Tribute to Shilla Chisirimunhu

This is a tribute to Shilla Chisirimunhu was arrested for peacefully protesting for a decent wage at the Masvingo district education office. Zimbabwe’s constitution protects Unions and their members and mass action against unfavourable working conditions in section 59 and section 65. Economic Justice for Women Project joined progressive movements led by the Amalgamated Rural Teacher’s Union in Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), demanding her immediate release from an effective 10 month jail term. Shilla was granted ZWD2 000 bail on the 5th of January 2021. She is yet to be set free of these unlawful charges.

Economic Justice for Women Project followed up on her to get to know her, her passion and to understand her determination while inspiring others. We believe she should be known and celebrated for who she is and what she stands for.

So, who is Shilla Chisirimunhu?

Shilla Chisirimunhu is a fifty-three year old single mother of four children, two biological daughters and two foster children (twins). She has been a teacher for 28 years and has been an activist since 1999, mainly because of the socio-economic injustices in the work place.

Shilla was driven by the need and determination to see worker emancipation. She was born in a family of six, three boys and three girls and was raised by an educator, their father who was a headmaster. Though it was during the colonial era, they were raised in abundance, their father afforded them good education at top boarding schools. Back then teaching was a well respected profession that came with a decent living wage unlike the life of educators of today who can hardly afford a decent meal, let alone good education for their children.

This is Shilla’s drive as a trade unionist. Shilla worked as the Provincial Secretary for Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) at the time. She also worked as the Masvingo District Secretary for the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) from 1999 to 2013 during which she also worked with the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance mobilizing and coordinating pastors in Masvingo Province and was also well known for mass mobilisation of teachers and Civil servants for the Movement for Democratic Change then under the leadership of Richard Morgan Tsvangirai. She is currently the Amalgamated Rural Teacher’s Union in Zimbabwe’s Provincial secretary for gender and social welfare in Masvingo and is teaching at Gunikuni Primary School (Ward 22), which is 75KM out of Masvingo.

In Shilla’s experience and observation, activism in Zimbabwe is quite dangerous and makes one vulnerable as it is highly characterized by suppression, heavy handedness, abductions and incarceration both at local and national level. Her bravery is largely influenced by Lucia Matibenga and Wellington Chibebe, fealess unionist who always put their lives on the line to see justice for workers.

In her narration,she strongly recalls that on the 13th of September 2006, Lucia Matibenga was the only woman among several men leading a protest for deteriorationg living conditions and she was brutalised and suffered a broken arm. Patriachy has defined a good woman as a subservient, highly tolerant and quiet / soft person. It also harshly judges women activists. Shilla’s husband walked away because he could not stand her active role in fighting oppression and injustices in society.
Her word of encouragement to fellow activists, particularly fellow women is that they should not give in to inferiority: “Even though society looks down on us, let’s continue fighting for what we believe in, lets fight for our voices to be heard. We are the bearers of the economic burden, especially in struggling homes. Let’s speak out against repression, poverty and economic abuse…and be persistent and consistent until change comes.”

Source: Economic Justice for Women Project (EJWP)

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