country and the world over. I also dream of an AIDS free generation and access to education for all people.