Fighting the Good Fight: Feminist and Global Changemaker, Tinatswe Mhaka

Forget Wonder Woman or Captain Marvel. Zimbabwe has its own superhero, Tinatswe Mhaka, and she’s fighting against the patriarchal and misogynistic systems in our society as well as violence against women and girls. When she’s not wearing her feminist mask or activist cape, Tinatswe is writing books, hosting podcasts, running a feminist organisation, working as an Editorial Fellow for Atlas Corps and being a lawyer; all in the name of bettering the lives of the marginalised in our country. What better way to celebrate this phenomenal woman than by learning more about her.

 

Who is Tinatswe Mhaka (how would you like to be remembered)?

I would like to be remembered as a storyteller, a global change maker and a fighter for women. Everything I do and most of what I hope to become is about creating the kind of world I want to live in. More than anything I would like to be remembered through the emancipation of women. That some of my work might give them power or capacity to live freely.

What continues to drive you to stand up for women’s and the LGBTQI rights in Zimbabwe?

Outside my personal experiences, I have had the opportunity of working at the frontlines of gender injustice in Zimbabwe. Seeing what happens at the intersection of inequality and poverty, I can never go back. As long as women are not free I will have drive. As for the queer community those are my people, the drive is me waking up everyday a queer woman.

You recently published a book, ‘The men I’ve hated’. Please tell us more about it as well as where we can purchase it?

Yes!! This is a piece of literary fiction about a young Zimbabwean woman’s experience with different men in her life and figuring out her place in the world in light of it all. The main character narrates the drama of her love life in the present while taking readers back to men she experienced as young as 9 years old until adulthood. I did my best to address some heavy topics while keeping it light and fun. And that is feedback from other readers not my own words!

How has your profession as a lawyer affected your views on women’s rights?

It has given me the power to challenge without second guessing myself. But more importantly I know now the law is not enough to end gender inequality because it was not made for us or by us. It was made to contain us. Knowing that has been the first step towards challenging the system and without studying law I might not have been able to fully appreciate that.

When you are not wearing your cape, what activities do you enjoy to do?

I started a podcast this year and while that feels very close to work, it is something I do for fun and for the opportunity to meet women across Africa and create networks. It sounds more serious than it is because it is mostly me on my laptop having wine with other feminists in Kenya or Zambia or not in Africa at all. When I am not doing that, I consume a lot of media content: Podcasts, Youtube, Movies and TV Shows. It is such a beautiful escape.

What are the misconceptions especially in Zimbabwe about feminism?

That feminism is why women hate men. Women hate men because of the things they have proved capable of in their own personal interactions and that has nothing to do with feminism. The fight for better systems and equal treatment has nothing to do with personal relations or niceties. We are actually at work.

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your line of work?

Volunteer hours will start your career.  Put in those hours and apply for opportunities. You cannot be an activist without money or funding or institutional backing. I mean, you can but how many people will you really reach?

Why did you start Feminist Voice Zimbabwe, your organization?

I wanted to document women’s experiences as they are. I wanted to spread awareness and entice social action while also teaching people about the law. And as I entered the non profit space I wanted an organisation that I was guaranteed would be free from conservative capture. That would speak truth and include groups that even main stream non profits ignore.

What does Zimbabwe need to do, to improve the safety and rights of women?

Tear it all down!

Institutionally: Stop false claims of trying to fix the economy first, when it’s likely that will never happen. In practice that looks like updating policies and consistent lawmaking with women and youth at the frontline of those decisions. Judicial activism, national-level declaration that those who commit sexual violence, deterrent sentences, increasing morale and capacity of first responders, formal justice processes (arrest, prosecution, conviction), compensation for complainants in sexual crimes, awareness campaigns, access,  problematising harmful cultural and religious practice.

On a personal level: To unlearn, educate and remould the thinking of Zimbabweans collectively. This to me is more important than what is above because institutions are made up of individuals.

How do you balance work and leisure as a woman in her 20s?

I am extremely obsessed with structure so there are times I have dedicated solely to spending time with my partner and having me time. Even if something is pressing I try not to let work ever take that time because I work very long hours and I refuse to let the world burning down ruin my relationships and my peace.

Where would society be without women like Tinatswe who fight tooth and nail for a better world? Her voice is truly appreciated in a society that aims to silence certain groups of people it deems to be weaker and unwanted. Superheroes like this trailblazer should be continuously acknowledged for fighting the true good fight. They deserve to be supported in their efforts in changing and making our country a safer space for all women and children.

 

By: Delyse Gimani

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Get our...
Free Monthly Digital Edition
Be the first to get our latest Digital Magazine Issue and exclusive content sent straight to your inbox.
Subscribe!
No Thanks!
close-link