Rise, take Your Mat and Walk
Remember to keep Zimbabwe in your Prayers
Zimbabwe means ‘House of Stones’ and it is located in Southern Africa. It is a landlocked country with an area of 390,757 square kilometres (150,872 square miles) that lies between the Limpopo River in the south and the mighty Zambezi River in the north. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west and southwest, Zambia to the northwest, and Mozambique to the east and northeast. It is less than 200 meters of the Zambezi River which separates Zimbabwe from Namibia. The Zambezi River, which is the longest river in the country with 2,650 km, flows along the southern border with South Africa. The Inyanga and Udzi mountains stretch along Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique.
Zimbabwe is in the savanna region. Its climate is markedly varied by altitude. The year is marked by four distinct seasons: winter, which is a cool to cold season (from mid-May to August), summer or dry season (from September to mid-November), the rainy season (from mid-November to March), and the spring season (April to mid-May).
Major tourist attractions include the Victoria Falls, which is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World; Hwange National Park, a wildlife conservancy; the Great Zimbabwe Monument or ruins from which the country derives its name; the Eastern highlands; Matopos or Matobo Hills; and Gonarezhou National Park.
Zimbabwe has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa at 91 percent. The government of Zimbabwe declared access to education a basic human right in 1980. This resulted in the construction of primary and secondary schools, technical colleges, vocational training centres and universities in all the provinces. Zimbabwe has 13 universities; four of them are private and church-affiliated. The educational structure begins with preschool, then, primary, secondary higher and tertiary education. Education is not free.
However, in rural areas some children are not able to go to school as the schools are very far, and the parents are unable to pay fees.
Missionary Christianity had arrived in Zimbabwe just before the establishment of colonial rule. The British came in with the Bible and the knowledge of the Christian God. They built schools, hospitals, industries, churches and many infrastructures which are still in use today.
In time the two could not be neatly distinguished from each other as the missionary Churches sought the support of the colonial government in order to execute their work, especially in the area of health and education. However, in the 1960s, the churches’ frustration with the unjust rule of the colonialists reached its limits and many of them increasingly stood up to declare their support for black majority rule.
The churches had high expectations with the 1980s independence, and complimented the government’s attempts for the post-conflict reconstruction which affected the health and educational church institutions.
Since then, churches had made public statements to assure that the country finds its political and economic way peacefully. In 2006, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), Union for Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA) prepared a discussion document called “The Zimbabwe We Want: Towards A National Vision For Zimbabwe”. This document was revised in 2016, and a new Communiqué: “The Zimbabwe We Want – Taking the Process Forward” was made public.
In 2018, churches and ecumenical organizations monitored the political transition calling for unity and peaceful process. They organized vigils prayers for peace, promoted citizen education and dialogue with civil society and government authorities to sustain the democratic process during national elections. For the most updated information on how the churches and ecumenical organizations campaigned for a peaceful transition after the national elections in 2018, please visit their websites or Facebook.
The current Zimbabwean Constitution allows for freedom of worship and freedom of association. There is separation between state and church. Christianity is the major religion, observed by more than 80 percent of the population. The other 20 percent observe Islam, African Traditional religion and Judaism.
Women constitute 51 percent of the population. Women play a very significant role in the socioeconomic affairs in Zimbabwe. Many of the households in the rural area are headed by women, who have nothing to feed their families. The husbands have migrated to towns and mines for employment, while the young women and men have migrated to the neighbouring countries and all over the world for work.
Gender inequality is a very real and persistent problem in Zimbabwe. Women and girls are subject to systematic disadvantage and discrimination – particularly those who are poor, live in rural areas and are from particular social groups. Gender inequality is manifested in violence against women and girls. Girls face early marriage and barriers to access quality education. Women deal with legal discrimination, particularly regarding family law, and poor reproductive and maternal health services.
Differences in women and men’s status and equality are due to a complex interplay of economic, political, historical and social factors operating at the household, community, institutional and policy level. Key amongst these are prevalent social and cultural norms perpetuated both formally and informally through social institutions and structures, traditions, codes of conduct and laws; which influence attitudes and behaviours towards girls and women, and boys and men.
The government of Zimbabwe and other civil society organizations, including ecumenical ones, are lobbying for gender equality and laws have been enacted to protect women against gender-based violence. A series of micro finances initiatives support women and youth to start their own enterprises.
Women look after children with special needs and disabilities finding little to no support from husbands or relatives. HIV and AIDS, cancer of the cervix and breast have affected most women. Typhoid and cholera have killed many people, mostly women and children.
Children find themselves in very difficult situations, like heading their families due to the loss of their parents to HIV and AIDS. Some are staying with their grandparents who can’t afford basic living conditions. A UNICEF report from 2011 stated “that one in four children in Zimbabwe has lost one or both parents due to HIV and other causes. These children are being looked after by extended families and are among the 100,000 child headed households in the country.”
Some children have special needs and disabilities. Some are autistic, and the schools that cater to them are expensive. It would help if there were centres to teach them skills and support the mothers to provide economically and emotionally for their families. Many families are broken and those children are left with no parents and the need for love, peace and reconciliation.