The innocent and poor rural girl from Nyakatsapa in Nyanga district has vivid memories of that terrible day. “I observed strange behaviour from my mother. As we were preparing to have our lunch, I found my mother in the house with three men. She was very fidgety, but I did not pay much attention and went about with my chores,” she told The Zimbabwean in a recent interview.
“Later in the day my mother came looking for me saying that I should leave. She insisted that I should go. As I stepped out of my room my mother pointed to three men, indicating that they would escort me. I could not understand who the three men were, but I had been taught to obey adults,” said Nyathi.
“I went with them. When we got to the house, I was left with one man, who informed me of his intentions to make me his wife. The man was more than 20 years my senior. Although he was from the same village, he had been working and living in Nyanga town. I felt a cold chill run down my back as the man explained that my mother had agreed to the marriage. My heart sank. I cried. I was hardly even a yet woman,” she said.
Nyathi’s father had died five years previously in 2000 so was not there to protect her. She later learnt that her mother had received lobola money from the man, Edison Nyamugure. “I cried that whole night. The next morning, family members of my soon-to-be husband took me to his mother’s home where they performed traditional wedding rituals and dressed me up as a new bride.”
“My heart was hurting all the time. I thought about my friends and school mates. They had gone on to Form One at Nyakatsapa secondary school, but I understood that I could no longer attend school. I was a wife now and had wifely duties to attend to. My mother told me to work hard on the marriage and make it work,” she said. Nyamugure had paid lobola expected her to perform nuptial duties. “This was the hardest duty for a 13-year-old child. I eventually fell pregnant. Then my husband went to Johannesburg in search of greener pastures leaving me with my mother-in-law.
Within three months he fell ill and had to come back to the village, to be taken care of by me and his family. He had TB and had lost weight. He could not hold down food nor do anything for himself. His mother and his sisters were scared of him. So I had to take care of him,” she said.
It never occurred to her that her husband was HIV positive. “I knew nothing about HIV and AIDS, until the day his sister helped me take him to the clinic. The sister-in-charge ordered all of us to go for an HIV test and CD4 count immediately. At the clinic we all went for counselling and testing individually,” she added. She tested positive.
“I cried. I did not know what the future held for my unborn baby. My brother’s husband advised us to go to Nyanga town and stay with him, so that my husband could have better access to medical care and ARVs. In July 2006 and I gave birth to a baby girl. We named her Tawananyasha (We have been blessed).
While attending an HIV and AIDS support group meeting at Nyanga District Hospital she was advised to visit the Eastern Highlands Health Centre and ask to become a member. She did so in 2008. The centre assists people affected by AIDS and their caregivers.
“The staff at the centre received me with warm hands and hearts. I was offered further counselling and career advice. They helped me to recover my health. I brought my baby girl with me to the centre and my relationship with the other mothers and staff members grew,” she said.
For the next three years, her husband responded well to treatment and grew stronger. He found employment in Nyanga and rented a room for the family in Nyamhuka Township.
“My husband started drinking beer again and slept out. When he was home he would abuse me. He refused to buy groceries or give me money for our child,” said Nyathi. In 2012, tired of the treatment she was receiving from her husband, she packed her bags and left with her child.
“I rented a room at the other side of the same suburb and moved on with my life. I received counselling and support from other women at the Centre and they encouraged me to be strong,” she said.
Cynthia Chavanga, the Programmes Coordinator said the centre worked with UNDP to provide HIV and AIDS awareness and counselling courses.
“We also operate a loan fund whereby we give loans ranging from $50 to $1,000 for income-generating projects to our members. “We have 30 female members of this micro-credit financing scheme. Each member can borrow money and we have a bi-weekly and monthly repayment plan over a year. Part of the interest is used to cover the Centre’s operational costs, and the rest goes back into the loan fund. If the women repay on time, they qualify to borrow a larger sum the next time,” explained Chavhanga.
With an initial loan of $200, Nyathi established a tuck shop in the high density suburb where she sells a wide variety of products, including soft drinks. Within six months, she had paid off her loan, and made a profit of $300. Since then, she has taken a second loan to expand her business.
“The extra money I make helps me buy school uniforms, books and other items for my child. I am grateful to the Centre for the support and love they have given me and my daughter throughout this ordeal. May it grow from strength to strength and forever open its doors to destitute and desperate mothers like myself,” said Nyathi.
“The more time I spend at the centre, involving myself in its programmes, the more I am gaining insight into life. All I can say is I have regained my self-confidence. I learnt to do business through my tuck shop and earned a little money for myself, enabling me to buy food and basic necessities for my kid and medication.”
Though she is HIV positive, she lives her life with a positive attitude. “Of all the things I want in life, I want to be around to see my daughter proud of me,” she said. Her daughter is now in grade one at a local school.Post published in: News