Dear Cyclone, Idai As you approached Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, did you by any chance spare a thought for me as a woman? Did you even have a moment of hesitation considering the impact you would have on me? Tell me…why did you make such a drastic move when you knew well ahead how vulnerable I am as a woman?
Idai! Did your sisters and brothers not tell you of their experiences when they took a similar move back in history. Did they not narrate to you the sorry and unthinkable state they left me and my fellow sisters in? I thought Cyclone Eline (2000), Katrina (2005), Gloria (1985) or at least Janet (1955) could have warned and restrained you. Let me tell you my misery as a woman. Please consider my plight whenever you and your siblings take turns to come and hit and race again. I am a woman of African dissent, born and raised in a patriarchal community where my roles and responsibilities leave me vulnerable to the effects of disasters you have caused. My brother, father and husband run from impeding disaster when you strike, but you always catch up with me as I am not as fast as they are. I cannot swim, hence I drown and become just a statistic. To make it worse, do you know it’s difficult to run and swim in a long dress? Its careless to be seen walking around in trousers and because you come without notice, you always find me in my culturally acceptable attire. My biological makeup is such that I carry all the pregnancies, which is impossible for my male counterparts. Pregnancy reduces my mobility hence as others run for refuge, I get caught up and am the first person to be affected. Do you also know that a woman cannot climb a tree when she is visibly pregnant? And by the way, I can’t run leaving my children behind. If I die, I die with my children and if I run, I will carry them on my back, hold their tiny hands and run with them. Idai, my society expects me to care for the sick and elderly. What type of a shameless woman would I be if I run for shelter leaving behind the sick and elderly I ought to care for. I will be considered as a heartless, irresponsible daughter or daughter in law. Do you know Idai, that by destroying social infrastructure such as health services, you expose me and my sisters to more vulnerabilities? In such cases, access to obstetrical care is reduced, miscarriages and unplanned pregnancies increase, maternal and infant mortality shoot up the roof. Consider all this next time you and your siblings decide to race again. My society is characterized by unequal power distribution which puts women in a more vulnerable position to disasters. Self-rescue of woman is hampered by duty of care, dress-code restricts women’s ability to move quickly, swim or climb trees. Relocation would require the consent of my husband or any male figure of the family, I just can’t wake up and heed a call to move upstream without consent, I can’t. Do you know that most of the roles I play are home centered due to the traditional division of labour. What this means is that, unless conscious efforts to share information with women are made, I will not easily know of your impending arrival. You therefore always catch me by shock and by surprise. Idai, it seems you do not to know that relief resources and efforts are mostly exclusively managed and controlled by men and systematically exclude women, their needs and competence. You also seem to be ignorant of increased cases of Gender based violence and sexual violence due to disaster induced stress, alcohol abuse and the breakdown of law and order when you strike. Law and order are difficult to sustain when survivors of disasters seek refuge in makeshift camps. The anarchy that characterizes the overcrowded camps leaves unaccompanied women and girls vulnerable to sexual abuse and rape. In these camps, there is no access for me and my sisters perform female hygienic care which is usually done in private. Let me not labor you with details of aid and sex trade but this happens post your strike. Tell your siblings that instead of having only an eye to strike my sisters and me, they should also have a heart to reconsider causing a disaster. Do you know that one woman gave birth in a tree when you struck Idai? Do you know one woman could not hold on to her children and the trauma she experienced when the baby on her back was stripped off her when you struck Idai?