By Patience Madzivire, Family AIDS Caring Trust, Rusape Child Sponsorship Officer
Maonandini Sidhuna, a Rural Women’s Assembly (RWA) chairperson from Marigidi Village in Ward 22 of Nyanga District in Manicaland of Zimbabwe shines everyday as she has become a light for other women from her ward. She is a mother of two children and is also a widow making her way in life and bearing all the burdens and joys of motherhood.
Love was never lucky with her as she was married in 1990 and lost her first husband in 2002. She remarried in 2003 and became a second time widow two years later as her second husband also died leaving her to face the world alone.
After the death of her first husband, Maonandini went back to her parents’ home in Chipinge, Manicaland Province where the community was not too friendly with young widows as they are viewed as third class citizens. “Life was not easy “ Maonandini said , with tears flowing her cheeks,“ “being a second time widow and with nothing to start from, i sold the only things i had been left with, that is my bed and wardrobe so i could raise bus fare for me and my children so I could return to my parent’s home. “
The frustrations and stigmatization she faced after losing her first husband pushed her into her second marriage which was unfortunately an abusive one. Maonandini, a holder of a cutting and designing certificate, fell victim to effects of patriarchy as her second husband would not allow her to go work even when she was qualified.
All hell broke loose after the death of her second husband, her in-laws blamed her for the death of their son and could not inherit anything from her dead husband rather the family took everything and even collected her husband’s terminal benefits from the company he used to work for.
Although more than 10 years had passed after the death of her first and second husbands, the community still had not changed their perception on widows and this time stigma and discrimination was coming from her own home which then forced her to flee from Chipinge and relocate in Nyanga where her journey to success began. Chipinge is about 250km from Nyanga.
In 2012 Maonandini joined the RWA where she became the chairperson of the group comprising 10 women from Marigidi Village in Ward 22, Nyanga District. Maonandini and the other nine women started the RWA initiative to empower poor rural women so they could stand on their own feet and be able to make decisions on matters to do with their homes. This group was provided with trainings on buying and selling and how to start up their own businesses. Family AIDS Caring Trust (FACT) Nyanga in partnership with ActionAid Zimbabwe (AA Zimbabwe), provided the trainings to the RWA group with skills on how to come up with the assembly and income generating skills in 2012. The RWA group of 10 women feeds into other RWA structures at Ward level (Ward22 in Nyanga), where 100 other women are part of the RWA.
Maonandini used her skills in cutting and designing to influence the group into venturing into sewing where she became the teacher. FACT Nyanga in partnership with AA Zimbabwe provided them with five sewing machines and material to start up their project. In their group, they are into fundraising through Income savings and Lending ( ISAL ) and dress making. From the profits they are making and with no man to lean on Maonandini managed to build a two bedroomed house at her homestead in 2013. “I will not let anyone hold me down, enough is enough ...marriage is no longer an option, I am better off without a man… ”
Being a hard worker she is, in 2014 Maonandini has managed to send her son to boarding school. It is a thing of the elite to send children to boarding school and very rare in rural areas like Nyanga where people’s livelihoods are mainly subsistence farming. I want to challenge other women that a widow can do great things and achieve better than men. At home she is a proud owner of a piece of land and with her bare hands she built a pig-sty where she is rearing pigs as another income generating project, “ the sky is the limit right now I am aiming at getting a driver’s licence as I am one day going to buy a car.” At present she is doing yet another good deed as she is helping three orphans with food and uniforms in her village in Nyanga.
Maonandini, ‘seeing through me’ as her name literally means, is indeed setting an example to other women and hopes to see women especially widows being hard workers and making it in life.
RWA 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, gender based violence and fight for women’s rights. ActionAid Zimbabwe has since 2010, provided capacity building to its eight Local Development Programme (LDP) partners including FACT Nyanga on RWA formation. The partners have cascaded the RWA skills to the communities where they are operational.