“Every Thursday morning as we arrive at the river to fetch water, the old woman would line us up at the banks, instruct us to lie on the ground legs wide open, as she takes turns inserting her fingers inside us to certify those that are still virgins, or identify those who aren’t”
I sat transfixed as my ‘home assistant’ recounted to me the tales of her life as an adolescent girl in a rural village in Zimbabwe. I love stories. I love telling them as much as I love listening to them. I’ve had home assistants from very many southern and central African countries and each one of them comes with their own life experiences and stories which I always learn a thing or two from.
Her name was Noma, and she had run away from her village on a Wednesday night with her boyfriend whom she had given herself to the weekend prior. They eloped out of the fear and shame that was to come with being disgraced by the old woman at the river bank. If a young girl was discovered to not be a virgin anymore the old lady will take off her clothes, tie a special blanket around her, pour ashes on her head and blow a loud trumpet so that as the girls arrive the village with the water they have drawn, everyone will know and see the particular girl who has recently been deflowered without being properly given out in marriage. Months after arriving in South Africa she gave birth to a set of twin boys, her boyfriend was out of work and there, their struggles began. They survived by doing odd day jobs all around until I found her on Gumtree and offered her a job.
I soon learnt that both her and her boyfriend had cattle. Not a few cattle but tens of cattle, that and a number of live stock in their remote village back home in Zimbabwe. Apparently when a child is born in their community, they are gifted calves and the young of other animals such as goats, sheep, chickens etc. over the years under great care these animals breed and multiply. I was astounded. In my economist mind I could already see that this young lady who is struggling to make ends meet here in South Africa could potentially be worth hundreds of thousands of rands.
I invited her and her husband over, informed them about the huge prospects and opportunities available to them back home if they are willing to go back. They both seemed very keen and so I gave them pamphlets on developing a business and connected them to friend of mine who runs a successful agro-business venture in Bulawayo. At the end of the month, she got her salary added up to what her husband had saved, took their twin sons and left back for Zimbabwe.
This was two years ago. Today they are proud pastoral farmers who supply meat to local markets in a village called Chirundu close to the border post between Zimbabwe and Zambia, in Mashonaland West province.
This is one of the many examples of how telling one’s stories can effect change sometimes in a minimal capacity such as this one, while at other times, the change can be in a monumental form like the #MeToo campaign which merely started from a few women telling their stories of sexual abuse, which then enabled millions of other women the world over to tell theirs and the spate of positive reforms and structural changes that have amounted and resulted from it are incredible.
Let’s never stop connecting with stories! #citizenskonnek