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Survival and Revival: The Story of Delta’s Spirit

Delta

It was on a spring day in 2004 when twenty-year-old Delta Milayo Ndou decided that her life was no longer worth living.

Barely into her university studies and unexpectedly pregnant, Delta wavered between determination and indecision until at last, she forced a bottle of pills down her throat and waited to die.

But somehow, in those long minutes awaiting the end, Delta had a change of heart.

“I couldn’t go through with it so I forced myself to vomit and chose to face life - to live, to fight and to survive,” recalls Delta, now 26.

It’s almost impossible to believe that one of Zimbabwe’s most outspoken journalists and gender activists could ever buckle in submission to fear.

Delta’s regular column in one of Zimbabwe’s weekly newspapers and her personal blog attest to her bold approach to tackling societal inequalities and the challenges of being a woman in contemporary Zimbabwe. Owing to her activism, Delta was recently recognised by the Moremi Leadership Institute as one of Africa’s 25 most promising young women leaders. On describing herself on her blog, the self-defined feminist writes, “I am a VOICE – one of those who refuse to be gagged by the traditions that tell me that my womanhood obscures my humanity.”

But just six short years ago, when dreams of success seemed audacious for Delta to even consider, she believed eternal silence to be her only escape. “I was a first year student, recently orphaned and now pregnant by a final year student,” recalls Delta. “I had never felt so acutely the pain of losing my parents as I did then because for the first time ever, I was deep in trouble and they were not there to turn to.”

Delta’s mother died when she was 15. And half a year later, her father followed.

“Suddenly I was no one’s child,” remembers Delta of that double loss. “I belonged to no one and in many ways it felt like my value to the world had depreciated. I was nothing but a nameless faceless addition to the burgeoning statistics of Africa’s AIDS orphans.”

Though Delta points to her father’s infidelity and emotional abuse of her mother as the cause of her parents’ early deaths, she also distinctly recalls his fervent encouragement to her to get an education - a wish he reiterated even on his deathbed. And so she had honoured this dying plea, completing high school and proceeding to university, all the while the pain of her loss still plaguing her. With time, she directed this tangle of emotions towards her relatives, creating impassable rifts between herself and them.

That was also the time she fell in love.

“In that one man I found comfort, acceptance and the precious knowledge that I belonged to someone,” she recounts. “I mattered and if nothing else, there would be someone who noticed if I suddenly fell off the face of the earth.”

But Delta hadn’t bargained for motherhood as part of this package. Devastated at the thought of becoming a college drop-out and fearing the prospects of becoming a wife as disempowered in marriage as her mother had been, Delta chose suicide as her way out.

Fittingly, the indomitable fighting spirit that had carried her through innumerable trials intervened.

And so Delta continued with her degree, giving birth a few months later, to a baby boy. After the birth, she resolved to go back to school as soon as she could and seven months on, weaned her son and went back to university, leaving him in the care of her lover’s younger sister.

“When I returned, I found myself mentoring other young students who’d fallen pregnant at college,” she says. “I shared freely my experiences and listened to their fears and spoke to their families, and begged and pleaded on their behalf. I knew that without their family’s support, they would never be able to come back and finish studying for their degrees.”

But just as Delta seemed to have overcome the darkness, more problems ensued.

At 23, after the great struggle to get to the special day, Delta missed her graduation ceremony, hospitalised after collapsing due to stress-related fits and convulsions. Her blood pressure had shot up so high that she was having trouble breathing. “I had learned that my Prince Charming was not so princely and that he had successfully charmed his way into another woman’s pants and impregnated her,” she remembers with painful humour.

After a traditional ceremony in the same year that she’d given birth, Delta had become her lover’s wife.

“It had been the last thing I intended at the time but I was in love, pregnant and it was the way things were done,” recounts Delta candidly. “But with hindsight, it was also possibly the worst blunder of my life to date.”

The pain of betrayal stabbed at her, but Delta chose to survive once more. “That’s what African women do,” she says matter-of-factly. “Sometimes we display the kind of stoicism of a cow standing in the rain!”

In 2008, Delta was identified among Zimbabwe’s top young leaders. This is the same year that she began her newspaper column and also became an HIV and AIDS scriptwriter for Population Services International (PSI) Zimbabwe.

Last year, she was selected as a keynote speaker at a southern African regional conference on gender and development and began her blog – called ItsDelta – on 25th November 2009 to coincide with the global launch of the 16 Days of Activism campaign. Delta is also a gender resource person for a local university, a mentor for a high school human rights project and will next year be published in a short story anthology.

“Life has happened to me and I have, to the best of my ability, charted my own path thus far,” affirms Delta. “I am a survivor and always will be.”

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Sharese's picture

Wow!

I have followed Delta's blogs both here on World Pulse and her personal blog, but I did not know all of this about her life. What great insight. The strength that she posses and the light that she shines resonates even further now.

Thank you for sharing this. Great insight.

Fungai Machirori's picture

Thank you Sharese

Yes, while I knew some of this, I did not know all of it either. It was very humbling to have her open up so fully to tell me all of this. She is a beautiful, strong woman who's story resonates with many women around the world. I stand in awe of her.

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Ruun Abdi's picture

Hurrah !!!

Delta is young inspiring and strong woman... looking at that bright smiling face i can see what an incredible woman she is, and thanks for sharing her story because without you i wouldn't have come to know her this much.

Congratulations dear i really loved reading your post.

Cheers.

Fungai Machirori's picture

She is!!!!

Oh yes, this story speaks for itself in many ways. Delta is an amazingly open individual who allowed me into her world.

Thank you so much and Happy New Year!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

vivian's picture

A beautiful woman with

A beautiful woman with beautiful dream, very talented and strong. Thank you for sharing her work and achievement on world pulse. This is inspiring......................

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Fungai Machirori's picture

Amen sister Vivian!

She is a real heroine and I love her spirit!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Farona's picture

Awe-mazing (awsome+amazing)

Awe-mazing (awsome+amazing) women ! Delta, what a beautiful name and what an incredibly inspiring story.
I am just genuinely surprised to read what she has been through, yet despite, all this, she's a power horse ! - embodies all the qualities of a survivor !

You did a great work in telling her story, I am sure she would be proud of you sis !

Good luck with your next assignment

I am going to share this with Delta because you are so right! She is AWEMAZING - lovely word!

Thank you for reading and I hope the New Year will be kind to you :)

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Cindy Bishop's picture

Your Amazing Article!

Dear Fungai,

I have read your article as part of my commitment to the VOF process. I am one of the mentors. You have done a fantastic job. Your biographical portrayal of Delta has left me wanting to know so much more about her. You have done a professional job, and have peppered the article with the human touch needed to grab your readers.

Best of luck to you,
Cindy

With love and compassion, Cindy

Fungai Machirori's picture

It's all Delta really

What are we, as writers, if we do not have the subjects, themes and people to write about? In many ways, I feel like this piece wrote itself because Delta's life is so amazing. I had a very surreal experience while writing this piece. One night, I had a dream that I was Delta and facing the situations that she faced. Needless to say I woke up with a bit of a fright surging through me. But it was really something because I had internalised every aspect of this story and made it somehow my own. And that is only due to the finest details and honesty that Delta was so kind to share.

Happy New Year!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Jan K Askin's picture

Your Profile

Dear Fungai,

I hope you are gratified by these positive responses to your profile.

Jan

Jan Askin

Fungai Machirori's picture

I am indeed!

Dear Jan,

Thank you again for all your help :) I hope that your time over Christmas was fulfilling! Here's to more journeys together on the road to enlightenment :)

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Lisa Cox's picture

assignment 1

Dear Fungai

I was assigned to review your first assignment and have to say that I truly loved reading it! It grabbed my attention from the very beginning and made me really want to find out what happened to Delta. You did a great job at showing what a strong woman she is. You have a wonderful writing style and I am looking forward to reading your other pieces. Keep up the great work!

Fungai Machirori's picture

Thank you :)

Delta is one of those rare human beings who feel no shame or self-consciousness at admitting to failure or pain or strife. And this is what makes her stronger than most of us.

This was a really eye-opening, heart wrenching experience for me and I am glad I did her spirit the justice that it deserves.
Happy New Year!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

patf's picture

What a story! What a writer!

Hello Fungai,
It's your mentor, Pat. What an amazing story. You seem to have captured Delta's positive focus on life and making a difference. For her to have overcome so many obstacles makes any problems I may have nothing more than a blip. I was inspired by her story and your writing. I, too, wanted to keep reading to see where her life went. Fantastic job...let's get in touch.

Fungai Machirori's picture

A Skype Chat?

Hi Pat!

Would you like to do a Skype chat some time towards the end of this week?

Thank you for the encouragement!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Wonderful

Wonderful and inspiring profile Fungai! I would love to know how she got herself out of the situation with the cheating husband. It seems like history, unfortunately, repeats itself.

Cheers,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Fungai Machirori's picture

The bit about what happened

The bit about what happened next was a bit sensitive for Delta to share, but I know that in time she will share that all by herself"!!!

Yes, the cyclic nature of life can be very frightening - as though one cannot avoid what one's foremothers have experienced. But I think Delta's response to all of this has shown that she did not allow history to completely repeat. She fought back!

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Maggs's picture

Moving story, well written piece

Now I know why she writes so deep - if there's anything like that. It sounds weird but I believe her experience has given her a bolder voice. Not to say one should have gone through what she went through to write so well but it seems to have shaped her into a great woman and writer. And you my dear Fungai, did justice to her story - commendable as always:)

maggs

Fungai Machirori's picture

I understand what you mean

Yes, I was equally taken aback when I learnt all of this. It really made me understand her better and see where all that soulful writing emanates from.

Thank you for the encouragement, but in many ways, I think this whole piece wrote itself. Delta made it what it is,

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

Rudzanimbilu's picture

Its been a while Fungai....

I hope you are well. I've been reading your blog but I've never really found time to respond but in time I will. You are doing a great job and I just read the 2010 bit and I loved everything and I hope that 2011 is filled with less drama, peace and thunderous showers of God's blessing, all to you. Thank you for sharing Delta's story, as a mother I could relate to her and I love how you captured her story. It's such a sad story but in it, I found lies so much strength, bravery and healing and this is encouraging. I look forward to reading your frontline journal and I'm sure it will empower me as your first assignment did. Well done Fungai!

Rudzanimbilu Muthambi

Fungai Machirori's picture

Thanks sisi!

I am doing fine. Happy New Year!!! I hope you are soaking up enough sun for both of us!!! What humbling and kind words. I hope to produce something of similar quality in the next entry.
Hugs :))

from today i live out of my imagination
i am more than my yesterday
tomorrow i plant a new seed
nothing that lies behind easy
nothing that is ahead real
my within is all i have today
*Napo Masheane*

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