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Rising from despondency to hope: The tale of a healer


“Violence against women causes trauma. It takes away women’s ability to make progress in their lives. It destroys families, breaks up marriages and increases the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

As she said these striking words I could see the conviction in her that drives her vision in life; to assist women and men alike to find healing from the trauma they incurred through their experiences with politically motivated violence.

Born 47 years ago in a family of two girls and three boys in Guruve, Zimbabwe, Abigail Kadaira has become a force to reckon with due to her determination. She recalled growing up without both parents as her parents divorced when she was only nine years old. Now she lives with her mother and her two nephews in the small farming town of Chinhoyi in the Mashonaland West Province of Zimbabwe.

Sisi Abby, as she is fondly known in many circles, has been a human rights activist for many years. She has been a member of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and served as the Vice Chairperson in Mashonaland West Province in 1999. When the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an organisation fighting for a new people-driven constitution in Zimbabwe was formed in 1998 she became a member and served as Chairperson in her province for two terms from 1999 to 2003.

“At that time, I was one of only 2 women who served as Provincial Chairpersons in the NCA, “Sisi Abby said.

She participated in various protests demanding a new constitution for Zimbabwe with the NCA and demanding decent working conditions for workers with ZCTU.

“I wanted to claim my rights as a Zimbabwean, a woman and as a worker. That is why I became an activist,” she boldly stated.

As a consequence of her activism, Sisi Abby faced many reprisals. On 4 March 2002 the offices at Lomagundi Cooperative Union in Chinhoyi where Sisi Abby worked were bombed. 4 days later, on 9 March 2002, 4 petrol bombs and a huge boulder were thrown into her house. She lost property including her curtains, bedding and shoes. She also incurred costs repairing her damaged home. The perpetrators were never apprehended. In 2003 while attending a national planning meeting for the NCA in Harare, Sisi Abby was one of many activists that faced police brutality. She was heavily assaulted with baton sticks, stepped on her back with boots and suffered a miscarriage. She bled profusely for three months and never quite recovered her good health. She has never been able to have children because of that incident.

However this tragedy was also the beginning of Sisi Abby’s journey to more self-discovery and growth. Following her injuries sustained from the beating, Sisi Abby was identified by the Zimbabwe Community Development Trust (ZCDT) in 2003 as a victim of organised violence and torture (OVT) and was invited to participate in a Trauma Healing workshop in Harare.

“In the beginning I was suspicious of the process. I was like a caged person but then I started to open up. That workshop was the beginning of my healing,” she stated.

Sisi Abby’s healing came from the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life (ToL) is a program that brings together a forum of participants who are victims of politically motivated violence to speak out in small groups. By joining hands with their peers they share their experience of trauma in a safe space called a circle. ToL workshops take place over two to three days, consisting of a series of circles (dare in Shona). The circles are organised around the analogy between individuals in a community and trees in a forest. Participants discuss their roots (ancestry), trunk (childhood), leaves (important features) and fruit (family and future plans). ToL instigates a renewal in participants and allow them to find healing in their own time; helped by the knowledge that others who have been through the same experiences have found ways to deal with their trauma.

Having risen from despair and despondency to hope, from a victim to a survivor, today, Sisi Abby is a facilitator within the ToL.

“In 2006, I was asked to become a facilitator for the ToL. I started off as a volunteer. I would ask for permission from work to attend the workshops and as a trade union, they respected my rights,” she explained.

Sis Abby has facilitated more than 20 workshops. Each workshop had between 10 and 12 participants. These workshops have been in Chishawasha, Mutoko, Cassa, Epworth, Whitecliffe, Murehwa and Hurungwe hence they have covered both rural and urban areas. She empowers victims and survivors of OVT to come to terms with their traumatic experiences and to live their lives without fear.

“As a survivor I love this job and I do it with my whole heart because I am helping people who face the same problems I once faced. I also love it because we go deep into the grassroots working with all political parties and chiefs,” Sisi Abby said.

Sis Abby’s work involves working with women, some of whom have been raped, contracted HIV and bore children from rape incidences.

“Some of the women have not told their husbands because in the community people will reject you. I faced the same problem when I got hurt. People would ask what sort of a woman I was for doing what I did,” she sadly explained.
At ToL Sisi Abby now trains youths to become grassroots facilitators in their communities. So far she has trained 15 youths. She refers individuals with medical problems to the Counselling Services Unit, another organisation working with victims of OVT. The ToL now has partner organisations such as Aqua that run the trauma healing circles in the same manner as ToL.

Sisi Abby has also taken the trauma healing circles outside her work to her church, the Church of Christ in Chinhoyi.
“This year, I ran a circle with youths at church and afterwards I began a social club for soccer and netball to unite the community. I am going to have another circle before the year ends because those I involved in the first circle said it helped them.”

The downside of her work is the pain she feels when she hears the stories in the circles.

“After the circles, the stories weigh heavily on me. For instance I once had a circle in which all 10 participants had been raped. The ways in which they had been raped were different but their stories were all difficult to listen to.”

Despite the challenges Sisi Abby says she will not stop working with victims. In the follow-ups that she does with participants, many have indicated that the workshops helped them to come to terms with their experiences. They have requested that this programme be spread to help others who have not yet received help.

“I try to help them and I listen to them, she explains.”They trust me and this helps them to heal.”

She hopes that someday, all victims will receive healing.

“Zimbabwe is big. Many women need healing.”

As the interview came to an end I looked at this remarkable woman and could not help admiring her fortitude.



noreens's picture

good job!

You're article is very good and well written. I like your writing style! Good job!


MaDube's picture


Thank you dear, but when I look at it I feel as if I may have too many direct quotes. What do you think?

noreens's picture

I reread it, I don't think

I reread it, I don't think that you have put in too many quotes. Quotes give the story life, and makes a story more interesting. I read your question to Grace about the number of words. It is a bit over 1000 words. I wouldn't take anything out, but what you can do to shorten it is tighten the sentences by rewording some of them. I saw many sentences that you can tighten.

I am definitely not trying to take the place of your editor but since you asked here is an example of how you can tighten it:

Born 47 years ago in a family of two girls and three boys in Guruve, Zimbabwe, Abigail Kadaira has become a force to reckon with due to her determination. She recalled growing up without both parents as her parents divorced when she was only nine years old. Now she lives with her mother and her two nephews in the small farming town of Chinhoyi in the Mashonaland West Province of Zimbabwe

Born 47 years ago, one of five siblings, Abigail Kadaira is a force to be reckoned with. She recalled growing up in a broken home, as her parents divorced when she was nine years old. Now, she lives with her mother and two nephews in a small farming town in her country of Zimbabwe.

The first paragraph is 71 words and the second is 54 words. You can do a similar thing throughout the article. I hope that helps!

Good Luck!!

MaDube's picture

Thanks so much dear

These are very useful tips and I think I am going to reword this paragraph to read exactly as you suggested. Xoxo.

noreens's picture

Glad I could help! You can

Glad I could help! You can do the same thing throughout the article - then you don't need to take any of the paragraphs out. I started working on mine yesterday. I hope it will be as good as yours!


MaDube's picture

Oh, I am sure you will do an

Oh, I am sure you will do an even better job. Best of luck.

usha kc's picture

wow! thank you dear Rumbi

thank you dear Rumbi to give us a chance to be healed by reading story of such a true Healer ,Sisi Abby.

loved it .

MaDube's picture

Indeed she is

At the moment she is actually away, running the trauma healing circles. That is why it was so hard to pin her down for an interview and that is why I have to wait until she comes back to post my final draft because she wants to see it before I submit it.

ikirimat's picture

good piece

What a moving tale. Abby is a strong woman. Congratulations.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."

MaDube's picture

She is amazing

I agree completely. I have too many words though in excess of the required 1000. May I please have suggestions, if you please, of any parts that you think I could take out and still keep the spirit of the story intact?

Juliette Maughan's picture

Very well written


I actually think this piece is very well written and descriptive. By the end I got a sense like I got to meet her and I value her work.

Maybe she should come here and do a circle. I don't know if we do something here in the Caribbean.

I found that you do not need the quotes as was suggested but I am not sure whether it is something they are looking for overall.

I love you writing style.



MaDube's picture

Thank you

Thank you dear Juliette for your comments.

Can you believe I have never been in one of her circles. I did take part in a mock-circle that was being used to illustrate how the process works but not a serious one where I also told my story. Having witnessed the violence of the 2008 election, I think I also need trauma healing and I think the next time she has one I should participate.

Thanks once again,



amiesissoho's picture

Hi MaDube, Great write up.

Hi MaDube,

Great write up. If it is not too late you may consider reworking to reduce the no.of words.


MaDube's picture


Thanks sis Amie. Your suggestions were very valuable. Thank you so much. I will put them to good use. You will see the final product soon and it will be within the word limit.

Hummingbird's picture

We Support Sisi

What a brave women Sisi is, incredible individuals like Sisi make change. She should be proud of her resistance and hard work. I love her last sentence “Zimbabwe is big. Many women need healing.” Great profile MaDube.

A drop of rain can revive the earth, be the drop.


MaDube's picture

Thanks Nisan

Thank you dearie. Sisi Abby really inspires me. She was also a great interviewee because she loves talking about her work. She will be happy to know she has the support of so many like-minded women.

ThePressInstitute's picture

Very well done.

This is an outstanding first piece.
Because it is a profile your use of direct quotes is very appropriate and quite moving.
You have a strong style and a natural instinct for the feel and flow of a story.

Great, great work.


MaDube's picture

Thank you Cristi

I am deeply encouraged by your comments and appreciation for my work.

Thank you.


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