Tendai Rupapa in Kadoma
Chiefs and headmen’s spouses in Mashonaland West Province are undergoing a two-day intensive training programme to equip them with life skills to promote healthy living and development. The training, which was initiated by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, is the first of its kind and is expected to be rolled out countrywide.
The training covers life-changing topics such as early child marriage, gender-based violence and its impact on society, drugs and alcohol abuse and impact to women, menstrual hygiene, sexual abuse and empowerment of the girl child, among other matters.
The programme comes at a time when communities face an increase in drug abuse by adolescents, prostitution and other vices.
The First Lady, who is the country’s Health Ambassador, said she saw it prudent to rope in spouses of traditional leaders because they are opinion leaders in the administration of communities.
She implored participants to teach communities the importance of regular health checks, good hygiene and screening for cancer.
Breast and cervical cancer are the major causes of death among women in Zimbabwe, accounting for over 2 000 in a year, while men have not been spared by prostate cancer.
The First Lady is conducting the training programme in conjunction with the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
Amai Mnangagwa said chiefs and headmen’s spouses were the custodians of social cultural norms in communities.
“The duties you perform include receiving visitors, advising other women and providing counselling services in marriages as well as ensuring that your husbands are presentable. We are going to discuss issues of health. I wish every woman good health and success in all their endeavours,” she said.
She spelt out the need for women to play a key role in ensuring that they go for cervical cancer screening, HIV tests and the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission.
“I urge you as chiefs and headmen’s wives to teach people in your communities about good hygiene and to be health conscious so that we reduce the incidence of illnesses. It is your duty as spouses of chiefs and headmen to advise people to discuss before engaging in sexual activities with their loved ones to ensure they are protected.
“We are aware that most men do not want to be tested. We see this each time couples go for HIV tests to stop HIV transmission to the unborn children, men usually send their wives in the hope that when they test negative, they will automatically be safe,” she said, drawing laughter from the gathering.
Amai Mnangagwa told the participants to encourage their husbands to roll out programmes that make men freely get tested.
“Your other role is to keep the chief’s granary (Zunde raMambo) concept intact to assist the sick and those facing food shortages. Encourage your husbands to revive community help projects for the benefit of the vulnerable,” she said.
On child marriages, the First Lady said, “vana Amai you have a duty to protect the girl child. Munofanira kudzivirira vanasikana munharaunda menyu kuti vasaroodzwa vachiri vadiki. Vanasikana vasaitwa zvimutsamapfihwa or kuripiswa ngozi,” she said.
She urged women to report cases of child abuse, rape and child marriages.
In response, some participants said some parents of raped children were concealing the crime by organising hasty marriages, a practice the First Lady condemned.
The participants also raised deplorable cases were young girls went without sanitary pads, adding others did not even have the panties to stick the pads.
The First Lady then encouraged the participants to form cooperatives to sew clothing including sanitary wear and undergarments.
Amai Mnangagwa who is passionate about empowerment and development, pledged to work with the chiefs and headmen’s wives in developing their communities.
Health and Child Care Minister Obadiah Moyo was upbeat over the First Lady’s resolve to fight diseases.
“The First Lady is speaking out against HIV/Aids, domestic violence, unavailability of menstrual hygiene to girls and women, bilharzia, cancer services, nutrition and all other determinants of good health.
“Wives of traditional leaders are the custodians of our culture. They are the influencers of what happens in the communities. We want to speak the same language with them. Let’s go to the drawing board and go traditional. That way, health programmes will start in the communities and also cases of child marriages would be reduced,” he said.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Deputy Minister Jennifer Mhlanga lauded the First Lady for coming up with the training programme, adding that her work has given meaning to how advocacy and awareness work can be carried out.
Minister of State for Mashonaland West Province Mrs Mary Mliswa-Chikoka also attended the programme which ends today.