Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
WOMEN should shun prostitution and learn to use their hands to engage in meaningful projects to sustain themselves and their families, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa said yesterday at an interface meeting with single mothers in Seke.
Discouraging prostitution, the First Lady, who is also the country’s health ambassador, said it was important for them to work hard.
“I want to urge you all to be responsible and respect your bodies. Humhandara idambakamwe, naizvozvo chenjerai. I want to hear of girls who refuse to be defiled. Let us all use our hands to improve our lives and not peddle our flesh,” she said to a thunderous applause.
The visit by the First Lady to Seke was a follow-up to an interface meeting she held with chiefs’ wives who alerted her of the plight of such women.
“The wives of headmen and chiefs are symbols of our traditional way of life,” she said.
“They lead from the front in seeking solutions to people’s challenges and the door to my office is open to everyone.”
Addressing a wide range of issues raised by the women, the First Lady said no matter their situations, there was always a better way out.
Speaking in Shona, the First Lady implored those who fall pregnant not to resort to abortion, which will compromise their health.
“Do not abort even if the man responsible has denied paternity because this endangers your health as a woman,” she said.
“Let us treasure our bodies because in abortion we may use substances, which cause cancer and you cut short your life.
“To the young ladies who are thinking of starting families without a solid foundation, I urge you to put such thoughts on hold and plan for the future first.”
This is not the first time the First Lady has gone out of her way to advise women and help them find sources of income, ensuring that every citizen’s needs are catered for.
The women decried the sale of their land by spouses, leading to evictions and the First Lady promised to take up the issue with the President to find an amicable solution.
Some of the women told her that they did not have identity documents and birth certificates.
Women have since time immemorial lost assets, including land, owing to cultural values which put them under their husbands’ guardianship, resulting in them losing out on inheritance matters, a situation which the First Lady is fighting to address.
She said there was need to revisit her eye-opening inheritance programme so that the women are aware of their rights in such matters.
Summing up the proceedings, Amai Mnangagwa said she had come to share with the women practical skills that enable them help fend for their families.
“The elders say ‘the woman is the home’ (musha mukadzi). This means a woman is responsible over much of the things done in the home,” she said.
The First Lady said her Angel of Hope Foundation was committed to assisting the vulnerable.
As a hands-on person, Amai Mnangagwa yesterday showcased her wares, proving that it was possible to earn a living through self-help projects.
“As patron of Angel of Hope Foundation, I have come with projects that enable the young and the single women to look after their families through the making of detergents for washing utensils, laundry and bathing soaps, petroleum jelly, body lotions, perfume and toilet cleaners,” she said while showing samples she brought.
“Ini ndinoshanda nemaoko angu. Kana pandangoona kanzvimbo pamusha pangu ndinototsvaga zvekupashandisa, kungave kana kuseri kweoffice chaiko handishaye zvekuita.”
The Seke women will soon start farming after Amai Mnangagwa assisted them in applying for a piece of land where they will grow crops, while carrying out other projects also through her foundation.
A borehole has already been drilled.
Amai Mnangagwa said the programme, which she officially launched yesterday, would cascade to other provinces.
Zimbabwe Women’s Microfinance Bank’s chief executive Dr Mandas Marikanda spoke about the need for women to acquire financial literacy, adding that they wanted to restore their dignity.
Minister of State for Mashonaland East Provincial Affairs and Devolution Senator Aplonia Munzverengwi praised the First Lady for taking it upon herself to interact with vulnerable single mothers and young girls.
“Today is a special day for the province as we have been given an opportunity to focus on these marginalised groups in society,” she said.
“Because of lack of opportunities to participate meaningfully and productively towards economic development, these women became vulnerable and succumbed to social pressures, hence the need to come up with empowerment interventions for them.
“For young girls, because they do not possess national documents like birth certificates and national identity cards, they have turned to social vices like commercial sex work instead of being in school.”
Sen Munzverengi said besides Seke, there were other hotspots, especially along major highways like Chivhu, Goromonzi, Bhora, Murehwa, Mutangadura and Nyamapanda, where single mothers and young girls engaged in commercial sex work with local and foreign truck drivers.
One of the women, Karen Chitongo (23) chronicled how she ended up doing sex work.
“I was once in a polygamous marriage and was the first wife,” she said.
“We were three co-wives and we did not get along so I left my matrimonial house. I am now a sex worker, but the life is hard.
“I want to go back to school, but I do not have identity documents. I have children with different totems and we have faith and hope that your visit Amai will be the end of our challenges. With your assistance Amai, we want to work and go back to school but for us to go to school we need identity documents, please Amai help us.”
The women welcomed the opportunity to farm and undertake other projects initiated by the First Lady, adding that they were ready to work.
National Aids Council (NAC) representative Madeline Dube said the First Lady, as a health ambassador, has always been encouraging people to get tested for HIV so they can start taking their medication early.
“Her programmes leave no one behind,” she said. “As NAC, we want to get into the communities to safeguard people’s health in support of the First Lady.”
Mr Bezel Nyabadza, of the traditional grains producer’s association, committed to assisting 500 women with seed for traditional grains planting.
“I am going to assist 500 women in this district with seed for traditional grains,” he said.
“Let us grow crops with the future in mind. The First Lady is an Angel of hope because she has brought hope to many women and she needs our support.”
In support of the First Lady’s initiatives, Fine Times Company also pledged to assist the women in groundnuts production.
Representing Plan International, Ms Angela Muthirii said the situation of children, girls, young women and single mothers was at the heart of their work.
“It is part of our DNA so to speak and we are very glad to be here with you to talk about this important issue together. We all know that women are very vulnerable and sometimes invisible because of their lack of voice and power, their position in our communities and societies and because of some of our cultural practices. This situation is made worse in times of crisis, like the Covid-19 crisis we are facing now globally,” she said, vowing to work with the First Lady on such initiatives.
Mrs Naume Chimanikire, wife to Chief Seke, said the First Lady had sent Chief’s wives to speak to women in their areas of jurisdiction so that she (Amai) would know how best to assist them.
“Blessings have been showered on Seke District,” she said. “Our mother is here to help us find solutions to the challenges we are facing in our communities as women.”
Chief Seke (Stanely Chimanikire) implored women to embrace the projects introduced by the First Lady and leave prostitution.
The First Lady gave the women an assortment of foodstuffs and toiletries.
Deputy Minister for Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Jennifer Mhlanga also attended the occasion.