Sewing restores happiness to marriage

When Vivian Sanyamahwe, 27, married Pios Nyamaropa a decade ago, the issue of violence in her marriage did not cross her mind. But her husband, a cleaner at a local school, became abusive towards her when his small salary was rendered inadequate to meet his family’s needs as a result of the economic crisis sparked by the land invasions of 2000.

Varaidzo Mukahanana - interventions by some women’s organisations and projects have given them a new beginning.
Varaidzo Mukahanana – interventions by some women’s organisations and projects have given them a new beginning.

He accused his wife of being lazy and failing to help support the two of them and their six children.

“Life for us was a real struggle,” said Sanyamhawe in a recent interview with The Zimbabwean. “My husband’s income was barely enough to provide for the essentials such as food, let alone school fees and uniforms for the children. Our financial troubles often resulted in quarrels between us, and he threatened to evict me and our children from our home.”

But, today, the family’s fortunes have changed. Sanyamahwe and her husband can comfortably afford to have all their children in school thanks to the additional income that she is earning after taking part in a women’s sewing project. The upswing in her life and marriage started in March 2012, when she was invited to attend a ward meeting where she was elected as secretary for the newly-formed Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA).

Platform to share

This is a women’s group formed to improve the lives of rural women by providing them with a platform to share ideas and develop skills to fight poverty and gender-based violence.

After attending a series of training sessions provided by the Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) on leadership and livelihood skills, the RWA set out to start up various small-scale income generation projects such as sewing, agriculture, cooking, poultry and buying and selling of clothes.

Sanyamahwe now earns $200 – $300 per month from participating in a sewing project. “I have a sewing machine at home and with my monthly income, I buy material and make uniforms for sale and for my children as well,” she said.

She also supplies school and sports uniforms to various schools and shops in Nyanga, Mutare and Harare. “Things have changed indeed. I am happy that all my children are now going to school. My husband and I combine our salaries and work on our family budget together. My husband is no longer abusive. It was poverty that caused his abusive behaviour in the past, but we are now living as a happy family, well able to afford the basics of survival,” she said.

Very proud

“I am really thankful to FACT Nyanga and RWA. My marriage has improved, and because we no longer face financial difficulties, I can now sleep peacefully. My husband is very proud of me because of the money that I am able to bring home monthly.”

When asked what her dreams were for the future she said, “I am hoping that in the future I will be able to send at least one of my children, if not more, to university. We want to expand the business by buying more sewing machines because we get a lot of uniform orders from schools.”

Her husband said: “We are now sharing ideas on how we will spend our joint incomes. I am happy that my wife has managed to be very responsible with our family affairs. My salary was not enough to look after the family but since she embarked on this project, we are now able to live a normal life.”

Aid in Action

Nyamaropa adds, “The sewing project has brought back happiness in our marriage.”

FACT Nyanga is a community-based organisation working in partnership with Action Aid Zimbabwe to fight for women’s rights and address key issues relating to the plight of women.

The RWA sewing project chairperson, Varaidzo Mukahanana, said while the other projects didn’t require much capital, the women faced a challenge with the sewing project. “We lacked capital to purchase equipment and rent premises where we could sew clothes. We were getting a lot of orders from schools nearby for uniforms but we couldn’t meet the demand. We then decided to request support from FACT and within months, we were given five machines and materials,” she said.

Mukahanana said most women in the community did not have control over finances at home. “Men are traditionally accepted to be the head of the home and believe they have control over finances. In cases where women do not subject themselves to men, they are often beaten. But now, thanks to FACT and RWA projects, we are seeing women in such circumstances given a new beginning,” she said. Many women who were victims of domestic violence are now working together with local authorities to counsel the abusers.

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Post published in: Analysis

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