My name is Margaret. I live in Zimbabwe. Before becoming a peacebuilder, I have been a teacher for 25 years. Today, my mission is to break the cycle of violence in my country that prevents women like me from achieving their hopes and aspirations.
I have an invaluable partner in my fight for women’s equality: the local Search for Common Ground team. Search asked me to participate in their programs and use my teaching skills to encourage conversations about the role of women in society. As a woman, I have always been aware of the deep-seated patriarchal attitudes in Zimbabwe. I was happy to see that Search tackles gender discrimination, and I accepted their offer with enthusiasm.
Gender is a difficult topic to address in conflict-ridden, male-dominated societies. But Search’s strategy to use pop culture as a tool to shift attitudes has proven to be very successful. Their TV series “The Team”, telling the story of a soccer team whose members learn to work together to win a league, is a powerful example of how media can transform social norms. While watching the series, viewers reflect on their daily lives as well as the beliefs and practices that impact women in their communities.
During a 5-day workshop that included mass screenings of “The Team,” I watched the series come alive in the hearts of male viewers. After the screenings, I supervised dialogue among those who attended. I was amazed to see how the language used to talk about gender positively changed. Suddenly, men in the audience, including some local leaders, were agreeing that women make productive contributions to society and that they need better access to decision-making.
Of course, the shift in men’s attitudes makes a big difference. But what makes me even more hopeful about our future is the change I’ve seen in the women I worked with. My own experiences as a woman in Zimbabwe helped me connect with others who often feel discouraged and inferior to their male counterparts. Together, we exchanged ideas on how to advocate better for our own rights and remain motivated against social pressure.
I recently visited the villages where I worked with Search. It was amazing to see so much progress. Many women have become more outspoken and involved in public life; some have taken leadership positions, while others started successful businesses. Men and local leaders told me that life in their neighborhoods and villages greatly improved after women were given the opportunity to contribute to development.
I am proud that there are people in different parts of Zimbabwe who have been transformed by my work, and that my role as a teacher helped establish peaceful communities where women, youth, and children are safe and able to make a difference.
Every woman has a role to play in tackling gender discrimination and ending conflict. With Search, I will keep on advocating for the cause of women empowerment, because that’s what’s going to change my country forever. That’s what’s going to put an end to violent conflict for good, and give us all the peace we deserve.
Margaret is a dialogue facilitator with the Center for Conflict Management and Transformation, one of our local partners in Zimbabwe. To learn more about our work there, visit the official country page.
Banner photo: Margaret leads a community exercise.