You are never alone: the fight to defend her daughters

Farai Tendai (40) from Gokwe, Midlands Province in Zimbabwe, has four children who are all girls and was married in 1993 to a man who was a long distance bus driver. Things were good in her home until 2008 when she discovered that her husband was sexually abusing the three eldest girls.

Faraid, who was living with her in-laws, informed them of what was happening. But this is when the abuse and loneliness began. She was disowned by her in-laws who threw her out of her home and her own parents and siblings also turned against her.

The case never went through to court after being reported to the police, and only fuelled the anger and despisement of her relatives. Her husband had apparently bought his way out and claimed that Farai was insane, supported by her relatives. Farai and her children had to seek assistance from well-wishers, without any accommodation or money to look after themselves.

Asked how she feels about her own relatives despising her, Farai said;

I have forgiven them but they are finding it very difficult to mend our relations, as they are still feeling guilty for the way they behaved towards me and the girls.

“Now I do not blame them for behaving like that because they lacked knowledge."

Responding to how relations are now with her in-laws, she said;

“You know they only believed me after my husband had raped his niece. I feel guilty to tell you that I was actually relieved when I was informed about that rape case.”

“Although my husband was at large, he stalked us and we became homeless as we were thrown out of our lodgings because he would inform the landlords that I was an evil woman and a witch. I moved from one lodging to another. Every move from the lodgings meant me leaving some of my property as I had no money to rent as and when required to do so. By then we owned a bag in which we put our clothes and a few blankets and our bedrooms became people’s unfinished homes as we slept outside houses in open areas.

By this time I was on the verge of committing suicide and killing my children as well in the process; what people do when they run out of solutions.

 

Farai spoke to a woman, who she calls her ‘guardian angel’, about her plight and she was advised to come to the Musasa Project, an organisation that assists women to deal with issues that cause them distress.  Musasa, with funding from ActionAid Zimbabwe, holds workshops within communities on issues that make it difficult for women to claim their rights and create spaces for themselves. Since 2011, Musasa assists around 600 women a month and has formed survivors clubs where women continue to be supported and counseled.

Musasa ensured that Farai's girls were safe by placing them in a home for abused children.

Now the girls are growing up and safe and being sent to school, I can’t wait for weekends to go and spend time with them at the home.

Farai is now a working woman after training as a security guard and is accumulating property for her to take her children and stay with them. 

"I am grateful to Musasa, Sandra Jones the home where my girls are and Homeguard Security for training me.

"I now have a protection order against my husband, thanks to the courts for ensuring my safety. I am indebted also to Haven Trust where Musasa referred me to for shelter and regular check-ups.

Very soon I will be able to stand on my own and enjoy being with my girls,

said Farai with a big smile on her face.

However, her husband remains a threat as he is still at large and has attempted to get authority for the custody of the children - but he has so far failed.  Through the assistance from Musasa, Farai is making plans to move to a different town, far from the husband, to start a farming venture with her children.

 

Musasa has helped many women with predicaments like Farai’s and through funding support from ActionAid Zimbabwe and other networking organisations. ActionAid Zimbabwe has also provided Musasa with capacity building in the area of peace building and conflict management, advocacy and lobbying, monitoring and evaluation, financial management and documentation.