Original Research - Special Collection: African Women and Pandemics and Religion

Musha mukadzi: An African women’s religio-cultural resilience toolkit to endure pandemics

Martin Mujinga
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 3 | a8977 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i3.8977 | © 2023 Martin Mujinga | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 May 2023 | Published: 29 September 2023

About the author(s)

Martin Mujinga, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Life among most African families and communities revolves around women. In both African religion and culture, women’s lives oscillate between two opposite extremes of being at the centre and periphery at the same time. Women are both the healers and the often wounded by the system that respects them when there are problems and displaces them whenever there are opportunities. Their central role is expressed by a Shona proverb musha mukadzi (the home is a woman). This proverb expresses how women endure the pain of both religion and culture to create a decent society. Women also endure the pain of pandemics such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and COVID-19 and at times succumb to the same while taking care of some family members who would have fallen victim to the epidemic. Countless married women have been made susceptible to HIV and AIDS as they try to live according to the African cultural dictates of mothering and/or motherhood. Other women and girls also contract the disease because of how religion and culture exert them to some unbearable circumstances. For example, women and girls nurse their ill relatives without protective equipment and clothing. At times they are abused by men because of some cultural beliefs that unprotected sex is a remedy for HIV and AIDS. In addition, most women and girls were also victims of COVID-19 while serving their family members. In doing all the good work to serve families, women are driven by the proverb musha mukadzi. Using desk research methodology, this paper argues that musha mukadzi is both a toolkit for women’s resilience to endure pandemics and at the same time a subtly oppressive statement often used to manipulate and abuse women to stand in places that are too difficult for their capabilities.

Contribution: African women bear the brunt of pandemic burdens such as HIV, AIDS and COVID-19. Sometimes they become susceptible to the same while taking care of their family members affected by pandemics in the name of fulfilling the Shona proverb, musha mukadzi. The topic has contributed to the scope of the journal as it advocates to inculcate a peaceful society. The article also challenges African societies not to use musha mukadzi to ill-treat women as objects of African religio-cultural patriarchal ideology.


African women; musha mukadzi; religio-cultural; resilience toolkit; pandemics


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