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‘We wanted to be free as a nation, and we wanted to be free as women’: Decolonisation, Nationalism and Women's Liberation in Zimbabwe, 1979–85 1

Law, Kate

‘We wanted to be free as a nation, and we wanted to be free as women’: Decolonisation, Nationalism and Women's Liberation in Zimbabwe, 1979–85            1 Thumbnail


Authors

KATE LAW Kate.Law@nottingham.ac.uk
Assistant Professor



Abstract

This article examines one of the most intractable problems that a newly independent nation encounters; the dissonance between the rhetoric of a revolutionary movement and its subsequent treatment of women in nationalist and supposedly decolonial projects. In drawing on interviews and archival research carried out in periodicals, newspapers and Hansard, the article examines the optimism, disillusionment, and betrayal of Zimbabwe's women in the first decade of independence. Exploring women's variegated roles during the country's war of independence, this article argues that many women believed that their participation in national liberation would be a precursor to a broader programme of cultural and societal emancipation. Yet, as is shown, governmental thinking placed women as consumers and not producers of new nationalist culture. In particular, the grim reality of the situation was unambiguously shown just three years into independence through 'Operation Clean-Up', whereby thousands of women in Zimbabwe's main cities of Harare and Bulawayo were indiscriminately detained with state machinery arguing that the women were prostitutes, vagrants and beggars. A blatant effort to curtail women's autonomy in urban spaces, the machinations of 'Operation Clean-up' demonstrated an uneasy coherence between colonial and post-colonial thinking regarding the 'appropriate' place for women in the new nation.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 23, 2020
Online Publication Date Oct 8, 2020
Publication Date 2021-03
Deposit Date Oct 1, 2020
Publicly Available Date Oct 9, 2020
Journal Gender & History
Print ISSN 0953-5233
Electronic ISSN 1468-0424
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 33
Issue 1
Pages 249-268
DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0424.12491
Keywords Geography, Planning and Development; Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); History; Gender Studies
Public URL https://nottingham-repository.worktribe.com/output/4744202
Publisher URL https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1468-0424.12491

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