Arts Festival Seeks To Increase Awareness Around Girls, Women's Oppression

By Nhau Mangirazi

Mutoko, October 02, 2016 – BUDJA region, some 148 km from Harare in Mashonaland East, is rich in mineral deposits.

These include gold and black granite. The area is also blessed with agricultural soils.

Mutoko is the central hub which produces 75% of Zimbabwe’s total black granite output which is often exported to Europe and is the world favourite for decorative purposes.

About 80% of the green vegetables and tomatoes sold at Mbare Musika, a Harare market teeming with an assortment of goods, are produced by Budja people from mainly Mutoko, Murehwa and part of Uzumba.

Despite possessing such life changing minerals, land, human capital and a rich cultural background, Budja community remains one of the poorest in Zimbabwe.

About 90% of its highly productive farmers mostly women remain poor, failing to gain maximum profits from their horticultural produce.

Forced marriages

Such is sad reality gripping the Budja community here as they struggle to lead better lifestyles out of their industry.

Emmanuel Manyati, director with Better Life Foundation, a community based organisation based in Mutoko, is a frustrated man.

He believes, women and girls in most marginalised parts of the greater Budja society are living below Zimbabwe’s poverty datum line which was pegged at $495 a year ago.

Younger girls often find themselves falling victim to forced marriages and oppression.

“It is lack of social cohesion that we must act and put it to an end on these forced marriages.

“It is imperative to understand poverty trends and find ways to influence the channeling of our natural and mineral resources towards real social and economic transformation in order to end poverty and improve the quality life for women and girls,” he adds.

Zimbabwe is among Southern African countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique which are battling to end rampant child marriages.

United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, State of the World’s Report (2015), said the prevalence of child marriage had Mashonaland Central leading with 50% while Mashonaland West is pegged at 42%, Masvingo (39%), Mashonaland East (36%).

Midlands is at (31%), Manicaland (30%), Matabeleland North (27%), Harare (19%), and Matabeleland South (18%), while Bulawayo has the least prevalence rate of about 10%.

However, child marriage remains a serious problem not only in Zimbabwe but the world over to mainly poverty as the major driver.

Manyati explains that the forthcoming Budja Arts Festival will try to link up on cultural diversity and its richness, building social cohesion against harmful cultural and traditional practices that will yield a much greater impact towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals number 5 of gender equality and empower all women and girls.

“We aim to promote arts as a culturally relevant traditional tool in educating and transforming communities, harness traditional values and combat poverty through promoting women’s and girl’s rights,” he said.

“We also want to create a platform of culture-identity celebration among people in the Budja society, raise awareness and build social cohesion against all forms of oppression against Budja women and girls.”

Historically, Budja society share interesting rich Ruware rwaMakate characterised by conflict between Nehoreka and Makate who disappeared into the dwala with his tribe during the fight for richer land. 

Its native unique and compressed deep Shona language usually known as Chibudja or Chitoko is something to reckon with. The language is “funny” and popular amongst other Shona speaking tribes.

Most importantly, Budja has very rich and widely emulated cultural values like Kupereka mvura, welcoming visitors by offering a glass of water as a sign of warm welcoming; in return the visitor is expected to drink the water as appreciation to the warm welcome.

He adds that they aim to make authorities accountable, fighting corruption and clear cut policies governing the “extraction of the natural resources has left the granite communities empty handed while millions of tones are exported to Europe and Asia”.

The Budja Arts Festival is accepting applications for performing art groups, traditional dancers, and poets among others as they will partner with several Non-Government Organisations, Government departments promoting child rights, women and youths in education, food security, and health among other topical issues.

The festival runs from 9 to 12 December in Mutoko area.