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  • Mandy Nurrenbern

"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak"

"To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak." - Hopi Saying

A book I read about 5 years was called "And Still They Dance: Women, War, and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique" by Stephanie J. Urdang was mind opening to the struggles of women in Mozambique. It was published in 1989, so it's a bit out of date with current struggles (according to the year), but in reality, women, especially in the bush in Mozambique, still struggle the same struggles... although, it is getting better pouco a pouco (little by little).

One of the big issues that I have repeated in debates, in conversations, etc, in the woman struggle, is about how women are still trying to gain independence of their own lives and bodies. For example, lobolo is still something that happens, aka the man paying the woman's family for her hand in marriage. I have my own personal problems with this in the fact you can't put money on my worth. I am worth more than any monetary items. But the other problem this causes is the woman being stuck in a situation that could really be harmful to her. I grew up in a place knowing that if I was in an unsafe situation, I needed to get myself out of it. Lobolo allows domestic abuse and SHE can't do much about it. What I mean, and how the book explains it, he can beat her, but she has no right to leave him. Her family convinces her to stay because they don't have, or don't want, to return the lobolo paid. She would then be responsible to pay for her freedom. Definition of slave.

Not only is that a problem, the lack of education for females. When I was working in the bush in Mabote, Mozambique in 2010-2012, female enrollment in secondary schools was still very low. The school I was at had 30 females in a total of 150 students. And that might actually be better than other schools nearby because I was a boarding school made up of students from bigger cities in Mozambique. If a girl does decide to leave her husband, she has no way to pay back the lobolo and no reliable way to keep herself alive because she has no job and no where to go. Family won't take her back in...

The neighbor to my school out there in the bush had 14 wives, oldest being 55 at that time and the youngest 14 and pregnant at that time. His method to his madness, the more kids he has, the more hands he has to work on the farm.

I was living in a poor neighborhood in Maputo. Gender roles is definitely something that still happens in the city also. The men, out in the local bar stand drinking beer. The women, at home cooking and taking care of the kids, working at the market, etc. That's the city that's a bit more progressive...imagine going out to Mabote, Mozambique and other remote areas of Mozambique and how many girls are there... missing out on education, getting married off at 14, encouraged by parents to trade sex for grades if they are in school, try to get together with a teacher cause he has a good job. These are all things I have heard in my time in Mozambique, and it makes me sad, mad, disappointed, and passionate about changing this mindset.

Changing a mindset, though. That's not something I can do for them. That's only something they can do for themselves. All I can do is try to build that confidence, be an example, pass on the knowledge, and then hope. Hope that things can change for the women in Mozambique. Hope that men, and women themselves, start seeing they deserve just as much rights as their men counterparts.

So, am I a feminist. You bet your sweet ass I am. And to all the females out there:

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