Respect, empower female artistes

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With the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence upon us this week I felt compelled to address the plight of our female artistes in light of this period.

Nkululeko INNOCENT DUBE

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is a global campaign to raise awareness about violence against women and its impact on a woman’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. Human rights cannot be universal without human rights for women and if you ask me, will never be complete without rights for our female artistes being included.

I appreciate efforts that have already been made to champion the rights female musicians, actors and dancers already enjoy in our country, but I do feel that we have not done enough to fight for their cause.

Day in and day out I read in our Press that the numbers of female musicians and actors keep going down and a lot of reasons are attributed to that.

The truth of the matter, however, is that our society as Zimbabweans is struggling to accept that the girl child can be and must be an artiste as a matter of choice rather than desperation.

We remain in a conservative culture that believes that any girl child who takes up the arts as a career is a failure in life.

We still refuse to swallow the fact that it is within their rights to choose which career path to follow. It seems more acceptable for a boy child to be an artiste in Zimbabwe than it is for their female counterpart.

Female artistes are haunted by a lot of wrong perceptions by our society. Any or most women that venture into the arts are assumed to be of loose morals and face a lot of rebuke from parents, fans, friends and relatives. I do not know how many times I have heard female musicians and dancers described in demeaning language.

Fans and consumers of the arts do not help their cause either. Many a reveller watching a female artiste on stage seems to carry a myopic belief that their stage work is only a means to an end.

Female artistes are subjected to a lot of degrading descriptions, comments and even assumed to be “take aways” of some sort by some crooked thinking males.

I wish to be quick to point out that not all male and female members of society treat these artistes this way, but this is highly prevalent in our country.

I know many female artistes who throughout their sweat and determination have built their empires solely on their arts careers. Despite this you will still have the doubting Thomases, who will remain sceptical of their great efforts.

Often I hear the female artistes asked if they are married or will ever be married since they are actors or dancers.

I am also aware that some brilliant female artistes, velvet voices, Oscar quality brand actors and dancers left the arts scene as soon as they got married.

It sounds normal even when we talk about it that they left because they got married and the husband or in-laws did not want to entertain the career. The husband could have met her at a show!

That only shows me that we still have a long way in building and nurturing dignity and respect for the arts as a career.

I am not a fundi on gender issues and by its nature this topic is always a very sensitive one to write about, but I trust that my bluntness will be forgiven by all those who appreciate the point I am driving at.

It is absolutely true that female artistes are vulnerable to abuse and even HIV due to the very public nature of their job, but I do not subscribe to the notion that stopping them from pursuing careers in the arts is the sole solution.

There has been a deliberate effort to promote the education of girls up to university level.

We have seen a lot of affirmative action in support of women in various sectors, but I think when it comes to the arts, we as a country are guilty of suppressing our talented females. We are letting them down.

We need to put systems and policies in place to deliberately uplift our female artistes. We need to change attitudes within our community and portray the arts as a career for both males and females in a good perspective.

When they play roles on stage, in productions and films, we ought to separate the characters they play from who they are as people. Often when a woman portrays an immoral role or evil character in a production, our very conservative society tends to judge them harshly and to label them as totally representative of that character.

Non-governmental organisations and other organisations have done a lot to educate and support women from various sectors of society who face abuse and victimisation due to their gender.

In some cases they have employed artistes to create productions, sing songs, pen and act films to help them disseminate information.

That is welcome. The question remains, which organisation or project has deliberately targeted the artistes let alone female artistes themselves in a bid to raise awareness and provide a forum to educate the community on how best to treat the female artistes and even empower the artistes themselves on how to deal with physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse in their chosen arts careers?

  • Today is World Aids day. Remember we are either infected or affected. Let us live responsibly and collectively.

Enjoy responsibly and treasure life, entertainment need not be mother of lifetime regret.

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