27 Jul

That Evening’s Decision Took Me to Shabanie Mine – Snippets of My life 10

Maize Field

Maize Field

1982. This is the year the decision was made just after Christmas. Early January, I found myself making my first ever longest bus trip from Magaya village in Mashonaland East, to Shabanie Mine in the Midlands.  I had never really left the village, in any meaningful way. I was around 15 years.

My brother Alphonse had just married. He had passed in house training as a miner artisan and was transferred from Mashaba mines to Shabanie. He had come home for Christmas with his new wife, Jennifer. My sister-in law, Jennifer was pregnant and each morning she struggled with “nyong’o”/ nausea. I liked her so much and felt sorry for her. I wanted to help. I scrounge for guavas, lemons, manhanga or just anything I thought would help her.

My sister-in-law was my princess. After a bath, she used Vaseline Intensive Lotion. This was the first time I had really seen this cream, I was used to our ordinary greasy vaseline! It left her glorious, and this fragrance around her was all about the city. Some of us were all smelling of smoke and the heavy garden soil.

I requested her politely if she could name her child after me, if she gives birth to a baby girl. She looked deeply at me, and said  “would you like to come to Shabanie Mine and be with the baby all the time. If it’s a girl, I will call her Nyaradzayi?”. I said yes, but I was not sure whether she meant it, or did she simply feel sorry for me with my patched skirts and cracked feet (skirt ye-zvigamba neman’a). I was bright in class and this made my brother happy. I knew he would want me to have a good education. So maybe. Going to Shabanie sounded so remote and I dismissed the thought!

This one evening, after a meal, my brother Alphonse called me in the house and I sat close to my princess Jennifer on the reed-mat. Mother was sitting on the other side, stretched at the far end and boiling some water for the evening tea, with no milk.

My brother cleared his throat, and in the protocol we all know in Murewa, I knew there was something coming…”well, muchembere, ndataura nevaroora venyu ava, and we request that tete Nyara comes to live with us in Shabanie. As you can see, muroora wenyu will need help with the baby, and since tete Nyara is going into form 3, we can enroll her at Mandava“.

I literally stopped breathing! Was this for real? Ininiwo zvangu, Me! Leaving the village. Me, taking the bus and going on that long journey which my brother used to describe. He used to say that it takes a whole day from Magaya village to Mandava bus-terminus in Shabanie. He said, on arrival at Mandava they have to take chirokari/local bus that goes to Niro/Nil, and they would get off at the first stop in Birthday suburbs. He used to describe how our Shiriyekutanga bus-service took him only up to Harare. He had to take another bus and spend the whole day travelling.

I drifted into my own world of dreams. I saw myself in the bus, past Kadoma, Kwekwe, Gweru and Shurugwi. I saw myself at Boterekwa, the beautiful gorge that I had read in our geography class, I saw the bus take me in long stretch past Nhema turn off to Siboza. I had kept each detail etched in my mind as my brother described the long journey to his Shabanie Mine.

Was this for real. I thought it was all a dream. I smiled to myself, as I saw myself early the following morning breaking the news to my friend Veronica Basvi. I was going to meet her kwaMbuya Dhabu where we were weeding for $2.50 each per day (maricho e-muswere).  This 29th of December 1982 was the very last day I was do any such maricho.

I will never know all the full conversation between my mother, my brother Alphonse and sister-in-law Jennifer. My mother woke me from the reverie with sharp call “iwe, enda unotora huni panze, ugoteera kwauri kuenda kunogara nemuroora. Mangwana mubva maita washeni, hembe dzerwendo dzigare dzakarongedzwa”/ You go fetch firewood now. I expect you to respect your sister in law when you go stay with her. By the way, tomorrow you should do your laundry so that you are ready for the journey”. 

This decision and this day changed my life. A new pathway in my life was opening. I knew that the village had moulded me and will always be part of me. What awaited me was navigating a new life in the peri-urban town. The drama, dynamics and the intrigues of a mining town. I was an innocent adolescent with the whole world in front of me.

© Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, 2014

26 Jul

Sekuru Makosi’s Undying Love – Snippets of My Life 9

Sekuru Makosi’s Undying Love – True Story

Sekuru Makosi

Sekuru Makosi

Sekuru Makosi is one person whose life story is one of undying love. A struggling person, by all means living way below the poverty datum line; he holds himself with dignity and is counted among others in his village.

His love story warms my heart, always. Married to his wife from the neighbouring Mujuru village, they had two children. He was known raise his voice once in a while to his wife (kakushusha );  an allegation which to this day he denies. One day his wife lost her voice. She then left sekuru Makosi and went back to her village for treatment.

Years later, she recovered her voice, but never came back to sekuru Makosi. She left the villages and drifted off to the farms in Shamva. Nobody heard about her for many years. Sekuru Makoso never married. He vowed to wait for his wife to come back. It’s now almost 30 years. He still believes that amai Muzambi, his former wife will come back and they will reconcile.

Some years back  sekuru Makosi was eyeing this other woman from Gwishiri village. He asked me for advise, since the woman was elderly and a widow. I encouraged him to pursue another love life if he had let go of his first love. He gazed long into the distance, smiled at me and said…”No muzukuru, I will wait a few more years. I know my Mai Muzambi, the only woman I have ever known, still thinks about me”. This was the closest he came to dating someone else all his life.

Three years ago, mysteriously, his former wife came to visit us and pay condolences for my late mother. Sekuru Makosi happened to have visited us also on this day. Everyone in the house was on tip-toe, waiting.  Sekuru Makosi and Mai Muzambi kept giving each other an eye. We were all seated in my late mother’s kitchen. One could feel and touch the spark of this  the old flame. Everyone was waiting, expectantly. I was equally nervous for sekuru.

Sekuru Makosi cleared his throat, looked at me knowingly, summoned some courage and said to me, “I told you that I will wait she will come back“. I smiled back, and asked mbuya Mai Muzambi whether she could come and cook at least one meal in her old kitchen with Sekuru Makosi. Sekuru Makosi had been waiting for decades.

She looked at me, chuckled; cast her eyes down and said “it has been too long muzukuru. Actually, I have never forgotten your sekuru. He is father to my children. I never married as well. But let me go think about it. It has been years and I have another life. Give me time“. There was a deep silence in the house. I did not know what to say. The storm was over and a calmness enveloped all of us, with some sadness.

Sekuru Makosi, courageously said, “zvakanaka muzukuru, ndazvinzwa zvataurwa naambuya vako. I will wait“. It has been three year now, almost four and sekuru Makosi is still awaiting. I know a man with deep and undying love when I see one. Sekuru Makosi is still deeply in love, with his childhood sweetheart.

(c) Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, 2014

Notes: Sekuru is shona for uncle.

19 Jul

Rozaria Girls Clubs Protects Girls from Child Marriage

Rozaria Memorial Trust – Zimbabwe

 

ISSUES, PRIORITIES AND RECOMMENDED ACTIONS FOR ENDING CHILD, EARLY AND FORCED MARRIAGE.

Presentation at the London Girls Summit on Ending FGM & Child Marriage

Organised by UK Government & UNICEF – 21 October 2014

Rozaria Memorial Trust was founded in honour of the late grandmother, Rozaria Marumisa Dizha who was pulled out of grade 3 as a young girl and married off. During her life time (1923-2006) she dedicated her life to promoting the education and economic empowerment of the girl child. Today, RMT reached 20,000 people in Murewa, through its work in 150 villages. The Trust has established the Rozaria Girls Clubs in schools reaching to those most at risk girls between ages of 13-18, in rural areas. RMT also works on issues of adolescent health especially sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV.

Causes of Child Marriage in Murewa

Child, early and forced marriage is prevalent within our rural communities in Zimbabwe. The following are some of the factors contributing to this situation:

  • Household poverty, which impact the girls and leaves them with no opportunities in life.
  • Education, when girls are not able to continue with education, they get social pressure to marry.
  • Lack of empowerment, sense of inferiority and hopelessness.
  • Social and cultural attitudes, I which girls are often seen as wife and where the goal in life is to marry. This can create peer pressure for some girls and reduce ambition to look for a career.
  • Teenage pregnancy. When a girl gets pregnant many families insist that the girl should leave her family and move in with the man responsible.
  • Religious sects like Mapostori promote child marriage and even in polygamous relationships.

What are the solutions?

ü  Raise awareness in communities about this harmful practices

ü  Prioritise the education of girls up to secondary and tertiary education so that girls can be economically independent

ü  Create safe spaces where girls can share experiences, give each other peer support.

ü  Rescue and support girls who are at risk of marriage

ü  Reach out to the young marriage girls, and give them support so that they can get education and properly take care of themselves and their children if any

ü  Work with traditional and religious leaders and communities to change attitude

ü  Strengthen the national, regional and global laws that address the issue of child marriage

ü  Prosecute those who commit the crime of child marriage and who abuse the girls

ü  Have programmes that addresses the men who marry these girls so that they can stop the practice.

How can you partner with Rozaria Memorial Trust and other community groups?

v  Partner with us to expand the Rozaria Girls Clubs in more schools around the country

v  Support our adolescent health and SRHR programmes targeting girls and boys out of schools.

v  Ensure that funding and other resources is accessible to us in communities.

v  Use traditional and social media, arts and other forms of communications to raise the voices of young people

v  Collaborate with us in our national advocacy and support the Africa Campaign to End Child Marriage.

v  Reach out to us on twitter @rozariatrust or https://www.facebook.com/rozariamemorialtrust

 

For further information, during the Girls Summit, contact RMT delegation: Melissa, Farirai and Colleta on emails: Rozaria@africaonline.co.zw or rozariamemorialtrust@hotmail.com

14 Jul

I am my mother’s daughter

Amai

Amai

I am a chip from that old block

I am my mother’s daughter,

She draw her strength from life’s adversities

Seeking always to own the spoon and not just lick it;

She who walked generations into a future, with working hands, bare feet and resilient heart;

She who laughed, even when tears were rolling down her cheeks.

She, who said amen, to life in its fullness.

I am her daughter, embracing this morning.

 

(c) Nyaradzayi, July 14, 2014

13 Jul

Who are the mysterious 39,000 men who “marry” our girls each day?

(c) RMT, Hurungwe Primary, Murewa

(c) RMT, Hurungwe Primary, Murewa

Something has been bothering me for years now. Who are the mysterious and faceless men involved in child or forced “marriage”. The data is staggering, 39,000 girls are abused each day through this evil practice of child and forced marriage.  This could as well be a football stadium full of girls. In a year, the United Nations estimates that 14 million girls are “married”. This number of girl is more than the population of my own country Zimbabwe!

In all my years of work on rights of girls and young people the face and voice of the perpetrators of child, early and forced marriage has been shadowy.

The narrative is usually about the poor girls, forced out of school, those vulnerable girls whose social and economic circumstances place them at high risk. This narrative shows how girls are so much undervalued in society, how they lack the choices and the voice to make decisions that affect their lives. The girls’ own acts of courage, inner strength is presented so strongly and positively. It builds empathy and pulls our heart strings. It moves the girls from just victims of crime to leader seeking solutions and survivors demanding justice.

The other narrative centres on the parents, the extended family and the community. Here the discussions and legitimately so, is about the household poverty that pushes the poor parents to do the unimaginable in parenting, giving a blessing, and accepting some material benefit in lieu of the under-aged daughter. A transaction, a sale of one’s own daughter.  This is narrative that carries with it the issues of abuse of culture and religion and how these are used to justify the practice.  This narrative indicts the parents and the community as guardians of minor children who are failing to play that expected social and moral role. They are accomplices in the commission of the crime.

It’s disturbing that in these two narratives, there is a silent echo about the MEN who actually dare to break the laws, abuse cultures and traditions and proceed to “marriage” the girls. By calling it “marriage”,  society gives a cloak of legitimacy, legality and acceptability to a criminal act, to multiple layers of violation of rights of girls including abductions, rape and other forms of violence.

In Mereso’s story, we hear in passing about the old man of 70 years, who was married. Beyond that there is no further information. The man has no name.  Seynabou * a 16 year old from Niger, narrated about her ordeal during the launch of the African Union Campaign to End Child Marriage. She was taken to the man’s house. When she refused him, this man did beat her up. She ran away and went home, and her father also beat her for refusing this man and took him back to the man. The man forced himself on her. She then fled and stayed with friends. All the time she just referred to “this man”.

Why are these men nameless and faceless? Why are there no robust studies about the profile of these men? Such studies could provide important information on characteristics of the perpetrator? Even if all the girls are empowered and in school, as long as we have men who prey on girls out there, how safe are our girls?  In fighting crime,  it is important to have understanding of the context; the victim, the perpetrators and any other factors fuelling the practice.

As long as the 39,000  the perpetrators are nameless and invisible, child “marriage” will continue, and there will be impunity. The issue continue to be treated as a social norm and cultural practice, and not as a crime deserving investigation and prosecution. As long as the data is not available, the intrinsic class nature of this evil practice will not be addressed.

I invite those with data, research or such information to share with me on ambassador2endchildmarriage@gmail.com.

 

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

African Union Goodwill Ambassador

for Campaign to End Child Marriage

July 13, 2014

* Seynabou, not her name. Identity changed since she is a minor.

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