Women and Power in Zimbabwe

Promises of Feminism

Carolyn Martin Shaw



The revolt against white rule in Rhodesia nurtured incipient local feminisms in women who imagined independence as a road to gender equity and economic justice. But the country's rebirth as Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe's rise to power dashed these hopes. Using history, literature, participant observation, and interviews, Carolyn Martin Shaw surveys Zimbabwean feminisms from the colonial era to today. She examines how actions as seemingly disparate as an ability to bake scones during the revolution and achieving power within a marriage in fact represent complex sources of female empowerment.


Independence in Zimbabwe did not bring liberation for women, but failed promises gave momentum to their efforts to unite across differences. Carolyn Martin Shaw's intimate account offers an engaged scholar's rich insights into the power of feminism to envision change. - Florence E. Babb


Carolyn Martin Shaw is Professor Emerita at University of California, Santa Cruz.