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My own war: Hondo yangu

Chido’s story.
Chido is a 33 year old single mother who is unemployed and a known commercial sex worker. She has two children one of which is a product of a sexual assault. After Chido separated with her husband in 2000 all she left with was a child and nothing else on her. She went to live with her mother who was also a single parent and already taking care of three of her siblings. They worked together operating a vegetable stall. They lived from hand to mouth but it was ok for Chido because they survived. In 2006 Chido was sexually assaulted by a local police officer. Efforts to get the case addressed proved futile and Chido ended up with another child who needed to be fed.This extra addition to the family made Chido’s mother to ask her to leave and stay on her own with the two children.Chido moved into a plastic shack with other homeless people where she thought she would resume her vegetable business. This was not so as she had no capital and then the city council police were now arresting vegetable vendors who did not have a vendor licence.Her life in the shacks was very hard and it led to more sexual harassment and exploitation. This led her to join the long line of commercial sex workers. Until 2011 when she met with ReSa officers who offered her a capital for better livelihoods, Chido had resorted her life to prostitution.
Chido’s story is one of the very many faced by women especially single mothers in the poor urban suburbs of Zimbabwe. Being a single mother is a shame culturally and this has forced many single mothers to get married in order to avoid community’s hurtful sentiments and judgments of them. According to Chido men sexually abuse them because they say ”there is nothing new on what l am doing to you. You have been through this before. “Sometimes they tell them that they are trash and do not need to be treated any better. Even as a commercial sex worker the violence is even worse as some of the clients sometimes refuse to pay but instead beat them up. This has turned Chido from soft spoken woman to vocal, rough and fearless woman.
What ReSa is doing to stop VAW.
VAW is very common in Zimbabwe and so is the phenomenon of single motherhood. ReSa is working with 12 commercial sex workers and 25 single mothers in Sakubva to disseminate information on VAW.The 37 women have each been trained on protection and rights issues. They have also been trained in community approaches and how to talk to different people in the community. Their duty is to sensitize both men and women on the dangers of VAW.They distribute pamphlets, condoms and family planning tablets to women during their sensitization. Each woman is assigned to 50 families whom she has to talk to and visit in one month.
What are they equipped with?
These 37 community mobilisers have each been given a phone that is also paid for by ReSa. They use this to call the police, ReSa offices or the other mobilisers on issues of VAW.They also use it to send messages to ReSa offices updating them of how many cases they have come across, how many families they have spoken to and if there are any other challenges they face in the field work. Every month they also meet with their ReSa facilitator for a 1 hour meeting to give updates.
Success so far:
Its been two months now and community members have accepted having these women talking to them about VAW.At first they were not accepted and nobody listened to them but after 4 weeks people softened and started to talk to them. In October alone 23 cases of rape on girls under 18 were reported,6 cases for women over 18 and 7 cases of domestic violence. So far in November the cases have gone down and ReSa is now dealing with cases of girls who opened up about their sexual abuse cases. ReSa has referred these cases to other organizations who deal with sexual abuse cases in order that some of the girls be taken to safe houses. As for the 37 women, one of them said “This is the time in my life where l feel that l am gainfully employed and l am not ashamed of what l do. ”Chido also added by saying ” Now when l take a bath and wear nice clothes, it is not because l want to attract a man but because l feel good in the dress. With ReSa l now have a job and so l do no need to sell my body in order to get money. Nobody deserves any form of violence. People should just learn to respect each other.” Another girl Melody said that “saving other women is a service that we should give. We have been through this and we would not want any women to go through it again. For me this is my war, ihondo yangu”.

(Real names of these ladies have been changed for their own protection.)

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Comments

Leslie Stoupas's picture

One step at a time

Thank you for sharing this powerful story! I can imagine that Chido is an inspiration to many women and girls. Her life was very, very hard and she suffered immensely, but by taking one step at a time, she has been able to change it. Not only has she changed her life, she has changed the lives of other women and girls as well. This story is a great reminder of the difference just one person can make. I wish Chido and ReSa well as they become more and more important in their community and this important message about the value of women and girls becomes heard.

Leslie Stoupas

rebuild Sakubva's picture

Dear Leslie As l am not in

Dear Leslie
As l am not in Zimbabwe at the moment ,l sent your response to the women's group and they sent back their responses.I have kept the names off the post.

Chido) Dear Leslie. Now that my story has gone out into the world and so will l one day.I want to stand proud and tall and help other women.

x) They said it is not easy to change the world.With this project we realised that it is and it starts with our families.

b) I know my story will change other women's lives because this is how l started.It was by hearing another woman speak.

C) Thank you very much for reading our story.We will be doing more so watch out for more stories.

d) I used to wish if l had the power of a man,but now l have realised that l have more power than l ever imagined.
ReSa made me realise this and l am grateful.

There are a lot more responses but l thought these ones were very interesting.Thanks ladies.Remember when we move,the world moves with us.

Barbara M Bracewell's picture

Great Service

This story is so awesome and inspiring. It clearly demonstrates that women can be empowered and have a total life change by working with organizations like ReSa. Chido, and all the women who are working on the field now to get other women in their communities unshackled from the shame and pain of rape and degradation, are such a positive and wonderful example of real change. I feel sorry for all Chido had to go through in life especially the rape by a police officer who unfairly and unfortunately got off scot free as always plus, for all the time that she had to prostitute herself just to survive to help and provide for her kids. Many thanks to ReSa for the positive difference they have already made in these women's lives. The project through which once victimized women like Chido are working and helping to eliminate VAW is obviously making great waves in the lives of those they are now assisting to write new chapters for their futures. Reading this story however, I would have expected to get an exact definition of VAW as this will better inform the reader about what this means. Keep up the good work ReSa, Chido and all the other advocates on this project and similar ones in Zimbabwe as well.

BMBracewell

rebuild Sakubva's picture

My own war:Hondo yangu

Thank you very much for your kind words Barbara Bracewell.I think l would like to thank WordPulse team for this great work of getting all of us together.Now we get to know about each other's story and work.For me VAW is easily defined when we see the attrocities being perpetuated on women.Hondo yangu was not only flighted and higfhlighted on WordPulse only but on other media too.This has seen a great influx of women visiting us for help or seeking justice.We have also learnt that a number of married women have also been raped but never reported because of the shame and guilty the experience brought.Married women in business have been raped by potential customers,some of them are now into private prostitution in order to save their families.
Right now ReSa team is trying to put together a proposal to help all these women and how we can help them access the justice system,be economically empowered and also share information on protection amongst themselves.
Bad news is that we lost one of Chidos team members.She was ill for some time but succumbed to HIV and AIDS complications.She died last week on Wednesday.It was at her funeral where two women boldly stood up and openly talked about their rape experiences.
If there is anyone of you who would like to help us put up a good proposal we would be very happy.Send us email on rebuildsakubva@gmail.com

LMN

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