Annesley Ndondo shares the story of how he came to set-up the youth-led women's empowerment organisation, Mwanasikana Wanhasi (a GRRIPP Africa partner based in Harare, Zimbabwe).
I was raised by a single mother until she passed away when I was 8 years old. My father died before I was born. I grew up under the caring custody of my mother's relatives. It is through hard work and persistence that I later completed my tertiary education to obtain an honours degree in Social Work at Bindura University.
Having grown up in different social environments, and coming across various women's problems in Zimbabwe, as well as having a strong passion for women's issues, I wanted to contribute to tackling some of these issues through positive masculinity. I searched for various women-led organisations in a bid to join them and be part of their advocacy initiatives, which moved both my mind and heart. I was called for various interviews, but it was a challenge to get through the door – possibly because, as a male, I was perceived by some to bring problems instead of fighting patriarchy, and by others as a potential infiltrator. However, to me, participation was a genuine step to become a male gender champion in Zimbabwe.
In the face of these challenges, I decided to come up with a male-led organisation standing up for the rights of girls and women in Zimbabwe. This was something born out of a strong passion and zeal to include men in issues affecting women. In 2021, I established Mwanasikana Wanhasi and took on the role of team leader. Mwanasikana Wanhasi is a Shona phrase for "The Girl Child of today".
It was a challenge to build momentum. I did not have the resources to sustain advocacy, so I began mobilising for volunteers together with my former university mate, Owen Makanga, who later became the Co-Founder of our organisation. Mwanasikana Wanhasi became a strong movement advocating for the rights of girls and young women in Zimbabwe and has intervened in various issues affecting them to work towards greater gender equity.
My journey has been a mixed bag, as there are many stereotypes about who is and isn’t a feminist. At times, local community members who approached me for the first time over the phone assumed that I am a woman since we advocate for their rights, or they would email me with a: "Hi ma'am, I want to join your feminist movement". Some would also assume a certain sexual orientation, even though it does not reflect the reality.
We have to make clear, not only to Zimbabwe as a country but Africa as a continent, that women's rights are not only women's responsibilities – men, too, have a role to play in our communities.
My wish is to see both men and women play a role to end all forms of violence against girls and women. I want to see a generation that is there to #BREAKTHEBIAS every day, and I want to see communities that will be forever vocal in issues affecting girls and young women in Zimbabwe and in Africa.
Mwanasikana Wanhasi made a promise to confront all forms of violence affecting girls and young women in Zimbabwe. Through Mwanasikana Wanhasi, we shall continue to reach out in different areas of programming as we move towards the 50/50 Gender Agenda. For example, Mwanasikana Wanhasi has been doing various advocacy initiatives including Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, Menstrual Health, Feminist leadership and other issues affecting girls and young women. Our overall objective is to see girls and young women making informed decisions about their lives as well as existing in an equal world free of all forms of violence as they actively take part in various spaces.
Women must take part in the social, economic and political fields to enhance their rights, because women’s rights are human rights.
* * *
I would like to thank the GRRIPP Project team for their support, both technical and financial, in strengthening Mwanasikana Wanhasi in operation.
Male Feminist | Registered Social Worker | Founding Director Mwanasikana Wanhasi |
(Mwanasikana Wanhasi is a GRRIPP Africa Partner)
Annesley Ndondo is a 26 year old Social Worker and Founding Director for Mwanasikana Wanhasi, a feminist organization standing for the rights of girls and young women towards Gender Justice.