Sweeping away one’s dignity in the name of tradition

Fadzayi Maposah Correspondent

There are so many people who are guilty of abusing others. Some do it knowingly.

Others do it basically out of ignorance. There is a lot of abuse, including emotional abuse whose scars cannot be seen though there are there.

When we were growing up I used to hear stories of mothers and aunts who used to “sweep” girls’ chests.

I heard when the women, though the girl had developed breast before the right time, they would get the traditional broom, “mutsvairo”, and sweep over the chest.

I never heard of anyone using a modern broom to sweep the chest.

Maybe it just had to be the mutsvairo with its spiky grass that would scare the hormones and have the breasts running back inside.

I just do not understand how it works and until last week I had never met anyone who vouched that the sweeping actually worked.

There is still need for education for parents and guardians. These people need to understand that just as flowers bloom differently, so do children.

As soon as one understands that, there is bound to be less stress in their lives as they accept that when the time is right, it shall happen.

It may seem to be late for some or too early for others, but at some time if there are no complications it will happen.

What gets parents and guardians stressed is that they tend to stand at the fence and look at the neighbours’ side, see what is happening and want the same on their side.

Those who have had a chance to live with babies will understand that young ones do not reach milestone at the same time.

Some babies at 10 months are beginning to walk while others at just over a year are not walking and everyone is encouraging them to walk.

Is not the song “Dhe nhanha dhe” familiar? It is literally asking the baby to walk!

In some cases, parents and guardians lose the first step because they are so disappointed that their baby has not yet started walking while others are already doing so.

The thing with comparing is that the more you detest what you have the more what others have seems to be shining brighter.

You will meet babies who can walk who seem to be forming words that are so meaningful when it is simply just baby sounds. What life has taught me is love what you have and learn to wait.

It is not easy but it can be done.

Back to the mutsvairo story.

The mutsvairo story was triggered after a speaker at a function I attended had shared about people who experienced childhood trauma and that there is need for those people to heal so that they break the cycle of abuse.

She shared that people who have not healed from childhood trauma, cause pain to others, in her words “they bleed over others.”

She said when she was growing up she was slim and in her words, areas that should have had curves were without.

She had a younger sister who was an early bloomer. When the two walked together older women in the neighbourhood would comment on how her sister was becoming a woman, just as a mother.

She says at times they would ask her sister to turn so that they could see how she was developing. Since her sister was basically a child she would turn and the women would complement her on how she was growing so beautifully.

All the while the late bloomer would be standing by the side. Craving attention but getting none of it.

She said it appeared as if she was invisible, no one paid attention to her.

Then the women would ask if she was really her mother’s daughter and the looks on their faces, exposed what their minds thought.

It was like they found it so hard to believe that the two could have the same mother.

It was this talk that triggered the mutsvairo discussion. One woman that I sat with at lunch time after the presentation said both early or late blooming can be traumatic.

She said that she had had her chest swept over when an aunt had visited and saw the budding breasts.

There in the kitchen she was asked to take off her T-shirt and the aunt picked the mutsvairo and with quick strokes swept over the budding breasts.

Everyone at the table was astonished.

Despite our ages all of us had never met someone who had experienced the broom experience.

So the questions started.

Did she feel the budding breasts become smaller? Was it painful? Did they really disappear? When did they grow back again? Did her mother have to sweep the chest again so that the breasts could legally grow again?

She does not remember much of what happened after. Now well endowed with breasts, what she remembers is how she was made to take off her T-shirt and for many years whenever she thought about the incident, she could feel the spiky mutsvairo on her chest.

When the breasts “resurfaced” she would walk to avoid being seen and having a second broom experience.

Since she has healed from what she faced as a child, she has made it a point to be there for adolescent girls who may need someone to talk to about their development.

She also makes it part of her life to talk to parents of adolescents who themselves are confused with what is going on with their child.

Years after the broom was on her chest, she is ready to assist so as to empower others.

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