SEARCWL bibliotekar Cecilie Butenschøn Mariri har gått bort

Bibliotekaren ved Southern and Eastern Regional Center in Women's Law (SEARCWL) ved Universitet i Zimbabwe, Cecilie Butenschøn Mariri, døde i Harare fredag 27.november. Med hennes profesjonelle arbeid ble det bygget opp en NORAD finansiert regional og internasjonal boksamling i kvinnerett. Denne samlingen, som består av internasjonal og regional faglitteratur, tidsskrifter og rettskilder, er antakelig uten sidestykke både i Afrika og Europa.

Et viktig tilskudd til denne samlingen er Tove Stang Dahls minnesamling som består av Toves engelske bøker innen felt som kvinne- og kjønnsstudier, kvinner og rett, rettssosiologi, rettsfilosofi og kriminologi.
Under Cecilie ledelse gikk biblioteks arbeid, undervisning og forskning hånd i hånd. På de regionale fagsamlingene var bibliotekarer fra alle universitetene som inngikk i samarbeidet med. Dette bidro til å bygge opp kvinnerett som fag ved juridiske fakulteter i Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, Uganda og Kenya. Alle master og PhD studenter ved SEARCWL fikk individuell  veiledning  i arbeidet med å finne relevant litteratur til sine avhandlinger. Og sist, men ikke minst dette biblioteket ble brukt av alle studenter og ansatte ved det kriserammede Universitetet i Zimbabwe. Slik sett bidro det til å opprettholde en  uavhengig akademisk skrive og lesekultur i en tid da akademias uavhengighet var under angrep fra politisk myndigheter.

En av Cecilias nærmeste kollegaer ved SEARCWL tidligere visedirektør dr. Amy Tsanga som nå er dommer ved Harare High Court har skrevet følgende minneord :



1 November 1953 to 27 November 2020

I first met Cecilie in 2001 if my memory serves me correct, at a May 17th Norwegian national day celebration at a hotel in Harare. Having studied in Norway, I had become somewhat of an annual invitee to this important day of their national holidays. I never hesitated at the opportunity to celebrate and reminisce on my Norwegian experiences as well as to appreciate the global connectedness which these events also characterize. Their day marks a celebration of Norwegian independence from the Swedes. That day, having engaged in bouts of chit chats with mostly familiar faces who were also regular features at this annual occasion, and having satisfactorily sampled raw Norwegian salmon among other specially imported eats, I had finally gravitated to my favourite eats table- the variety of  cakes. Yes, a sweet tooth for those who know me.

It was there that I met Cecilie decked to the hilts in her Norwegian costume which I later learnt from her also had some German influences from her ancestry. I commented on her lovely costume as I did the little cakes that we seemed both so eager to devour. I knew some “Norsk” sentences….ok….maybe words to some, or even syllables.

What I said was “bra kake “ and this immediately tweaked Cecilie’s eyebrows as I must have sounded so convincing in my pronounciation that she immediately thought she had a fluent speaker standing right next to her. “ I snakker litt mein bra Norsk” I quickly confessed. I explained myself and came clean that this was about as much as I could confidently say. We immediately got it off on a good start. Her name, as she emphasized to me, was pronounced “Cecili-eh not Cecili-ya! Over the years, I was to hear that constant reminder to anyone who tried to “ya” rather than “eh” her name!

Some say every encounter in life happens for a reason. So was my encounter with Cecilie that day. I learnt that she had married a Zimbabwean and was now living in Zimbabwe. She also revealed that she was a librarian and was currently looking for a job. She said she had spent some time in Tanzania. She had also worked briefly at SAPES with their Masters programme. She had regional grounding. I knew at the Women’s Law Centre there was that possibility of utilizing a librarian as the programme had recently acquired premises to run the regional women’s law masters.

Julie Stewart, the Director of the Centre, was also at the same event. I suggested to Cecilie that it would be a good idea for her to meet Julie, so off we snaked through the reveling crowd to find her.

The rest is history at least to the extent that Cecilie did end up serving 20 years as the Centre’s librarian until she retired earlier this year to focus on writing and reading.

I got to know Cecile very well not only as a work colleague but our lives outside work were just as intertwined in what was a true African spread of relations and relatedness. It is often truly amazing how within each grouping of humans, the connections and connectedness are so interwoven that what emerges is in reality a bigger family circle.

Add to the aspect of my initial encounter with Cecilie, we soon discovered in those early years that my brother’s wife was and remains best friends with Melanie who is married to Cecilie and Happy’s nephew, Godfrey. Then my friend Rudo Gaidzanzwa also worked with Godfrey’s mother in the Sociology department. In essence, I knew Cecilie and her Mariri family from many fronts. Happy, Cecilie’s husband drank at the same club as my brother-in-law. So I got to know Happy in that regard. One of Happy’s children also went to a school were my aunt’s daughter worked. Additionally, Happy also hailed from the east more specifically from the royal Mutasa clan. I too took great pride in coming from the royal Makoni clan and so we would happily exchange banter on our delusions of grandeur coming from royalty clans. To Happy and Cecilie I became fondly known as “princess.”

Cecilie was also a true believer in cementing relations between those who had traversed the two countries of Norway and Zimbabwe. Her home was always a place where those who came to Zimbabwe from Norway and those who had been to Norway as Zimbabweans would be often be invited for meals on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon. Cecilie was a great cook and a great baker. She took her cuisine seriously. I often teased her that she needed to open a bakery. She made the loveliest confectionary. Our birthdays were a day apart. Hers and Julie’s fell on the 1st of November whilst mine came a day before on the 31st of October. So when I worked at the Women’s Law Centre there was always a celebration to which generally Cecilie never failed to bring her Norwegian eats. Even after I left the Centre Cecilie would send through her birthday wishes.

Books were the love of Cecilie’s life and she will be remembered as a sterling librarian. She was excellent in acquiring relevant books. Her dedication to students and their needs was unparalleled. She was not a mean librarian who would punish a student for the late return of a book. No, no. no she was not that kind of librarian. Her approach was to facilitate access whenever she could, not just for students doing women’s law but those across disciplines especially those from campuses that did not have as rich a collection of materials on gender and women or other socio-legal aspects. Her belief was that access should be promoted rather than curtailed. For sure “the library across the road” as the Women’s Law Centre Library came to be known, was always bustling with cross-disciplinary users.


Cecilie was a structured person. Yes, she loved structure and perhaps if there was one thing that she found frustrating about Zimbabwe, it was the apparent lack of concern with functionality when it comes to our everyday lives. No water, potholed roads, endless queues and shortages. Anyone who has been to Norway knows that things work efficiently there. But what Zimbabwe lacked in structure and organization, it more than made up in Cecilie’s life when it came to human relations and her sense of being. She loved being a Mariri. She embraced being a Mariri.

Loving Zimbabwe did not mean she did not miss Norway. She would go there every now and again and she would come back with stories of spending time in the family mountain cottage enjoying the quietness of being.

Besides her work and family, books and students, Cecilie also loved her cigarettes and her liberal dose of alcohol. She equally loved her dogs as well and had indeed come to Zimbabwe with her favourite dog Balde. When she lost that one she acquired others so whenever I went to Cecilie’s house, I would be greeted by at least two huge dogs. I remember at Happy’s funeral, the two dogs kept barking at every male person who arrived to condole. They behaved totally differently with women sympathisers. I remember her chiding them to behave, as if they were humans, and, reminding them that this was “a serious occasion”. They looked at her like naughty kids, waiting patiently for only a moment for the next male condoler to instill fear into. It was a lighter moment amidst grief and loss.

I could go on and on about Cecilie. I last saw her some in August when she came to visit me as I was recuperating from a broken my leg . Then I heard from her a few weeks ago, as she wanted us to meet so I could help her to fill out an executor’s form as she said she was finally getting round to dealing with Happy’s estate. She complained that the form was full of legal jargon. She hated legalese by the way. She always wondered why knowledge should be incomprehensible. When she came to see me, she had spoken about how much she missed Happy dearly. It had not been an easy year for her. We had arranged that I would meet her the weekend of the 22nd of November. On the morning of Sunday the 22nd I sent her a message that I would swing by at around 4 pm that day to help her with the form. Within two minutes she had replied to say ‘yes please’. I confirmed. At 13; 09, I heard from her again via whatsapp. Her message said she had some “gruesome stomach pains” as she put it and that I did not have to come anymore. I replied that we could try again the following weekend and wished her a speedy recovery. Little did I know that this was not to be.

Like I said, I could go on and on about Cecile. No librarian will be remembered more by those who studied at the Women’s law Centre as Cecilie will be. There is not a dissertation in that library from the Master’s students in women’s law that has not acknowledged her valuable contribution. I speak on their behalf and on my own behalf when I say “thank you Cecilie, tatenda, asante sana, “tusen takk” Cecilie-eh for your contribution on this earth to changing women’s lives for the better.

Amy Tsanga

27 November 2020


Publisert 30. nov. 2020 14:48 - Sist endret 17. des. 2020 13:26