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Women have the right to choose partners

By Grace Chirenje
SAMANTHA Ruvimbo Dzapata and Tafadzwa Murengwa, a love story gone wrong. Sad. May their dear departed souls rest in eternal peace. My heart breaks so badly as I write this article, there is something about Samantha’s story that resonates with me. That resonates with many women I spoke to during the course of the week.

Hers is a story that speaks to many women’s lived realities. This is not about whose side one should take or who was right or wrong – this is about women and their life stories. The stories that define their most intimate moments with men they choose to love. Each woman has a right to choose how she wants to live her life and share it however with whosoever she chooses to. However, what is heart-wrecking is the notion that for women, the very support systems that are supposed to protect us, government structures, family and friends are the very spaces that women face their greatest struggles.

Our way of life
Poverty, oh pathetic poverty! Well, maybe not entirely poverty because I recall my brother sharing a story of a family he knows and they live in very poor conditions and yet they are some of the most amazing beings he knows.

So, no, poverty is not always synonymous with wanting things. In the case of Samantha, a family whose values seemed to be steeped in accepting gifts from a beloved “son-in-law” resulted in the family losing their beloved daughter.

Zimbabwe generally has people who are struggling to make ends meet. We wake up daily, hustling and fighting for survival the newly found ‘ngwavendor’ (hustling and vending) industry. We push, we shove and we keep trying but clearly, mazino, (it is a struggle). The very system of family that ought to support the women of Zimbabwe is struggling with the realities of poverty, pain and sorrow and ultimately, it looks like some of the choices we make are dipped in the bitter narrative of choosing what our values push us to become and what our daily needs are all about. We see this hard choice for women every single day. Women are left to fend for themselves and ensure that they work to make ends meet. It is not an easy choice. On one hand, we strive to feed families and on the other hand we strive to seek being heard and seen by the very ones we choose to do life with.

Ultimately, we fight a losing battle as the very systems that ought to support us are facing serious changes and such transformations do not seem to support the growth and development for women in order for them to witness emancipation – Samantha’s case is a telling point. On the flip side, that protection/peace order to save Samantha was very progressive – it is what the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) is all about.

Many times, women are “protected” by the law but again, the socio-economic narratives override the many sources of support and render the policies to protect women a random joke!

More needs to be done to protect women using the law. It is more than issuing and serving, it is also about follow up and ensuring that women’s safety and security is prioritised at all costs. Zimbabwe can hold hands to make a difference so that the level of femicide that we are witnessing is reduced.

A continuous exploration of conversations that seek a win-win would be critical to ensure this. We have indeed come a very long way in our culture around women’s human rights development but still, more needs to be done and it needs all of us to hold hands so we make the difference for women.

Zimbabwe needs to continue to do much more for women, as the larger portion of the population, we deserve better though – women cannot keep dying at the rate they are. More than as a result of intimate partner violence, women cannot continue to die at the rate they are dying – something urgently needs to be done!

Desiring better
As I continued to hear the stories around Tafadzwa and Samantha, it is clear that the judge of society is pretty oblivious to issues that have to do with mental health. The dynamics we have perpetuated around intimate relationships between men and women are unhealthy.

There is just so much unlearning and relearning that needs to happen in order to shift the current narratives round how we love and are loved. With the rates of mental illnesses constantly going up, Zimbabwe needs you and me to do much work.

Yes, the economy is wreaking havoc on our ability to manage stress. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is on record encouraging each and every person to mind the way they handle stress. We cannot have stories like that of Samantha and Tafadzwa dominating our society – love is a beautiful adventure that should be fully enjoyed.

Yes, we mourn the loss but also embrace the lessons of this unfortunate accident. It can teach us to become better as a society in enabling goodness in society as we seek to address the many ills we find in society that affect women and their ways of living. We indeed can come together and redefine mjolo (intimate relationships) in the face of economic hardships, especially for women.

It is now that we ought to make life change for the better. We keep pushing and giving life our best. We keep exploring solutions until we find them. Until then, we live, laugh and love in a bid to show the world that we were here, becoming better, making our mark, leaving our footprint as we make the world a better place!

  • Grace Chirenje writes in her personal capacity as a citizen of Zimbabwe. Follow her on social media for more Lifezone with Grace conversations on Twitter: @graceruvimbo;
  • Facebook: Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje; Instagram: @graceruvimbo.

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