Tendai Rupapa in KADOMA
SPOUSES of chiefs and headmen from Mashonaland West Province, who took part in a two-day training workshop to promote healthy living and development in communities are reinvigorated and ready to put into practice what they learnt. The workshop, which ended here yesterday, is a brainchild of First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa.
Health experts, church leaders, counsellors, businesspeople, among other speakers took the participants through various important topics which touched on peoples’ day-to-day living.
The topics included early child marriages, gender-based violence and its impact on society, drugs and alcohol abuse and their impact to women, menstrual hygiene, sexual abuse, infertility, cancer, effects of abortion and empowerment.
The participants described the event as an eye-opener.
They praised Amai Mnangagwa for giving them valuable insights into how they can contribute meaningfully to the health and economic outlook of communities in which they live.
Mrs Portia Kakamba, wife to Chief Chundu of Hurungwe district said; “The things we have been taught here will help us in solving the challenges we come across day and night in our communities.
“Amai has empowered us as individuals and our communities at large. Personally, I am more than prepared to deliver in my community so as to achieve Amai’s vision of development.”
Amai Mnangagwa’s ability to tackle heart-breaking issues like infertility and its associated stigma in an open and transparent manner earned her praise from the workshop participants.
She spelt out the need for men and women to both get checked when they fail to conceive.
Amai Mnangagwa said women suffered the most in circumstances where they failed to bear children and urged chiefs and headmen’s wives to play a leading role in making society understand infertility and that it was not a curse.
“Mostly, it’s the women who suffer the most, they are blamed, but is that justified?” she asked.
“We should give these women support, not to call them names in our communities. As the chiefs and headmen’s wives, what are you doing to support them? They need our support. Go and educate your communities that issues of infertility are not a curse.”
Amai Mnangagwa, who has a passion for women and youths’ empowerment, spoke about the worrying trend of teen pregnancies and inheritance issues.
This comes amid reports that nearly 7 000 school girls dropped out countrywide after falling pregnant last year.
According to statistics, out of the 6 786 affected girls, 367 were at primary school level, while the remainder were in secondary school.
The First Lady spoke strongly against abortion after the participants told her that it was happening in their communities and that it was worrisome to note that in most cases parents or relatives of the victims were taking part in the process.
She urged communities not to hide problems affecting the girl child.
“You should be the societal police as elders in your areas,” said Amai Mnangagwa.
“Quiz the girl child if you see signs of pregnancy which she would be hiding. Even if it is your daughter, do not hide behind churches saying ‘where will I hide if the church knows my daughter is pregnant out of wedlock’,” she said.
Instead of assisting children to terminate pregnancies, the First Lady said mothers should encourage them to wait for the right time to engage in sexual activities.
“It is not the end of life,” she said. “I want you to keep our traditional and societal values. As chiefs and headmen wives be cheerful, approachable, good communicators and do not divulge to everyone something you are told in confidence by someone seeking help.”
Director of Family Health in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Bernard Madzima told the participants that Zimbabwe had strict laws on abortion.
“Zimbabwe has strict laws on abortion, but allows rape and incest victims to abort after following the legal procedures,” he said. “Also if the pregnancy is a danger to one’s life, the law is flexible.”
One in seven pregnant women, Dr Madzima said, aborts illegally, hence the need to look at the laws and see how it can be done to ensure those who qualify for abortion are assisted on time.
Some of the women wept as they explained to the First Lady the challenges they were coming across in their communities.
The First Lady comforted them, saying she was going to work closely with them in finding lasting solutions to some of the challenges faced by communities.
Mashonaland West Provincial Affairs Minister Mary Mliswa-Chikoka thanked the First Lady for speaking openly about infertility and abortion with a view to finding lasting solutions.
“In the past, issues of infertility and abortion were a taboo,” she said. “You could not talk about someone’s childlessness. We are grateful to Amai for coming up with this training programme which is educative.”
The participants were also taught how to start businesses which would help their communities by Dr Abigail Magwenzi, a businesswoman.
The chiefs and headmen who also had their separate meeting at the same venue, later joined their spouses while Amai Mnangagwa gave her closing remarks.
In her closing remarks, the First Lady implored the chiefs’ wives to remain approachable by the whole community so that problems were shared quickly for possible quick solutions.
She underscored the need for chiefs wives to be given access to portions of land for them to plant small grains.
The First Lady urged the participants to always ensure chiefs remained presentable when they go about their business.
“We are asking God to give you (chiefs) wisdom so that peace prevails in your communities,” she said. “Help your wives when they are assisting communities, especially the girl child. They need your support.”
The First Lady spoke about her upbringing, saying she grew up in a broken and poor family set-up, adding that her background drives her to assist others.
She told the gathering how she got a birth certificate with the help of her school headmaster.
The chiefs and headmen pledged to support their spouses to achieve the vision espoused by the First Lady.
Speaking on behalf of chiefs, Chief Ngezi (Peter Pasipamire) praised the First Lady.
“We want to thank you Amai for remembering us,” he said. “We have heard your wise counsel and promise not to let you down. We are going to support our spouses while they execute their roles with the knowledge they acquired here.
“We assure you that we shall fulfil your expectations, especially on issues to do with empowerment and development of communities.”
Amai Mnangagwa gave the women sanitary wear to distribute to less privileged girls in their communities.
The participants walked away with an assortment of foodstuffs courtesy of the First Lady.
As a token of appreciation, the chiefs gave the First Lady a sheep.
There was jubilation at the end as the women danced and sang led by the speakers – Dr Magwenzi, Dr Florence Mhishi and Mrs Egnes Sithole.
“Madzimai anoshanda tasvika, sudurukai tipinde mudariro,” sang the women while performing traditional dance routines.
The First Lady joined them.