women, poverty and the politics of second-hand underwear..

Opinion Piece

By Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

Murewa, RMT 2011

It has been a sad week for many people in Zimbabwe as the issue of underwear became a public policy issue. The poor, mostly women have become so poor, that the country had to regulate the importation of second hand underwear.

In our culture and social life, underpants are the single piece of cloth that is associated with protecting the dignity of womanhood or manhood. Now, that cloth is a subject of public discussion because of poverty, extreme poverty; and some misplaced policy priorities.

While it is in order for government to protect the health of its citizens; what the country needs at this moment is a REAL revitalisation of the economy and the stability of the nation.

Citizens, men and women simply want a decent job, a reasonable income, some possibility to run own projects. They want to raise enough money to send their children to school; access basic heath care and buy decent, new and comfortable underwear.

Possibly, this should be a wake up call for the nation to innovate and be creative, revitalise and recapitalise the textile industry. At the minimum, we should be a nation that can sew its own underwear! I am convinced if well done, manufacturing priorities will definitely harness the needs of those at the receiving end.

Perhaps there is need for those in authority to revisit the notion of citizenry in tandem with dignity. If anything, the country should be investing in basic social and economic rights especially in the restoration of its citizens’ dignity.

* Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is the founder and  chairperson of Rozaria Memorial Trust, and currently serves as General Secretary of the World YWCA. She received the Zimbabwe Women Lawayers Association (ZWLA) ‘s  Women’s Human Rights Defender Award, 2011.

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