When Prejudices are exposed: “The ‘gay’ problem”

Some call it the gay problem I call it intolerance of difference. The topic on LGBTQA is one that is always avoided by many at any cost. I remember very well attending the African Union Summit on children’s rights and when we were discussing the multiple discriminations faced by different groups of children I mentioned the LGBTQA children and the multiple untold discriminations that they encounter on a day to day basis. I must say it was as if I had taken my clothes off because of the response that was given. I guess for fear of engaging deeper into the conversation the facilitator evaded from engaging in an open discussion on the issue.

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One old woman just outrightly said ‘we cannot discuss this issue here’. Being in this space where already I had been labelled a ‘lesbian’ I coiled glad that even though people were not ready to engage they had heard the point that I had raised. After the session I was so relieved when one of the facilitators came to me and thanked me for raising that issue in that meeting as they said, ‘it was about time’. In a split of a second I had been made to feel like an outcast, speaking obscenities. A few months later I find myself in America with a number of my colleagues from different African countries. We are confronted with the issue and we have to talk about the issue of sexual orientation in a way that many are not comfortable to talk about as to many there is just one set of human beings, the heterosexual beings.

The discussions starts with the screening of Milk which shows the story of Harvey Milk who struggled as a gay activist and his perseverance after years of persecution saw him being elected as the first openly gay elected official. As the documentary starts playing, the initial scenes unsettle many, I look around the room when there is scene when 2 gay guys are being intimate. Most faces could not hide the disgust and during a break many talk about how they were repelled by the intimate scene.  After the screening of the documentary the questions that are put forward to the facilitator of the session expose the deep seated prejudices. One of the issues that strongly come out is that anyone who is queer chooses to be queer and should not then force people to accept them or to ‘tolerate’ them. This raises the critical, frequently asked question, ‘Is homosexuality a choice?’  Usually two responses are proffered. One is that YES IT IS and this leads to the conclusion that well those that choose to be homosexual are making an immoral choice and it is the government and society’s duty to discourage it. The other could be NO IT ISNT, a response indicating that sexual preference is biologically determined. But what if both answers are not correct? Because in as much as we want to fit people in neatly packed boxes it is not necessarily a correct reflection of how life plays out. Maybe sexuality is fluid and so does sexual preference and maybe we do not necessarily have an exact answer to it but as human beings can we not respect people as they are even if it does not align with our moral compass especially if they have not harmed anyone.

In all this we tend to forget that even the heterosexuals choose their sexual preferences either as a way to conform to society or because that is genuinely how they feel. To imagine that a society can punish someone for making a choice different from theirs is morally unimaginable. It’s ok to acknowledge that it’s not every time that we should have an explanation for something; it is ok to have none. There is no black and white in life as we are made to believe, there is purple, green and all the in-betweens…

I have had an opportunity to have a discussion with my male counterparts who are disgusted by this whole notion of homosexuality and yet they are adulterers. It is appalling how they simply justify their acts over homosexuality by saying, ‘atleast it is natural,’ and again it reminds me of the biblical teachings I got as I grew up that before I point at the twig in someone’s eye I must remove the log in mine’.

Religion and specifically the bible has been used as a tool of oppression in this regard. It is also funny and an irony to see how the same bible was used years ago to justify slavery and even the slaves themselves saw sense in the biblical passages that were spelt out that showed that slavery was sanctioned by ‘God’. If ‘god’ is love then indeed those that are believers should never be found to discriminate, condemn and victimise homosexuals on the basis of the ‘bible’. Prejudices are so real and if we do not acknowledge the deeply seated prejudices we have we could hurt many people in the process.

It is not even about tolerating or empathising with homosexuals but society just has to respect and accept that indeed human beings are different. In the same vein one’s sexual orientation does not essentially define them as we are all more than our sexual orientation. We never hear when one is being introduced that , ‘This is so and so and they are heterosexual’, labels victimise certain groups in society and if we are to experience and enjoy equity we should be able to embrace difference and know that we might be different but indeed we are equal.

Again this last week I asked myself the question that as a humanist I always ask myself what is it that I can humanly do to make the world a better place for those that make different choices from me and I am inclined to say RESPECT and LOVE does it all. I keep learning and unlearning…

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#YALI2016 Fellows

 

 

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INDEPENDENT BUT NOT SO IN-DEPENDENT

At such a momentous time in Zimbabwe I feel like if only I was in Zimbabwe right now to participate in such history making events. I am so proud of being a young Zimbabwean right now because I am happy that we as Zimbabweans’ have managed to positively embrace modern technology in a way that is geared towards changing our narrative for the better. As we are saying #taneta(we are tired), #hatichadi(we don’t want this anymore), #hatichatyi (we are not afraid anymore) Zimbabweans are boldly making a clear message that Zimbabwe cannot continue business as usual. Things are just not right and honestly Zimbabweans cannot sit back and relax.

We always boast about being an independent nation, but hang on, what does it mean to be independent? Who is independent? I learnt at school that 18 April the day we celebrate our independence we will be celebrating how our freedom fighters fought against all odds to get us independent, removing the shackles of colonisation from us. I always knew that independence is not to be taken for granted, it is a privilege and as a ‘born free’ , meaning I was born after the war ended I felt greatly indebted for such sacrifices.

Growing up like many of my peers we realised that independence was a relative term. And as is stated in Animal Farm we got to know that indeed, ‘some animals are more equal than others’. Independence day celebrations of late are evidently for the Government and not for the general populace. People who come to Harare to celebrate this day are bused under threat and coercion of being excommunicated from their communities, not getting food subsidies from government or enjoying any benefit from the government and to some extent fear of victimisation. Very few Zimbabweans celebrate this day as it has ceased to have a meaning, for many it is a great day from work where they can catch up with friends and relatives.IMG-20160704-WA0003

We expect our government to govern, legislate, and make laws and policies strictly for the good of the nation. But all this at the moment is a fallacy. Zimbabweans are not free, they have no power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. Speaking out and asking reasonable questions will make one disappear leaving behind orphaned children. What sort of a government does not want people to ask questions? what kind of a government thinks that the majority are not right, they are always right? What kind of a government disregards the views and concerns of its citizens? What government governs with threats and instils fear in its populace? What kind of a government is not receptive to change? What kind of government is always concerned about lining their pockets? What kind of a government boasts about their good educational system but their children are educated out of their country whilst ours have demoralised teachers teaching them? What kind of government boast about their success in improving the health system but they all run away to seek health services outside the country and yet its citizens should use the health facilities where the health personnel is so demotivated and underpaid?

For fear of too much verbosity Zimbabweans are not happy, we are far from being independent. All we want is to enjoy true and sweet Independence, freedom and liberty. We want equal opportunities, we want jobs, we want happiness, we want good governance, we want food, better health, better education, clean water and shelter, we want equality before the law, and we want free mediaFB_IMG_1467554368934

Enough of this repression and and mental slavery and on this day I am reminded of Bob Marley’s words, ‘emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind….’

Well Done ZIMBABWEANS, you have not only done this for yourself but for every generation to come. ALUTA CONTINUA!!!!

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VIVA #ShutdownZimbabwe2016

My experience with sexual harassment at the University of Zimbabwe Law Faculty…

Today I choose to write about my experiences with sexual harassment at the University of Zimbabwe Law School following a post by my friend that a number of junior lawyers are being exposed to sexual harassment within the legal fraternity. This cancer that is robbing the potential of so many girls and young women has to be uprooted.

Coming from St Theresa kwaBvekerwa and finding myself at the University of Zimbabwe as a first year law student was the best thing that ever happened to me, it was indeed a dream come true. All the injustices I had experienced as a child, a girl for that matter I was finally going to be empowered to deal with similar injustices. I was over the moon but not so fast this cindirella tale of me being at the University and studying and getting my degree flawlessly was yet to be challenged. I failed to get accommodation at the University and this was the beginning of most of my problems many of which I am not focusing on today in this article.  A month or so after starting school I saw a notice on the notice board asking me to go and see one of the senior staff members at the Law Faculty. I suddenly remembered that my sister had told me to see him when I had come to law school but I had not.

Upon entering his office he asked me if my sister had not told me about our relationship to which I told him I had been advised. He noted that when I had failed to secure accommodation I should have gone to see him and he would have sorted it out because with my heart condition I should have been given accommodation. Fast forward among other interactions he called for me again and I went to see him wherein he asked me if I was dating some senior law student as he had heard rumours to that effect. He went on to tell me how this senior student had come to the University without necessarily having the requisite points but because of some special entry and he mentioned something to the effect that, ‘ a headboy and a headmaster cannot fight for the same cake,’. I did not make anything out of it. I just thought it was a genuine question. Looking back I always say, ‘foolish me’, that should have been a red light but I never thought my ‘brother’ would cross that path.

One day as had become the norm that when he would not have seen me in a while he would put up a notice, he put up one and I went to see him. This time he informed me that he was going to UK and he asked if I was coming to the library the weekend to follow and I said yes I was. He asked me to see him me when I came. Saturday came and I went to see my ‘brother ‘in his office. He had a plastic bag full of groceries in his office which he handed to me and told me that since he would be away from the country for a while he thought I might get desperate. I was honestly overjoyed by my ‘brother’ s thoughtfulness. I found myself saying a prayer and thanking God for being the God of orphans and sending angels on earth to make provisions for his orphaned children. Back at home we said a prayer of thanksgiving with my sister.

‘Brother’ was to be away for some time. When he came back from UK he sent for me again. As soon as I entered his office he showed me insurance documents for several cars and houses which he owned. To be honest I was in my first year and I could not read anything into those documents he gave me, I did not fully appreciate what they really meant. I did not want to appear as a fool though to ‘brother’ so I did not expose my ignorance, I told myself after leaving his office I would surely google and know. He told me that if I worked hard I would also get properties for myself. He then gave me a bottle of perfume that he had bought for me, I was euphoric that finally I was for the first time in my life going to use perfume in a glass bottle not a can. Wow, me a village girl. What came afterwards baffled me. To my utter shock, horror and disbelief ‘brother’ had bought me red parachute panties. My mouth dried up, words could not come out, my throat failed me. I just found myself saying I can’t fit into them without holding the panties. He then asked me to try them going ahead to lock the office. I died and woke up in a split of a second. A million thoughts went through my mind, ‘what was going to happen to me’, ties  ‘what would I say’, ‘what had gotten into the mind of brother who was an angel sent from heaven’, ‘what had I done to call for this’, ‘maybe I smiled at him too much, maybe I showed him wrong signals, maybe I covertly agreed to all this without paying much attention,’ ‘so all this while that is how ‘brother’ looked at me, he was luring me’. I really could not believe what was happening, I then broke into tears, I really never saw this coming, I was so naïve thinking that he was genuine. I learnt from that day that things are not always as they seem. He then asked what was wrong and I said nothing but sobbed. He then said what would happen if people heard me crying. With my bottle of perfume, ‘yes with the bottle of perfume’ I left his office, left the panties on the desk and went.

imagesI could not control my tears and his secretary saw me, I told her what had happened and I also told the Registrar at that time. Nothing procedurally happened but from that day I knew never to go to his office, I knew I had to avoid him by all means possible and this included, ‘running away from him’ if he was walking in the direction I was going, I knew that I had to make sure I studied hard and passed well because I knew that if my paper was ever to pass through his hands needing calibration if I had not performed well he would fail me, I knew I would never study the course that he offered, ‘thank God it was optional’, now I will have to study it for my PHD. I was so sure I would never see ‘brother’ in the same light and that was the death of ‘brother’ in my life.

Poverty exposes one to so much abuse and violations. My dream of finishing Law school was in doldrums as I did not have money for fees. I was resolute I had to complete my law degree if ever I would be able to change our family narrative of being one of the poorest families amongst my relations. A lady assisted me with getting sewing skills and I started selling my wares, ponchos, children’s tracksuits and some clothing items. The money I made out of this business assisted me in my day to day needs but hyperinflation made it difficult for me to be able to raise both my fees and money for my busfare and upkeep whilst going to University. One of my high school teachers introduced me to a Professor within the Law Faculty highlighting my financial challenges. He told me to go and see him on a Friday. I went to his office and he gave me some chocolates from Netherlands and busfare that would last me the following week as I stayed in Chitungwiza with my little sister. He was to look and ask around at the University if there was some work I could do to cushion myself especially with regards transport and part fees payment. As a catholic believer those days that evening I said the rosary thanking God for being faithful and seeing me through it all. My dream of becoming a lawyer, the first one from my remote community was falling into place.

When he returned back to the University I went to see him to find out if he had good news for me. I had even dreamt of myself working and getting a paycheck at the end of the month in the waiting period to see him. He said because he had been away from the University he had not managed to speak to the responsible people. He tried to call one or two people to no avail. Again he handed me another box of chocolates which I gladly accepted and money which would last me more than a month for busfare. I openly praised God and shed a few tears because I was amazed at the kindness. When I was about to leave his office he asked me to go to his desk as he was on a wheelchair, close to him purporting that he wanted to show me something. Innocently I went and he put his hands on my shoulders and said he is sorry everything would work out well. Before I knew it he kissed me on the cheek. I did not say anything, I just walked out of his office and that was the last I went to see him. I only heard about him when he had passed on.

I knew then that finishing my law degree with any genuine and innocent assistance from any man was to never be a reality. These experiences and what I had gone through in my life before taught me to treat all men with so much suspicion because experience had taught me that I lived in a world with sex predators waiting to pounce on the innocent, powerless and poor. I told myself that indeed just as I had grown up being treated as a sexual object that narrative was real, I was a sex object. I did not even know where to report these cases and when I had told a friend about the chocolates I had received without saying the rest of the story she just said to me, ‘ be careful I hear that man loves women and has been involved with a number of students’. In the corridors I also started hearing about how ‘brother’ would date students who stayed at his house close to the Campus. In my mind I concluded that this was the order of the day. I knew then that I could never get any help. I also told myself that if I knew what was good for me I should shut my mouth if I really wanted that degree and indeed I kept it to myself but it killed me. This was the common truth for so many so who was I to talk about it. Years later when I spoke about it with senior authorities at the University, upon reflection that having this predator within the campus meant more and more girls were being exposed to his predatory tendencies, I was told about the difficulty of gathering the evidence considering the time that had lapsed and I knew I wanted to fight a lost battle.

Sexual harassment is linked to value systems that favor male authoritarianism and aggressiveness, and at the same time expect women to be subservient and passive.  This is the reason that has made sexual harassment be regarded as the norm.  There is generally a spirit of solidarity amongst man such that when you injure one, you injure all, so survivors of sexual harassment from my work experience regard reporting sexual harassment a futile exercise as it will only negatively impact on them as they are either fired from work or they fail to graduate from college. The hierarchical nature of the Universities and the patriarchal cultures of leadership creates various zones of vulnerability to sexual harassment especially in the students and junior employees. This often results in the difficulty of survivors of sexual harassment to voice their experiences due to pain, self-blame, humiliation, anger and confusion as society is quick to blame survivors for their experiences. These hierarchical relations seem to have neutralized a sexual contract in which some male academics and senior management consider it their right to demand for sex.

Now that I am older I will continue to talk about sexual harassment and how it impacts women because I have experienced it and would not want to see any other girl or woman experience it. Sexual harassment should be addressed if at all the playing field is ever to be levelled for women to reach their full potential.

 

Rising from that defining night!!!

That Defining Night-that defining moment!!!

That evening that definitely changed everything…

I still remember it as vivid as if it happened today

24 years later I still can’t forget an inch of it…

I will talk about it now that I have found my voice,

I will never be silenced again,

Pressed down on that sofa, tongue in my mouth for a moment…

All I could do was scream, tears running down my cheeks

I did not know what was happening to me, but I knew that this was so wrong

I felt as if I was being ripped open…

The pain was so unbearable,

What was happening to me? I wondered.

 

Tired of screaming and realising there would be no refugee, I just got lost in the moment

The screaming stopped; tears continued streaming down my cheeks

How could he be doing this to me?,

He was a priest trainee,

Mukoma Dickson I knew him, now I could not recognise him

What had gotten into him?

Why was this happening to me?

I will kill you and your family if you tell, he said,

A knife neatly tucked by his side,

I would die if I spoke so I was silenced.

That evening that changed everything, that evening that has had a lifetime impact on me…

 

Now this is my story, walking around with a fresh wound that never seems to heal…

Bandages, salts, betadine cant heal this wound, a wound I carry around…

That night that literally is a nightmare, that night that has made me for a long time struggle with my self esteem and confidence…

Torn apart like a piece of paper is what happened to me that night…

Hallucinations, playbacks, are a part of my reality,

A reality that many won’t understand,

A reality that sometimes throws me off balance,

A reality that has impacted greatly on my world outlook,

Hurtful words I have been told, ‘you are damaged goods…’, ‘you are loose you are not a virgin at your age?’, ‘Pull yourself together, rape isn’t anything out of this world because almost every woman’s first sexual experience is rape,’ ‘Forgive and forget and move on, you are dwelling too much on the past,’

Words from people that are ignorant of the inherent pain I am living with every day …

I have had to suck it all up in , it has killed me but I am glad I have found my voice,

A voice that will never be taken away from me…

 

Lived my life shrouded in so much pain and hurt,

Longing to be normal was my everyday dream,

Until I realised that my pain and hurting was my authentic normal and I had to use it to change many lives…

With this newfound voice I will talk until I see the change I hope to see,

Scars are still there but they keep reminding me of the wars and battles I have been through and now I look at myself as a victor, a wounded warrior…

Smiling hides the pain within but this pain has helped me grow and become a better version of me.

I have come to know and understand rape is about power and priviledge,

Instead of blaming myself for it, I now understand I did nothing to deserve being raped

It wasn’t my fault but the RAPIST’s…

 

I am a victor whose pain and hurt will be driven towards changing the lives of many…

I honour and embrace that young self who was traumatised to shape me into the person I am today,

I cherish my new found voice and I will never be silent about that defining night,

I choose happiness above all else…

 

Running-pathway to reclaiming my life

I have wished all my life if I could undo some of the experiences I have had so I can lead a normal life and feel how a normal life feels. This has been my wish for time immemorial but again experience has shown me that this is a fallacy. I hit lows and highs. The lows can be so unbearable that death seems to be the only scapegoat. The lows sink me in a dark hole where all hope slips under my feet. Running has attempted to change this. When I started running all I wanted was to be fit and healthy but it has been an amazing, fulfilling, life-birthing running journey.
Of late I have really been stressing as I prepare for the International Capetown Two Oceans Marathon. Am I going to finish my race in under 2hours 30minutes and get that bronze medal. I don’t want an ordinary medal for completion, I want a bronze, I keep telling myself. One of my running mates upon sharing my fears said to me, ‘Tary, the mere fact of being at that starting line you are already a winner. Even if you don’t get the bronze medal you are gunning for, you are a winner’. This is very true and sensible but the competitor in me keeps reminding myself how much of a failure I would be if I cannot get a bronze medal. The insurmountable pressure this has been putting on me has made me look deep within myself and search why I am running and what benefits I have been deriving from running without destructively focusing on that bronze medal.
Let me confess I am no elite runner; in fact I just put one leg in front of the other. When we started the year I dedicated all my runs to rape and sexual violence survivors using hush tags #run for hope, #hope for rape and sexual violence survivors. I guess many wonder when they see these hush tags every time I post my runs. I did this so I could never give up as giving up meant I was failing all the survivors who are silenced by both society and their assailants and suffer in solitude. I have survived rape, molestation, sexual harassment a couple of times in my life. I have cursed myself, blamed myself for all of these encounters. I have had so much shame all my life. I have hated myself all my life. I have wished I was born male. I have lived a life of pretence that all is ok and yet deep down under that smile and laugh is so much pain and hurting. I have looked at my life and told myself, there is no way that can be my life, it is not believable I have told myself. I have lived in denial, running away from myself. How can all those experiences happen to one person? I have convinced myself that I am cursed, what other explanation could befit such experiences by one person. I have told myself that it was a mistake that I was born because it seems from birth God had already turned his back on me. At times I sleep hoping to wake up dead or atleast with a different identity, one that I can celebrate.
Running is that one magical thing that has been helping me unlock much of my life that has been trapped for a long time. I hope this helps someone out there and PLEASE I DO NOT WANT TO BE PITIED. I have pitied myself all my life and now even though I am still work in progress I am a survivor and I view myself as a warrior back from war with scars that are a revelation of the feisty and strong person I am. I have chosen to remind myself that I do not necessarily need a medal, if I get it , it will be a bonus. I have never been a runner and from being overweight and not being able to run 400m to running 21km even at a snail’s pace, that in and of itself deserves to be celebrated. I have decided to focus on why I have vowed never to stop running even though it is so hard. I always laugh with some coallegues that when I run it is just a circus starring 1 actress-yours truly, I cry(real tears), I curse, I talk to myself, I ask myself why I am torturing myself, I even promise myself never to do it again. Funny thing after the run I feel so satisfied, I feel I am in control of my life, I feel like I have found diamond mines and I own them. It will be an over the top moment where I feel like a conqueror. Running has given much meaning to my life. I always say 9 out of 10 times running is the only thing that makes sense in my life.
Running has helped me confront all my baggage, deal with it especially during long runs, come to a resolve in some instances, find answers to some of the issues, get closure at times. Running has unravelled and opened that hidden Pandora box. I vividly remember this other 21km race organised by Harare Athletics Club. I cried half the distance. For the record, crying is almost like a ritual for most of my runs as it is an emotional process for me. I say if it gets tough and feel I cannot run it any more I will cry the race through. On this particular run my coach was pacing me, I burst into tears, not that silent streaming of tears, NO , that loud cry. I could not hold it back, I failed. As I went up an incline and I was psyching myself up I lost it. I started hearing all the voices I have been told by my assailants during the attacks. My head started playing up with me. I started having flashbacks of when I was raped and I was so powerless and my life depended on the mercy of my assailants. I tried to silence the voices but the more I silenced them the louder they became. I could not take it anymore. It was too much for me. I remembered how all my life I had been fighting to be ‘normal’. My coach asked me to stop and get into one of the cars. I thought about it and told myself my assailants had conquered me before but not this time. I was going to be a conqueror so I ran, on and on crying and wiping those tears off. I ran and was the last one. At the finishing line I was exhausted but I felt excited that indeed I had overcome and had managed to take full control of my life.
Countless times I have been told to forgive and forget, to pray, to move on but all this I have come to understand are just words and phrases put together. It is easier said than done. I have attempted to commit suicide countless times in my life but ever since I started running I have not attempted to take my own life. It does come to my mind sometimes but I have managed to quieten it and not pay attention to it. Running indeed has given me another lease to life and I do not take it for granted which is why I swear by running. If i am really stressed out or someone rubs me the wrong way and I probably cannot for one reason or the other tell them I just deal with it as I pound the road, afterwards that person and incident is history, dead and buried.
I truly understand why victims are called survivors because indeed after coming face to face with fear as the abuse unfolds, enduring all the trauma and still being able to face another day deserves a salutation and I do salute those survivors I meet in my everyday work.
Running has been the tool I have actively used in my journey to rediscovery. When I am running I am in cloud nine and there is never a better place to find myself. When for one reason or another I do not run for 3 continuous days my feet itch that is why wherever I go I take with me my running shoes. I could forget something else but never my running shoes. They are my lifeline. With running I have discovered inner strength I never knew I had. I have embraced myself in totality. I have a split personality and I always suppressed my introverted side but now I am so in love with that introverted person. I enjoy my personal space in a way I never did before. Before my running escapades being alone was a dread, I could not spend time alone, I needed to be with someone else. Now I can literally spend the whole weekend in my house alone after my run obviously and not feel lonely. It is amazing how I have grown so much in love with myself. Every run boosts the feel good hormones which has immensely contributed to the esteemed self love. Running has made me appreciate ME. After a gruesome run one can only tap one’s shoulder and silently say , ‘you are a conqueror’ and that reminds me always that I truly can do anything under the sun that I put my mind to. I am grateful running reminded me of all these qualities I possessed which somehow had been overshadowed by fear, hurt, bitterness and pain.
A greatest attribute that I have, thanks to running is knowing that indeed ‘I run my own race’. I have learnt and mastered that there is absolutely no need to compare myself to anybody because we all have different narratives. I live my life according to me, reminding myself that, ‘I am an original me and not a photocopy’. I am my authentic self living life according to my own dictates in unison with the Universe. When I started running and I would go for time trial runs that are coordinated by Harare Athletics Club, I would look around and see some old men and women and comfort myself that atleast I would not be last and I was always shocked to wits. I would ‘close prayers’. I would always be the last one. When we would start the run I would want to follow the same pace as others and before I knew it I would be worn out, panting. I would forget that I am asthmatic and my chest does take a while to heat up and open up. I realised I was Tariro and had to do what befit Tariro if ever I would enjoy running. That is what I do now, with my new found love TomTom, my running watch I pace myself as per my personal target for the day without succumbing to any pressure. That is what has kept me going, knowing that even if I am last I am running my own race and I am competing with none other than myself aiming to be better than I was before. This trait I have taken it to all spheres of my life, my social, professional and spiritual life and it has made me grow immensely. I always aim to be a better version of myself.
Having been raped by a priest trainee at age 8/9 my spirituality has always been a shaky ground. I must say with running I have managed to have a great relationship with my maker and the Universe, I have managed to redefine my own spiritual beliefs that suit me and make sense to me without being pressured into believing what everyone else around me believes in. I meditate during some of my runs, I have deep conversations with my maker and embrace what the universe throws at me. This has truly enriched my life in a way I could never explain. I have had people force their beliefs and religion left, right and centre down my throat but with running I am a solid spiritual being living my life in unison with the Universe. I would never tread those meditation moments for anything and that is why I prefer to run early in the morning when nature is giving the best life it can ever give fresh and pure.
Running has made me meet awesome beings. Runners are an awesome community of people who have so much love and discipline. I have connected with amazing people locally, regionally and internationally and I will not tread that for anything. The High Flyers team has just been so supportive and are now like family. There are moments when I have really convinced myself that running was not for me but they kept encouraging me and now I am confident to run.
Not so say we can all be runners but its worth giving a try especially if like me and many others you battle with trauma or chronic depression. Progress in running can be so slow, I have thought about throwing in the towel several times but I hang on to it and although progress is slow it is apparent and is not stopping. Running has helped me get my life back, be fit and healthy, gain a sense of self worth and wholeness which was stripped away from me years ago through the violations I experienced in my life. I feel like a new being in every respect and I always say at times I fail to recognise this new Tariro who is so amazing, loves life, fully embraces life with all its ups and downs and loves the self immensely from the bottom of her heart. I love this resilient me, resilience which has always been there but never acknowledged and running reawakened it. Running is my DNA which has reminded me that I am the one who feels and understands the pain I go through and I am the one who will carry the banner of victory at that crossing line and so it applies in my life. I am grateful I was broken and not shattered and with running all the broken pieces are being patched together one by one and new life is being breathed in me. In choosing to share my story I am hoping many will also heal or atleast begin that journey, I hope the blanket of silence around rape is broken, the victim blaming of rape and sexual violence survivors stops and we begin to have conversations that can enrich and improve the healing path for survivors appreciating the far reaching life impacts that such experiences have on survivors. To the universe I am grateful because it saw it fit for me to go through such experiences which have carved me into the passionate advocate for women and children’s rights that I am. As painful as it is I embrace it knowing this is what my soul asked for so that I could impact on other people’s lives.
What happened, happened. Is it painful? Yes, Can I change it? No. I am taking the best of what it has taught me and impacting other people’s lives and I could not have it any other way. My healing is not a destination, it is a journey a journey that has been so fulfilling. Will I be whole tomorrow? Probably not, I am patient with the process and growing with it. Running has been an instrumental pedestal to my healing and I will continue running for hope and life.

My Vows My Responsibility

The issue of adultery damages usually opens up unruly debates which are never conclusive. Married women in most instances pull out daggers protecting their marriages while men are not amused by such stances when their wives sue the ‘other woman’. What always baffles me is that when a man who has been adamant that a woman should not sue a girlfriend of their husband is asked if he should sue for adultery damages from a man who has an affair with his wife they are incensed.
Adultery is when two people have an intimate relationship and one or both of them are married to someone else at that time. Adultery damages are awarded to compensate the injured party. At law they are compensated for two things: Contumelia and lack of consortium. Contumelia is about hurt, pain and indignity that is as a result of the adultery whilst consortium refers to deprivation of things such as sex, loss of love and affection. From the aforegoing adultery damages seem to be awarded for the wayward behaviour of a partner who brings another into their marriage. However adultery damages do not apply to everyone who stays with a ‘husband’. These apply to people who are in a civil marriage popularly known as Chapter 5:11 previously known as Chapter 37, In this kind of a marriage both the man and the woman can sue for adultery damages. In all other marriages that we call marriages only the man has the prerogative to sue for adultery damages because all these regimes are potentially polygamous.
In essence the law on adultery damages makes the courts the gatekeeper to marriages as they play a pivotal role in preserving the marriage institution by punishing those that are promiscuous and intend to cause havoc within the institution. Those that ‘steal’ married persons from their partners are duly punished and this seems to be in tandem with the provision of the Zimbabwe Constitution of 2013 which in section 25 calls upon the state to protect and foster the family institution.
This begs the question who should uphold the sanctity of a marriage? It is important to reemphasise at this juncture that only the third party is sued for adultery damages. The ‘intruder’ is punished by law for knowingly invading and destroying a successful marriage. Were it not for the intruder’s actions the marriage would have been perfect. Who should adhere to the terms of a marriage contract? Is it society? Is it the two parties to the contract like in any other contract? In all fairness a marriage is a contract between 2 parties who commit to love each other exclusively. Suing a third party for the breakdown of a marriage shifts the responsibility from the cheating spouse who is guilty of failing to adhere to the terms of a marriage contract which he willy nilly signed. An analogy that quickly comes to mind would be if one fails to pay their rentals because they have not been paid at their workplace can the landlord sue the employer? They cannot simply because their tenant’s employer was never a part to the agreement of lease. It then boggles one’s mind how a person who was never party to a marriage contract can be sued for a contract she did not agree to.
Adultery damages seem to suggest that a husband or wife who is very sound in the mind could not prevent themselves from being ‘stolen’ as it were. When there is infidelity there is no doubt that some violation has been committed. The bone of contention is who is punishable for the violation. The most logical conclusion would be that the person who has to be liable is the person who knowing of the contract that they have tied themselves to- a contract which disallows them from engaging in an intimate relationship with anyone else ‘till death separates’ them should be punished for breach of contract. The adultery damages currently shifts blame to a third party for ‘leading astray’ a committed person who had no mens rea to be infedile.
It is important to reflect on the vows that married people make to each other when they are getting married. When people get married they promise each other eternal love. They say, ‘I XXXX take you XXXX to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband. To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times Till Death Do Us Part. I choose you , forsaking all others…’ When one party fails to keep their vows they should be liable because they have violated the contract they swore by. Why is the third person always asked to single handedly pay for the atonement at the exemption of their accomplice? Is it not that the most guilty person is the one who walked away their marriage and brought in a third party.
Society seems to be in a quagmire. When a man has married and he has another girlfriend in most instances his family approves of it. On the other hand the same society will bash the girlfriend for being a home wrecker. Looking at single women they find themselves stuck in between a hard place and a rock. They live in a society that asks women to be attached to a man and belong to some man. There is so much pressure for single women of age to get married and yet the national statistics clearly reflect that there is a lesser percentage of men. Where do they get single men to get married to? Another twist to this is culturally polygamy is acceptable as a way of life for most men. When you hear people talk about men that have multiple wives, they are referred to as, ‘Bulls’, showing that they are strong and ‘real’ men. More so the phenomenon of the so called, ‘small houses’ seem to have been normalised and to some extent acceptable.

688571-husband-having-a-fight-with-his-wife-he-argues-she-has-a-lover-is-that-true
There is no doubt that a partner who has made vows of commitment to their partner and is living true to their word will be deeply hurt when their partner violates their agreement. The issue is so how does this innocent party get compensated? If an innocent party finds the adultery irreconcilable with a continued marriage relationship they have an option of divorce. The Marriage Act sets out adultery as one of the grounds for divorce. Adultery damages can never restore a failing marriage. It then seems melodramatic to ask a third person to pay for adultery damages and yet the guilty party is left unscathed. I would in my humble opinion say that shifting the blame to a third party absolves the adulterous partner of any responsibility and undermines their agency in this act. The adulterous partner is treated like a child or a person with a mental disability who has no capacity to make sound informed decisions. The assumption is were it not for this third party the adulterous partner would not have violated their marriage vows. This in my opinion is far fetched. Another way of looking at it is that partners in a marriage become each other’s property which should not be defended by law. How can human beings be denigrated to property?
A third party to a marriage should be absolved from any responsibility in the breakdown of a marriage because she never agreed to the terms of the married couple’s marriage. The restrictions placed on those that are married were never at any point placed on this third party. A marriage by its nature requires the married partners to behave in a certain way and not the whole world which is why in the vows there is no obligation that is placed on the whole of society. Honestly if married people have to heavily rely on the law providing for adultery damages to keep their marriage intact and scare away intruders then that is an appalling marriage because there is no trust in the love that these two people have for each other to keep them together. The threat for adultery damages can never keep an otherwise shaky marriage intact and believing that adultery damages can act as a deterrent for people to pursue adulterous relationships is stretching it too far.

The act of suing for adultery damages is a grave attempt to shift the blame for the breakdown of a marriage to a third party who is in no way a party to the marriage. The third party is blamed but the blameworthy spouse is unpunished and nothing can stop them from doing it again because the root cause of their infidelity was never addressed and they were never punished for their misconduct.
In conclusion adultery damages will in no way help in preserving the marriage institution because the guilty party will not reform as they are not punished for their acts. A marriage which in all fairness is intact can never be broken down by a third party so the law on adultery damages is archaic and finds no place in today’s society. Parties to a marriage should bear the consequences of their failure to adhere to the set out terms of their marriage without shifting the blame for the failure of their marriage to a third party.
N.B The views contained in this piece are my sole thoughts and are in no way attached to the organisations I work for!!!

The aftermath of rape: The untold story 

Source: The aftermath of rape: The untold story 

Stories my vagina could tell

Oh this precious yet most hunted asset that I have!!!
When I was born they all ululated celebrating my vagina
My vagina, a potential asset which would bring them riches one day in the form of lobola…
My mother was lectured on how to care for my vagina,
‘Squeeze some breast milk and rub in with the elbow,’ she was instructed
This was done so I would not become a ‘prostitute’ they said…
My vagina would one day have to belong to one man and one man only.

As I grew older all society could see was not my brilliance nor my potential in life but my vagina.
At the age of four my cousins were already attempting to penetrate my vagina
At 8 years of age a priest violated my vagina
So painful it was, my vagina bled profusely
I could not tell anyone about it,
My vagina has kept unkind secrets.

At 12 I had to pull my labia so that I could ‘please my future husband’
A painful exercise it was, rubbing ashes into my vagina walls and elongating my labia, the most priced adornment to my vagina.
Then the long awaited menstruation started, my vagina bled
I was lectured on how to wash and take care of my vagina now that I was a ‘woman’
My vagina had to be treasured and kept away from men lest I became pregnant, they said.
My vagina became my most treasured and precious asset to be guarded jealously.

As the years went by many men became interested in penetrating my vagina
It was as if I walked displaying it on my forehead,
Oh my vagina became a source of my discomfort, stress and misery
At University a lecturer violated my vagina again and it tore me apart…
My vagina literally turned me into a sex object in the eyes of so many lustful men.

Then my vagina did have consensual sex , it was so traumatic, reminded me of the rape experiences
Hoped it would be pleasurable one day but my vagina coiled each time
Sexual indulgences by my vagina did eventually lead to pregnancy
My vagina was not spared, the insertions by the Gynaecologist during antenatal visits…

Delivery of the baby came, the baby had a ‘big head’ and the Gynaecologist had to cut open my vagina to make a way for the baby,
12 stitches were sown on my vagina after birth
Did the stitches heal?
More than a month of sitting in a dish with cold salty water for my vagina to heal and be intact,
Another baby came and my vagina went through the same ordeal.

My vagina is surely tired, my vagina deserves a retirement
My vagina has experienced all sorts of violations
Patriarchy has been control of my vagina all my life for it was never meant to belong to me but rightfully so to some ‘man’
Enough is enough I am reclaiming my vagina
Oh! Come(stay with me), my vagina, I embrace you with so much love, kindness and tenderness.

Children by choice not by chance

I did not want anything to do with this man. I had considered him a friend and yet he had just violated me so horribly. I had been raped before and that was a dark time in my life and I did not want to go down that route again. I was devastated when I found out that I was pregnant. This was a baby I could never love, did not want and had not planned for. I could not be like those young women who were trying to find hope out of being teenage mothers. The abortion procedure was backdoor. I was not even a statistic in that office. I was nameless. No one cared about me, just about the money he had paid them to help me get rid of this thing he had planted inside me. It hurt.”

A young, university woman finds herself pregnant after a lecturer forces himself on her on the same day that she discovers that the woman he claimed was his maid was in fact, his lover. She spent a weekend at an institution that offered young, pregnant mothers-to-be shelter where the harsh reality of what lay ahead for her was thrust forcefully before her. She was left reeling at the trauma that accompanied bringing up an unplanned and unwanted baby into this world. She knew immediately that being a young, university drop-out mother was not a path she would willingly take. She knew that she could not disappoint her mother who was a single-parent and had worked extra hard to see her into university where she was studying law. She also knew that her choice was between being a hopeless, young mother or, walking down an illegal path she knew she could never talk about openly or dare to think about.

She only got the money for the abortion after threatening to report him to the authorities. It was impossible to go back once the appointment had been booked. There was no one to counsel her or even to discuss her fears and concerns. She was alone. There was no one to hold her hand when the pain was ripping through her body in her hostel room back at university. She was on her own for those seven days she was bleeding and bloody. There was no medical attention, nothing. A week after the bleeding had stopped; she began to smell an unpleasant odor that came with a brownish-black discharge from her privates. Finally, a desperate cry to a peer educator managed to bring her the required medical attention that she needed.

This is but one story of the many stories of how a dream was going to fall off into the valley because of an unwanted pregnancy. Having a child should be a choice because the implications of having a child by chance can be so crippling and have negative consequences. Many girls and women have unsafe abortions in Zimbabwe.

According to Tamale, a leading sexuality expert, ‘ it is through the intersection of religion, the law and reinterpreted customs, [that] the complexity of African sexualities (particularly women’s) is instrumentalised, controlled and regulated by the patriarchal state.’ It is sad that the most politically surveyed and heavily regulated aspect of people’s lives is their sexuality. Laws and policies are being used to control and punish certain expressions of women’s reproduction, in this instance, that of women choosing not to carry their pregnancies to full term for one or more reasons.

According to section 60 of the Criminal Law and Codification Act, abortion is a crime which warrants “imprisonment of up to five years.” The Roman Catholic Church has lobbied the world over, trying to prohibit contraceptives, in-vitro fertilisation and abortion. This then leaves women powerless and unable to exercise their autonomy as beings. Religion, culture and the law come together to bolster patriarchy by ensuring that they control women’s bodies. Abortion therefore raises moral and legal questions. The legal question is should the practice be criminalized? And the moral question is: is it wrong to have an abortion? Who should decide whether or not to have a child? If criminalising abortion results in more harm than good to women and girls, then that regulation cannot be regarded as being reasonable and fair. Morality is firmly entrenched between the legs of a woman but whosemorality?

The sad reality is that as a society, we can continue to bury our heads in the sand, pretending that abortion is not happening when the truth is many women and girls are having to resort to unsafe procedures to terminate unwanted pregnancies. This results in high maternal mortality and morbidity rates as women choose to use risky methods which include inserting sharp objects into their uterus or drinking poisonous concoctions. Surprisingly, even in cases where abortion is permitted by the law (in cases of rape or when the life of the mother and the unborn child is threatened), the moral judgements of the authorities who perform the procedure or give the go ahead get in the way. Many women have failed to have a legal abortion because the magistrate just took their time to sign the order others who have had the order granted, have been discouraged by the attending doctor.

How does forcing someone to carry a child they do not want make the world a better place? Women’s freedom to make choices, right to dignity and autonomy is brutally restricted by laws on abortion. Women have the right to self-determination and they must be allowed to make informed reproductive choices. Denying them this experience is equating them to children who have to be guided as to what is right for them. Reducing incidences of unsafe abortion is an urgent public health concern which, if governments are serious about attaining zero mortality and morbidity, they should decriminalise abortion. Removing legal barriers to abortion does not only protect women’s health, but restores their dignity and upholds their basic human rights.

Secrets behind Tary’s turnaround, 10 series

 

Losing weight is a mental, psychological and emotional battle as much as it is a physical one. It is therefore imperative to feed one’s mind, soul, emotions and spirit with so much positivity in order to achieve resounding success. I always say this to people that make enquiries of how I have managed to lose 37kgs so far, that Losing weight ISN’T EASY but it CAN BE DONE. Despite my son calling me ‘duff dhunda’, ‘fatty boom boom’, probably he had heard it from others.

Regardless of the fact that I had collapsed whilst attending a meeting and I was advised that my sugar levels were high I had not taken weight loss seriously. I remember my Doctor actually saying to me that he would not give me any medication for high sugar levels but advised me to lose weight and I thought it really was not serious. At one point my dream was to own a clothing line called, ‘Big is Beautiful’, inspired by the fact that it was difficult to get nice, fashionable clothes for my size. Although I was comfortable in my size the huffing and puffing that happened when doing some physical work annoyed me. I knew I was not at all healthy but took comfort in the fact that I rocked an African body, ‘proudly african’, I would say.

One day in August 2013 whilst coming from work, I see my clothes hanging on the washing line next to my young sister’s clothes. I could barely believe my eyes, ‘Was it really me that fit into those clothes?’. The clothes looked so huge and honestly I could not stomach that I was the one fitting into those clothes. Funny thing happened, I asked my helper to give me one of the skirts which was hanging on the line and I struggled to fit into it and there and then I knew the time had come for me to do something about my weight. This was my wakeup call and turnaround point. It was the beginning of the journey I am still travelling, a journey that has been filled with so much joy, pain, tears, laughter, failures and success. It’s been a worthwhile journey in which I have reaped more than what I bargained for.

My success has gone beyond the physical. And I have decided to share my story as authentic as possible in the hope that someone out there can also be inspired and motivated to start their own journey. This ten tier series which will be coming out every week is a reflection of what has worked on my journey, the down falls and more importantly looking at the 10 GOLDEN RULES that I attribute my success to. I am hoping it will be as interactive as it can be so that we can keep learning from each other. I would want to also state that I am no GURU but this is my story as raw as it can be and it will always be my hope that someone finds it beneficial.

Today I talk about the first thing that I strongly believe is important to keep one going on the weight loss journey.

1.Know what you want and why you want it

It’s always important to ask the question, ‘Why do I want to lose weight?’. Knowing why you want to lose weight will keep you focused. The journey is not easy at all and so when you know why you are on the journey and are sure about what you want to achieve the journey somewhat becomes easier. So many people will discourage you, say hurtful and nasty things like I have been told several times, ‘This is enough, if you go beyond this people will think that you are sick,’ but that has not stopped me. Surprisingly when I see the same people and I have lost a bit more they will say, ‘You are looking amazing’. If I had not set my goals and know that I am losing weight to be healthy and ultimately to feel good about me I would have veered off the road a long time ago. Only you , understand the journey you are travelling and that will keep you focused on the ball.

Never want to lose weight for other people, do it for yourself so that it becomes easier for the journey is painful. When your goals are clearly set nothing will stall your progress, you will know that even when you have fallen, you will rise up , dust yourself and move forward. I tried several times to lose weight before embarking on this defining journey and I always failed. Looking back I realize I used to want to lose weight because someone else had talked about losing weight or because someone had said a nasty comment regarding my weight. When the going would get tough it was so easy for me to give up because I did not really know why I wanted to lose weight so the deprivations would not make sense and they were so painful.

I remember one time a guy friend of mine sad to me that his friends were asking him if my weight was not as a result of me taking Anti-Retroviral drugs. I pretended that I had not been affected by it but the next thing is I purchased a 300 dollar worth product to help me with weight loss.

I took it for 7 days, lost 8 kgs but after the 7 day program I went back to my bad eating habits and the weight piled back. It was because I did not know what I wanted, I did not know why I was losing weight besides the fact that I had heard a nasty comment. Find that which drives you so that even when you seem pressed of time you will make time for you to exercise and prepare healthy food. Even in the midst of so much chaos you will remember to stick to your dietary and exercise schedule because you know what you want and why you want it.

Now more than ever I am conscious of why I want to lose weight and I am doing it for myself.