TWO police officers man the gate at Safe Shelter in Hauna, Nyanga. There are a few structures dotted around the yard, looking almost ordinary, but behind the walls, many “broken” women have found solace and hope and regard it as home.
Source: Safe Shelter, a haven for violence survivors – NewsDay Zimbabwe October 27, 2018
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
A sanctuary to survivors (no longer called victims because it disempowers them), the shelter is a result of collective partnership efforts by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Family Aids Caring Trust (FACT).
They also work closely with the Women and Gender Affairs ministry as well as the police in facilitating the court cases. A pregnant young woman curiously gazes at the visitors as she lounges casually against the walls of a half-finished structure. Her swollen belly is at
loggerheads with her young face. An equally young mother joins her with a baby in her arms and another toddler trotting along.
They both smile shyly at the journalists, but the traumatic experiences have aged them and dimmed their gaiety. However, they agree to share their stories to strangers, a sign that they are on the healing path.
At 23, Chenai (not real name) is a bitter woman. Married at 18, she has never really enjoyed her youth as her estranged husband would use her as a punch bag, often starving her and neglecting her needs.
“My (former) husband chased after ‘skirts’ from the very first day I married him. I was so young, just 18, and no wiser. I thought it was normal for a man to cheat,” she recalls, hanging her head as if in shame.
Somehow, part of her takes the blame as she confesses that the many women in her husband’s life made her feel inadequate and insecure.
She smoothens the creases on her worn out black skirt and adjusts her purple T-shirt, which too has seen better days. Her minor child, who is barely two, wriggles on her lap.
Her five-year-old daughter is not even going to school because the father has refused to pay fees.
“She asks me all the time why she cannot go to school like her peers who are all in ECD [Early Child Development] class. It breaks my heart, and secretly, I cry and feel like I have failed my child,” she wipes a tear with her T-shirt. Chenai was once bashed so badly she had to be hospitalised and her husband was briefly detained.
“A small issue could just irritate him and he would beat me up. The last straw was when he left me and the children, and moved in with one of his girlfriends. He was not paying rent or buying food for me and the children. Who does that to little children? What crime did they ever commit?