‘Gender not about equality with men’
In life, there are certain people you meet and after your time with them can only marvel at the strides they have made in life.
That is how I felt after meeting the beautiful, inspiring, talented, admirable, and phenomenal Tsitsi Mutendi (TM), the founder of Jewel Magazine.
The magazine matches world class standards and is dedicated to celebrating the successes of Zimbabwean women, in and out of Zimbabwe.
Below is a glimpse into her life as she talks to me (TCM) about her work and family.
TCM: There is a stereotype that says that women bring each other down, yet here you are basing your magazine on exhibiting women. I’ve noticed on all the covers of Jewel, that there is a Zimbabwean woman based locally or internationally. There are a lot of successful Zimbabwean woman all over the world and you celebrate them. Talk to me about that.
TM: Women are a collective. We are a collective sound. Sometimes it comes out as a harmony, but sometimes it also comes out as a discord. Our struggles are the same, our successes are the same. When we do things collectively, we achieve a lot more than when we do them individually. I started Jewel Magazine after I had lost a child. I wanted to empower other women because I wanted them to learn things that I didn’t know, that I could have known, things that probably could have prevented my loss. But in retrospect I realise that the loss had to happen for me to be who I am now. There are certain events that happen in your life that are the defining moments of your life. They define who you become and they define who you are.
How you accept these events create you. With Jewel, I started realising that all women are beautiful and each woman has their story, and each story is unique. There is similarity in our experience and when you reach out and showcase somebody who has done well, you motivate them to also want to do well. We have showcased women from different walks of life with different experiences. Jewel is more about the person you are as opposed to what you have accumulated. This is because we are already labelled so many things as women. We’re constantly questioned and scrutinised.
There are other people who need to see that beacon of light. You do not know how to fly until you see other butterflies. You learn from a collective. I have learnt from a collective. I have learnt from the women who have fought for me, the women who have provided a platform for me. The women who have been there just because they needed to be there at the right time and at the right moment to provide that voice for me. I am able to do that for other women with anything that I do. I do it to give credit to the people who have allowed me to.
TCM: I’m now beginning to understand why Jewel Magazine is always celebrating the successes of other women. You have a support system that has been amazing to you.
TM: Women need to be there for each other. We are very critical of each other a lot of the times; we want to criticise more than we embrace. Get to know who someone is. Give them a chance. Maybe you are the right person at the right time to play a pivotal role in their development. And if you are not the right person, maybe you know the right person to help them. I have grown because of people who have given me opportunities. It’s important to surround yourself with such women
TM: I’m actually a very private person. Most pictures you see are professional pictures, from an event or from a photo shoot I was in but you will rarely see pictures of my private space.
TCM: Do you have children?
TM: Yes. Two – a boy and a girl.
TCM: Describe your mornings with the kids; I know that can be hectic.
TM: I’m a morning person. I wake up early to prepare my kids breakfast before feeding them then ask my husband to help with our son while I get our daughter ready, then he takes them to school.
TCM: Do you plan on having more children?
TM: For me to even consider having another baby, I would need to have $2 million in the bank! Kids are so demanding. Nothing prepares you for a new born or for a two year old, nothing!
TCM: How do you socialise them?
TM: It’s actually quite interesting because I have to teach my son to be a good man while I have to teach my daughter to be an empowered woman.
Balancing that is a challenge. I have to say this though, I love my babies, I love them to bits but I was not expecting a boy. He came as a total surprise and I had no idea how to deal with a boy as I grew up in a house full of girls. But my husband has been amazing with him, he is better with the kids than I am.
TCM: What is your take on religion?
TM: I’m a spiritual person, I like to spend a lot of quiet time, a lot of God time understanding who I am and what my purpose is. I’ve learnt that we are a reflection of our inner selves. We don’t realise this because we are too busy thinking and its continual. We need time to reflect on our lives.
TCM: You teach that to the kids right?
TM: My son recently made me happy. He is only 19 months old and he prayed. He said thank you for mum and dad and my sister. The fact that he knows that there is somebody who watches over us made me very happy.
TCM: How were you socialised?
TM: I grew up in a house full of girls. My mother was an introvert but she allowed us to be. She never made us wish we were something or someone other than who we are.
TCM: How on earth do you juggle work, marriage and kids?
TM: I don’t juggle. I am exactly where I want to be and this is precisely how I wanted my life to turn out. I don’t juggle because it was my plan from the start. I knew what I wanted before I got married. So no, I don’t juggle. Women are natural multi-taskers and so we can handle anything we want to effortlessly.
TCM: Tell me more about your husband.
TM: I have been blessed with a great husband. We have known each other for 20 years and he is usually within a 100-metre radius from me. He is the most patient person I know and he is great with the kids. He is very supportive of everything I do. He naturally is a patient person because he deals with me! I take a lot of patience. We have a harmony that works.
TCM: I love to hear people like you say that because people think when you are passionate about women issues, that makes you a man hater and you want equal rights.
TM: Gender is not about equality with men. It’s about social justice. It’s about opportunities within the reach of women as well. Gender is not about women. Maybe the way that these topics have been introduced to us by society has then given the wrong impression. Someone once told me “naming is norming” – when you name something, you normalise it. We tend to want to name a lot of things that have to do with women. Women are named more than men. They are labelled more than anything. It’s agitating because I have both a daughter and a son.
TCM: Did you go to school to become an editor, or it emanates from pure passion?
TM: No! (She looks away and laughs at my evident stage of shock) I didn’t happen to Jewel, Jewel happened to me.
TCM: So how did Jewel happen if you didn’t study for it?
TM: I was just doing me. I just do me!
TCM: What are your future plans?
TM: I am also the Editor of the Edgar’s Club Magazine and we are approaching our third year anniversary. I’m also doing dolls. These dolls are named after my daughter, they are called Mufaro Dolls. They are made of 100 percent cotton on the outside and 100 percent wool on the inside. I have a team of women who are economically benefitting from making these dolls. I decided not to put eyes and a nose or mouth on the dolls because it limits the imagination of a child. Psychologists suggest that children can put their own nose, mouth and eyes to their doll through their own imagination. That way, straight noses, or certain eyes are not engineered to become their norm.
TCM: Your work is an inspiration to Zimbabwean women and not only to us, but to every woman who comes across it. We rally behind you girl, and we will support everything you do because you have us in mind. Thank you so much for your time.
TM: It’s a pleasure Tsungi, see you.
I felt so empowered after this interview and I hope someone will be inspired to help the next person through Tsitsi’s inspiration
Tsungi Chekerwa-Machokoto can be reached on [email protected]