NOMAGUGU Hurumba (22) is an orphan and a single mother to a three year old son. Growing up in Chiredzi, especially after the demise of her parents was never easy. To compound her woes, when she was in Form 3, Noma had to drop out of school after her siblings had indicated that they were no longer able to shoulder her school fees burden.
By Michael Gwarisa recently in Chipinge
She moved from Chiredzi to stay with her sister in Chipinge. However, persistent economic hardships in the country pushed her sister to move to neighbouring South Africa in search of employment, leaving Noma behind with her two children, one who was in grade one and another one who was doing form one. Unfortunately things did not go according to her sister’s plans in South Africa as she also encountered challenges securing a well-paying job to sustain Noma and the kids she had left behind.
This meant that at times, she would struggle to send food and money back home. It was around this same time that Noma found love.
“I fell in love with my boyfriend. We were deeply in love at first, it was like in the movies,” said Noma during an interview with The HealthTimes in Chipinge recently.
He was a gentleman, he would at times buy us groceries, meal meal and other household stuff. However, when my sister got wind of it and learnt that at times I would spend nights at my boyfriend’s place, she sent me away to go to and live with my boyfriend.”
Because he had shown some prince charming characteristics, Noma did not hesitate to elope to her boyfriend. However, upon her arrival, words that came out of his mouth revealed a different side to him. Unfortunately because of young love, Noma failed to read between the lines.
“Mvura haisangane ne Oiri (Water and Oil will never mix). That’s what he said to me. I didn’t know what that meant. I stayed there, things changed all of a sudden. He started bringing new girls to the house and sleeping with them on the same bed that I would be sleeping. At times I would sleep on the floor to give him space to do whatever he was doing with different women on the bed.”
Noma fell pregnant around that time and when she informed her boyfriend, he chased her away saying he was a married man and he wanted to reconcile with his wife whom he had had some misunderstanding with before. Noma refused to leave and this did not go down well with her boyfriend.
“He started starving me, he stopped even buying food for the house. I started moving from one house to another asking for food hand-outs. I tried informing my relatives about my predicament but none came to my rescue. With time, my boyfriend’s wife came and they together moved to another location and I was left alone in an empty house with nowhere to start from, no money for rentals, no job and with no plan.”
Pressed between a rock and hard surface, Noma had no option but to return to Chiredzi where she stayed with her brother and his wife. They helped her buy preparation for the baby and other essential stuff. However, after the baby was born, Noma decided to return to her boyfriend in Chipinge and give marriage life a second chance.
“I returned to marriage and this time because I had his baby, I thought things would be different. We only enjoyed each other for two weeks. The following weeks he became very abusive. He started beating me mercilessly every day. On more than one occasion, he pulled a knife at me threatening to kill me and slit my thought. He would smash my head against the wall. I saw it all.
“He did not even provide for his child. I started doing some menial jobs in the fields just to bring food on the table and to feed my baby. He would beat me for that. He would accuse me of sleeping around to get food yet I was just working in the fields. I thought of killing myself, I took a knife and went in the bush. I was determined to just slit my wrist and bleed to death,” said Noma.
When she was in a secluded place and about to proceed with the suicide, two men saw her and grabbed, stopping her from killing herself. They talked out of suicide and then directed her to the Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) team in Chipinge where she received counseling services.
“The FACT legal team helped me a lot and I realized that life is more than the problems we face every day. Having a child or being a single mother is not the end of the world. I have since moved out and away from the abusive marriage and am now running a market which is sustaining me and my baby.”
Noma has also been appointed a DREAMS Ambassador under FACT, where she and her peers hold dialogues with young women and girls at risk of experiencing Gender Based Violence (GBV) and HIV infection. DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe. The DREAMS initiative targets Adolescents Girls and Young Women (AGYW) and seeks to mitigate the impact of HIV and AIDS by providing comprehensive and sustainable continuum of services to communities contributing towards the realization of the UNAIDS set and PEPFAR adopted 95-95-95 targets towards HIV epidemic control in Zimbabwe.
For one to become a DREAMS Ambassador, she should have received both the Primary and Secondary packages. The primary package involves training around savings or ISLES projects, while under the secondary package, one should have been initiated on a modern contraceptive or family planning method, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxes (PrEP) as well as received HIV testing and counseling.
Noma’s experience is all too common in Zimbabwe and Manicaland in particular where a surge in gender-based violence cases was recorded since beginning of the COVID-19 in 2020. According to statistics 49 percent of all criminal cases that were reported to police in Manicaland province since the beginning of the Covid-19 national lockdown were domestic violence related. Of these cases, 83 percent are said to be happening in the homes and being perpetrated by spouses.
Mr Trevor Nyatsanza, the FACT Zimbabwe Legal Coordinator said cases of intimate partner violence was on the rise in Manicaland and the COVID-19 had exacerbated the GBV situation.
“From the assessment that we have done, the conviction rate for GBV cases we have attended to is at the 55%. We are not the only partners, there is also the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA), there is Musasa but from the ones we have dealt with already, there is a 55% conviction rate. Of course there could be other reasons why some are not convicted.
“We want to make sure that the justice process is fair and is done timeously so that the trials are done when witnesses are remembering what has happened and the events will be still fresh in their minds. If someone is guilty, let them be convicted. Half of the perpetrators have been convicted,” said Mr Nyatsanza.
He added that in 2021, 960 Gender Based Violence Survivors were given pre-trial legal counselling and support. Since 2019 to date, 1,769 cases of GBV survivors have been reported to the police through our facilitation. Of the 1,769, 1,167 led to arrest of perpetrators. From that number, 736 have been prosecuted so far while some are still pending. 357 have been convicted.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, about 1 in 3 women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence and about 1 in 4 women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15. This according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).