The Tale of Anerudo
By Shamiso Zvandasara
Published by The Guild International of Songwriters and Composers (2017)
EVEN in these so-called advanced times, women across the globe remain victims of oppression and abuse.
Many have fallen victims of abuse and oppression and have had no legal recourse as laws and traditions have not protected them but aided their suffering.
In some countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, even some parts of the West, are traditions and practices that violate women’s rights.
Women in these societies have remained on the periphery of social and political development.
Men continue to lead and dominate in all spheres of life while women have been relegated to be followers.
It is only in 2017 that the ban on women to drive was lifted in Saudi Arabia.
In Saudi Arabia, fleeing even an abusive home is a crime for women.
Their male counterparts exercise immense power under the kingdom’s guardianship system.
Women in different parts of the world have endured these oppressive practices emanating from religion, culture and socialisation, quietly.
The book under review this week is Shamiso Zvandasara’s The Tale of Anerudo.
Written in a contemporary setting, the book is a tale of how women are treated as mere objects by their male counterparts.
Marriage is shown to be the best thing that a woman can aspire for and thus she has to stomach and endure everything, even the bad that obtains in the institution.
Young women apparently are not supposed to have a major say in this institution.
The book, a must read especially for the young, also tackles subjects of disability, gender inequality and feminist roles.
It is a piece of literature that supports one of Zimbabwe’s legislations which stipulates that no female may be compelled to enter into marriage against her will and that no girl-child shall enter into marriage before the age of 18.
The Tale of Anerudo is a story of a young princess who is faced with challenges arising from growing up under a strict and conservative father whose actions and demands suppress her dreams.
Not only is she a victim of her father’s oppression, the society she lives in does not question but instead upholds oppressive cultural practises that relegate women to suffering as second class citizens.
Anerudo, the protagonist, shows how the dreams and ambitions of young women are strangled and denied the opportunity to flourish and contribute to the betterment of society.
Marriage is advanced as the ultimate achievement for the girl-child yet women desire much more out of life.
Clearly, women do not want to be regarded as a burden to society but individuals capable of contributing to development.
“The whole kingdom has been waiting for your marriage next week, it is important for a princess like you to get married young,” writes Zvandasara.
Women in the kingdom are forbidden to take up professions of their choice while marriage is regarded as the most important aspect of their lives.
“All young girls were taught how to cook, sweep the yard, collect firewood and master the basic foundations of family care from a tender age.
“Every young girl’s dreams were shattered by the expectations of society since education was deemed a luxury for girls,” writes Zvandasara.
Though Zvandasara presents her characters as young girls fighting abuse by society, she also highlights their strengths and never-say-die attitude.
Her protagonist has exquisite mbira playing skills, and the mbira is an African musical instrument that does not only celebrate the beauty of music but of African culture as well.
Though the young girls are living in an oppressive system which forbids them to become musicians, it is through song that they find comfort.
“I am running out of ink, to tell the world my story, where do I go, where do I go?
“No matter how many times I fail, fail, I will be brave,” go the lyrics of a song written by Anerudo.
The Tale of Anerudo also tackles the issue of albinism and how it has led to women being abused in the society.
Zanziwe , a young womam, is physically abused by her husband because she bore a child with albinism.
“Zanziwe began to tell her sisters how Tatenda’s father became more abusive when his son was born.
“He threatened his son’s life and beat her badly as punishment for giving birth to an albino baby.”
In some parts of Tanzania and Malawi, people with albinism still face persecution and are killed for their body parts which the superstitious have claimed to possess magical powers.
Zvandasara’s book brings all these societal ills to the fore for debate and redress.
These are challenges society continues to grapple with and answers are needed in the short-term for sustainable development.
As the tale ends, Anerudo and her sisters challenge their father who has arranged an early marriage for her.
Anerudo becomes a voice of the voiceless, empowering and strengthening a new generation of women in the villages.