HARARE, ZIMBABWE – Fungai Machirori seems wise beyond her 28 years. The vibrant woman smiles from behind her glasses in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, before speaking about her brainchild, a website called Her Zimbabwe.
“It’s an important space for the alternative Zimbabwean women’s narrative,” she explains. “Zimbabwean women are generally painted over with one brushstroke by the media. It’s a chance to tell another story and think in a new way.”
Machirori is the founder and managing editor of Her Zimbabwe. She created the platform in March 2012 and says she is pleased to see it already has 1,785 “likes” on Facebook as well as countless contributors.
Describing herself as a “journalist, blogger, poet and writer,” Machirori has also worked in HIV and AIDS media, communication and research. She recently attained her master’s in international development with a focus on diaspora and gender studies, which she says inspired her to create a way to include women in the diaspora in Zimbabwe's mainstream discourse.
Machirori says she noticed that many young Zimbabwean women were using new media, particularly blogs, to share their unique stories. The welcomed rise in this female blogging traffic raised the level of discussions, and Machirori saw how Zimbabwean women in the diaspora were hearing this discourse. She says she wanted to elevate this interaction.
“All these discoveries were happening at the same time as I was a runner-up in the World Youth Summit Awards held in Austria,” Machirori says. “There, I really started to see how young people were honing the potential of new media to make a difference in the world. And that’s really when I thought seriously about how a feminist cyber-activism platform could look in Zimbabwe.”
With Her Zimbabwe, Machirori says she aims to provide a space where Zimbabwean women can celebrate their femininity and share their views and ideas on what being a woman entails. Readers can also gain insight into the challenges faced by others.
Her Zimbabwe opens up dialogue and removes the barriers that separate classes, genders and ethnicities, she says. In Zimbabwe’s predominantly patriarchal society, this forum offers women a voice in social development, though it also welcomes the participation of men.
Zimbabwean women say that the website offers them a unique platform to express themselves on the issues that affect them as well as to redefine the globe’s perception of them. Together, they strive for "gender activism," which they say is a more inclusive and less radical form of feminism. As such, the website values men’s participation and strives to link Zimbabweans around the world in order to effect social change.
Zimbabwe ranks 88 th out of 135 countries on the Gender Gap Index 2011 based on economics, education, health and politics, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2011. Survey respondents ranked Zimbabwe a 4.98 out of 7 on the ability of women to rise to positions of enterprise leadership.
Drawing mostly female contributors, Her Zimbabwe users post about a range of issues that they face as women. One contributor, Nyasha