Working with Communities has changed me, am now numb and heartless, not like when I started with a fiery spirit to change and positively influence ‘Mashinani’ women. I struggle everyday to keep hope alive- Only a determined flicker burns unsure. I dread picking up phone calls, I know the narrative that awaits. The stories take on a now familiar pattern, There is a woman calling out for help, beaten, raped, chased away from her matrimonial home, her children have been defiled…most of the time these women receive help, free legal aid, Psychological assistance, mediation with the elders and for the defiling husbands its always a good day watching them board the prison truck,But that is just the half of it.
I am in a room full of Women living positively with HIV/AIDS, these women cut across all age groups but the women above fifty years crush my heart. They never thought it would be them lined up patiently, waiting to register for ARV Assistance, drugs they will have to consume for the rest of their lives. Looking at this women, I thank God for strides made in our country in ensuring that ARV treatment drugs are free and available at all government Health Facilities, for what would these women do without such assistance? How would they cope? who would they run to? most of them are poor, left abandoned by their ‘donor’ husbands and extended families, evicted from their matrimonial home with no source of income and they cannot return to their parents because women have no capacity to own their parents land(yet we farm and enhance productivity on the very same lands we have no capacity of owning)
For these women, HIV/AIDS found them in their homes, HIV/AIDS came to them, HIV/AIDS was presented to them, they had fears and suspicions that the disease might get them, the signs were manifest, the possibilities were endless, but they could not stop it, they wanted to, they wished to, they attempted to, but they could not stop the inevitable! These women recount instances of their lives that could have facilitated the change in their health status, stories of drunk husbands who will have sex with any being in a skirt, cheating husbands with different homes, and the “open secret” recounts of Him and Him… In all these situations, the woman has no voice, Her contribution is only relevant as she lays on her back, legs wide open! There can be no imagined situation Of her demanding or asking,even begging for safer sex. For many homes both Rural and Urban- Today- Discussions on safer sex only run alive in the half a minute Trust Condom Advert. A myriad of reasons most of them heavily facilitated by culture never consider it even slightly possible to engage women on their sexual reproductive health, such reasons conclude as thus;
The body is yours, the womb is yours, the vagina yours too But you have no voice in the use, exploitation and appropriation of what is yours! Consider it a Blessing Woman, if you have a voice in matters of your own reproductive health, you are one of the lucky few.
For most of these Women, affected and infected, their only hope is God to dramatically change the lives of their husbands,at least to reduce the number of concubines, bottles and the frequency of sexually transmitted diseases her vagina has to contend with.Sadly, they cannot leave, they cannot walk away, to where? with what? to do what? to start from where? they have constructed their whole lives around their Family institutions, they have invested and burned their energies there, they will die there!
Ah! Mother, do not teach me how to cook- I can boil maize and mash potatoes- Teach me how to negotiate and haggle over me.
Teach me how to say No and stand by it!
Teach me how to demand for a monogamous Penis, Teach me how to turn forever disgusted and fed up if it philanders,
teach me not to forgive it, even if the elders and Bishop Kanyari ‘Prophet’ insist.
Teach me How to ask for the use of condoms, infant teach me how to insert it.
Teach me how to say enough – I do not want more children!
Teach me how to leave, how to walk away, how to say enough is enough!
I do not want to be the woman who stays in her home waiting for her Husband to deliver Her safely to Her demise. I want to be in control of me, being a woman makes it a long shot attempt, But I am willing to try.