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Rosa my 'friend' and 'sister'

I will always owe my soft heart to Rosa. (my mother’s youngest sister) Rosa was my ‘sister’, ‘mum’ and ‘friend’ despite the age difference. Even when she got married we kept close, nothing seemed to have changed. She kept close to her ‘daughter’, ‘sister ‘and ‘friend’. I spent some of my primary school holidays with Rosa. Rosa cared for people as exhibited by her welcoming smile and entertaining attitude to everyone who came to her home.
Rosa was not privileged to have had a formal education and had to get married at an early age of about 18 years. I remember Rosa’s first marriage (which just lasted about 5 years) was not successful because she could not bear children for her husband. Much as she was determined to be in a marriage, she found the demands and insults from the husband and his clan’s men intolerable (our culture demands that a woman can only be welcomed into a husband’s clan if she bears children) and had to go back to her father’s home.
Rosa was so hard working, I don’t remember seeing her rest while in her home. This is a woman who could wake up at 4.00 am (on a bright moonlight) to go to the fields and plough (using oxen) with her brothers; by 6.30 am she passes by the well and comes back with a pot of water for preparing breakfast. Her chores ended late at night. She was also referred to as a ‘machine’ in the village.
In the African culture a hard working woman will always be taken for marriage very fast. Within a short time, Rosa remarried and in 6 years in marriage she was blessed with a beautiful baby girl and in the next six years she had had 4 children. But also within these years, Rosa’s husband had married 4 wives. Although my sister and friend, Rosa always shared with me her concerns about her fear for catching HIV/AIDS due to the multiple partners the husband had, my only advice was that she should practice family planning and stop having more children.
In 1994, Rosa’s husband started frequently falling sick and within a year he passed away due to AIDS. My dear sister and friend also deteriorated although she had enrolled with TASO, all she could get were food supplements since ARVs were not available by then. She passed away in January 1995 and I vividly remember Rosa’s last words to me “please take care of my children, see them through education’. Rosa had done so much for me. Her last words kept me strong and motivated to work harder.
I am proud that, despite my merger earnings I have been able to see these children through school (2 have completed university education and 1 still in university and the 1 joining university this year). This is my satisfaction and tribute to Rosa my friend and sister.

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