THE colonial government had oppressive laws and African women in particular, suffered the most.
For example, the colonial education system in Rhodesia did not have a specific policy for the education of women and girls and the labour laws did not recognise women.
In an interview with The Patriot, the ZANU PF director in theDepartment of Business Development and Liaison, Betty Mutero, said policies in Rhodesia were premised on race and were not gender neutral.
“There were two systems of education, the European Division and the African Division,” said Mutero.
“The European Division of education was non-fee paying, compulsory and of higher quality.
“It was meant for white, coloured and Asian children, while the African Division of education which was neither free nor compulsory and had inadequate education provisions, catered for black children.
The colonial government, said Mutero, introduced customary law which gave women little power, if any, in both civic and social circles. Under customary law, she said, property was owned by husbands.
“Women were reduced to dependents that had to submit to the will and wishes of their spouses or male relations in order to survive,” said Mutero.
“In fact, women were reduced to minors.
The few women who went to school and got employed in Rhodesia earned less than their male counterparts despite performing the same duties.
“I started working in the early 60’s and no matter how professional we were, we were treated as nannies, getting low pay and there was no maternity leave.
“The white people did not drink tea with us and treated us like animals.
“It is independence that brought new systems and a number of changes that have benefitted women.”
Before April 18 1980, women never got to leave their dreams as the system in existence did not support female aspirations and ambitions.
Becoming a pilot like Air Zimbabwe’s only female Captain, Emilia Njovana was a huge dream that could never be realised in Rhodesia
Mutero said girls were directed into feminine areas such as needlework and cookery.
“When the new Zimbabwean Government took over the reins of political power in 1980, it immediately addressed the imbalances that existed in the education sector among other areas.
“The new government introduced policies that created equal opportunities for all Zimbabweans regardless of gender.”
In 1982, the Zimbabwean government introduced the ‘Equal Pay Regulation’ which meant that both men and women with the same qualifications and doing the same job earned the same salary.
In the same year the government introduced the ‘Legal Age of Majority Act’ which meant that men and women were for the first time legally equal.
At the age of 18, both men and women were considered to be equal.
In an effort to raise the number of female students at the University of Zimbabwe, the government introduced the ‘Affirmative Action Policy’ in 1993.
Due to the increased demand for university education and the need for an increase in science and commercial programmes as well as open and distance learning among the Zimbabwean population, more universities sprouted throughout the country after independence.
Her name is Captain Emilia Njovana and she was the first female and black commercial pilot in Zimbabwe. Educated at Monte Cassino Girls High, a Catholic Mission school in Macheke, in the Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe she is living proof that when individuals and institutions invest their confidence in women, women can make it to the top.
Today she trains other women AND MEN how to fly aeroplanes, AND jets AND helicopters. And oh what a wonderful job she does. I mean yes, Air Zimbabwe has a reputation of being unreliable in terms of being on time but NEVER before have we heard of inefficiency among the staff in that little closed cabin. The only accident recorded occurred in July 1984 when a Vickers 756D Viscount, registration Z-YNI, was damaged beyond repair in an incident on the grounds of Harare International Airport. No one was hurt and the plane was immediately withdrawn from service and transferred to the airport fire department for use as a training aid. Zimbabwean pilots are sharp and extremely good at what they do and guess what, some of them were trained by this woman, the same woman whom society PROBABLY thought would not be worthy of an education, or would not be capable of achieving anything and would not turn out to be as good as a man.
Gender stereotypes that placed men in a superior position to women designated the role of pilot to the men while women could only be aboard planes either as passengers or airhostesses. Today women like Emilia have turned the tables and sit in the cockpits of huge airplanes, while men attend to passengers. The term airhostess has been removed and we have flight attendants.