By Chitownews reporters- Margret Chogugudza and Mjamaru.
When Vimbai Manyere (24), a single mother of one child got her new job as a bartender at a local night club in Chitungwiza, she was ecstatic! For Vimbai, this was a God-sent opportunity to escape grinding poverty and economic hardships which are buffeting households in Chitungwiza and the whole of Zimbabwe.
But two months down the line, Vimbai realised that working at night club in a male-dominated environment exposed her to many unfavourable conditions.
In a wide ranging interview with Chitownews, she narrated the diffculties women in her line of work encountered and how the owners of night clubs are abusing them to maximise on profits.
“Working as a bartender in a night club is very difficult”. She began. “The working hours are abnormally long and strenuous with no breaks, we rarely get chances to sit down”, said Vimbai
Besides the long hours, waitresses and hostessess in nighclubs are also exposed to sexual harassment and unwanted advances from inebriated male clients who form the majority of revellers at these joints.
“The drunken customers are rude and sometimes violent and most regard us as part-time prostitutes, dealing with them becomes difficult since we have to protect ourselves and at the same time our employers expect us to be open and courteous towards them to ensure that they will continue patronising the nightclub”, she continued.
“Every night we get unwanted advances and we are called filthy names- some clients will try to grope you or feel your private parts and when we complain, our bosses are unsympathetic”. she said.
She continued in a voice that quivered with emotion. “Sexual abuse against female bartenders is common in nightclubs. As female bartenders we are asked to wear revealing clothes so as to please the male clients and this makes us more vulnerable to abuse by the male patrons”.
“Flirting with male customers is considered part of the job. What pains me the most is that there are no jobs therefore I am forced to work under such hostile conditions for the sake of my family’s survival” she bemoaned.
Chitownews then enquired about her remuneration and asked whether it was enough to cover her family’s needs and commensurate with the long hours and risks involved.
“The pay is minuscule and commission-based, we have a small basic pay of forty dollars supplemented by a commission, of two-cents for every drink you deliver to the customer, calculated at the end of the week. This means I have to sell 100 beers to add $3 to my pay”. She replied.
Chitownews also interviewed Sarudzai Zhamero (28), a hostess in a Nightclub at Zengeza 3 Shopping centre. She blamed the high unemployment rate in Zimbabwe for the deteriorating working conditions in nightclubs and bars.
“Poverty and unemployment is the major reason why we continue to work under such harsh and disturbing conditions and it is very unfortunate that our government is doing nothing to create employment opportunities for us”, said Sarudzai.
The bar tenders and waitresses are also forced to provide entertainment services to the patrons as thay are constanly called by the Disc Jockeys to on stage and despite being not employed as dancers.
“Sometimes we are forced to dance to entertain the patrons and we do it so as to protect our work”, said Amanda, a 19 year old single mother who works as a waitress at Apple bar in Unit L.
A snap survey conducted by Chitownews at popular shopping centres in Chitungwiza revealed that a growing number of women are working in nightclubs and bars since the alcohol retailing business is showing much resilience amid an economic downturn that has withered other sectors of the economy.
As many as 300 women work in shifts at the dozen beer gardens, hotels and nightclubs that vie for revellers attention at Chikwanha centre only- a number unimaginable ten years ago when women shunned nightclubs.
These women are working in very difficult and unfavourable conditions with the bosses taking advantage of the desperate times that guarantee them an endless supply of cheap labour. The situation of these women graphically depict the feminization of poverty in Zimbabwe, a phenomenon were women are saddled with the house keeeping and breadwinning roles in female-headed families.
The female single-parent headed families are increasing because of the growing number of men abandoning families due to family breakups and migration for better economic opportunities.
These women have limited economic options and cannot quit their jobs because of the lack of alternative livelihoods in Chitungwiza and Zimbabwe. Women remain the most economically vulnerable group in our patriarchal society and the cases outlined above demonstrate that in Chitungwiza as in most Developing countries, poverty wears a woman’s face.