Tendai Rupapa in BULAWAYO
A TEAM from Angel of Hope Foundation yesterday imparted the knowledge it acquired from its patron, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, to teach traditional leaders’ wives here how to make petroleum jelly and detergents as it presses ahead with its empowerment initiatives to uplift women.
This comes at a time when the First Lady has traversed the length and breadth of the country initiating income generating projects for women to augment their income and meet costs of feeding their families and sending children to school.
Amai Mnangagwa is on record describing using one’s hands as a weapon to fight poverty.
Traditionally women relied on their husbands’ income to meet the costs of running homes, but due to the economic climate worsened by successive droughts and the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, things are different.
During the training of the wives of chiefs and headmen from Matabeleland North and South, the First Lady was seeing to it that everything was being done to standard by her team that made petroleum jelly and dishwasher.
After the training, Amai Mnangagwa took the women through the process repeatedly to ensure they understood while they took down notes.
She said Angel of Hope Foundation was involved in many projects with the aim of improving livelihoods.
“Angel of Hope Foundation does many projects and as I stand here I can also make petroleum jelly and dishwasher. I do not just talk of things that I am not involved in personally. We are also into reusable pads making and have already distributed to eight rural provinces. Urban provinces you are not left behind, as we will give you. We had started with rural areas. In addition, we are also in the process of making reusable diapers,” she said.
The First Lady through her foundation went on to give the traditional leader’s wives starter-packs for them to go back to their communities and start the detergents and petroleum jelly making projects together with young girls and women.
She urged them to come up with projects that suits various age groups in their areas of jurisdiction.
She further urged the Zimbabwe Women’s microfinance bank representatives who were present to work with chiefs and headman’s wives to assist them in opening accounts and access loans.
The Angel of Hope Foundation’s patron said she would visit the communities to assess projects.
“I would want to visit you in your communities so that you show me the projects you would have started. I am also humbly pleading with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development to assist these women so that they continue with these projects which I have started for them,” she said.
“When you get loans from the bank please use them wisely in doing your projects so that you would be able to pay them back and for others to benefit too. It’s a revolving fund.”
The beneficiaries were grateful for what the First Lady had done for them and wished her a long blessed life.
“We are truly thankful for what the First Lady has done for us, including the gifts like goats and traditional grains that she gave us previously in a quest to empower us.
Today, we have been taught to make petroleum jelly and detergents and I will gather my community members back home to produce the same using the resources we have been given. I will form groups and pay every village head and his people a visit to teach them,” said Mrs Regina Neluswi, the head of chiefs’ wives in Matabeleland North Province.
The head of chiefs’ wives in Matabeleland South Mrs Chatiwa Sibanda echoed similar sentiments and promised to teach members of her community.
“Since I have been taught by the First Lady and given starter-packs to make detergents and petroleum jelly, I will gather women in my community and teach them what I learnt today. Amai has taught us that as women we can also do it,” said Mrs Sibanda.
The First Lady said the wives of chiefs and headmen must be submissive to their husbands, use their experience and play a leading role in settling marital disputes involving young couples in their communities to curb the increase in divorce rates.
She said being submissive helped the younger generation appreciate the traditional way of life to curb unnecessary fights which tore families apart.
The wives of community leaders, she said, must also competently advise their husbands to ensure that cases involving women and girls were tried justly.
Amai Mnangagwa advocates a return to the country’s traditional way of life which has in-built mechanisms to foster family unity and curb violence and other harmful practices that endanger the lives of youths.
She was recently in Manicaland where she held a similar meeting with traditional leader’s spouses.
“I know where you come from you are faced with many challenges affecting the girl child. You will also be in attendance when issues affecting women are tried by Chiefs or headmen as you are sometimes invited by them to be present. You should analyse the cases and help in listening attentively how such cases are interpreted to the chief.
“At times you are invited by the chiefs to attend to the cases involving women. In doing so, please take your stand as a mother and let the chief take his position musingavaendere kumberi. The chief must show that he has a helper and do not defy the chief as this lowers his standing in front of the people.
“I am not saying things that I do not practice at home. Handisikungotaura zvandisingaite zvandirikukudzidzisai ndizvo zvandinoitawo handiyende kumberi kwababa,” she said to wild applause.
She added, “As wives of headmen and chiefs there are some cases that are addressed to you. Find solutions to those challenges affecting young couples so that their marriages do not collapse.”
She said women in communities must also accept to have their children counselled by others because all children belonged to the community.
“The aim will be to mould the child. The young couples should know that marriage is about communicating and agreeing. As chiefs’ wives, by having good communication in the house also with the chief, will help you calculate how best to share with your husband information you would have heard from the community, especially in cases to do with girls and women,” she said.
Amai Mnangagwa said the social position of being either a headman or chief’s wife did not require one to be driven by hate or to be selective.
“Zvigaro zvamuri hazvichade kuvenga kana kusarura vana vemunharaunda dzamunogara nekuti vese vanenge vatove vana venyu,” she said.
She then advocated a revival of the “Nhanga” and “Dare” concept where young girls are gathered by elderly women to be imparted with knowledge on how to preserve their dignity, handle marriage and to use their hands.
Health issues are also discussed there. Boys are also trained at a “dare” where chiefs and elders impart them with knowledge on various issues of life.
“In the villages where we live, let us start ‘nhanga’ uye tokumbirisa ana mambo kuti vasimudzire ‘dare’ so that we protect our children’s morality before they get into towns. It is important to have these meetings with them and listen to what they say and share information with them on how you grew up and teach them that their bodies are important,” she said.
In the meeting it was agreed that the traditional leader’s spouses after setting up ‘nhanga’, would invite the First Lady to their communities so that she also sits with them during the sessions and get to hear the concerns of the girl child and how the leaders would be handling the cases.
The First Lady’s concern comes at a time when the country is grappling with cases of juvenile delinquency where children of various age groups have taken to promiscuity, alcohol and drug abuse.
During the lively interaction, Amai Mnangagwa asked one grandmother; “Would you want a daughter-in-law with bad manners? We have a role to mould the girl child, tine basa asikana. During lockdown there were so many pregnancies some of which are being hidden from you as mothers.
“Some children are rushing to get married and such marriages are always surrounded by violence. It is critical that we come up with resolutions through ‘nhanga’ and ‘dare’ to end violence in the homes. Even the homes of elderly people are not spared as statistics show that domestic violence cases are rife,” she said.
She also spoke about hunger spawned by climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Zimbabwe was not spared. Covid-19 affected many countries and we do not know when this will end as this is a new normal which has also affected our daily routines.”
Head of chiefs’ wives in Matabeleland North Mrs Neluswi agreed with the First Lady’s sentiments saying she hoped the ‘nhanga’ and ‘dare’ concepts would restore dignity in young girls and boys.
“On the issue of young girls, I will ask each village head’s spouse to bring the girls together and we speak to them like in the olden days. What is happening nowadays was unheard of. Today’s young girls are bedding men and coming home to cook for us.
“This is why you see their parents dying of backbone ailments. It was taboo in the days of old. Once a boy slept with a girl, that girl would follow him immediately ndicho chaive chinyakare chedu kwete zvekuti anenge achidzoka kumba.
“We welcome the reviving of the ‘nhanga’ and ‘dare’ sessions where we will teach our children. We are grateful that Amai has intervened,” she said.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Richard Moyo paid tribute to the First Lady for her unwavering efforts to improve the welfare of the girl child in particular and womenfolk in general.
“As Matabeleland North Province we appreciate various efforts that you make in empowering the girl child and women in communities countrywide. Wives of chiefs are important pillars in our communities because they give guidance and by empowering them, you will be empowering communities,” he said.
“You also once gave them traditional grains and goats to start projects and eradicate poverty. By doing so, you also empowered communities. Amai you are a role model leading from the front.”
Ministry of Health and Child Care representative Mrs Clara Chionioni, a principal nursing officer, spoke on the impact of Covid-19 on adolescent girls and young women.
She said accessing health services was a nightmare during lockdown and so many people could not get their pills for chronic diseases, or even family planning pills.
“There was marked reduction for women who visited health centres for antenatal care. There was an increase in deliveries at home, back door abortions and teenage pregnancies. It was also hard for the girl child to access sanitary wear hence the girl child was affected more than the boy child.”
Mrs Chionioni also highlighted moral challenges which reared their ugly head during the lockdown period and implored parents to have open communication with young girls and monitor their behaviour.
National Aids Council (NAC) representative Mr Amon Mpofu spoke about the need to stay away from behaviour that increases HIV/Aids infection rates.
“We want to speak to you community leaders because people live in these communities. We want new infections to get to zero. Our strategic plan is focused on prevention, we want to reduce Aids-related deaths.
“We have a challenge with men who are not getting tested. They use their wives as the gauge that if she gets tested and comes out negative, they too think they are negative. It is important for everyone to get tested and know their status so that we achieve our 90-90-90 target.
“Those who are on ARV therapy, take them religiously and appropriately. We want the viral load to be suppressed. We want to end HIV new infections by 2030. There is a challenge among young women who are getting new infections from older men, we have to address this issue with you community leaders, let us protect our adolescent girls and young women.
“We call upon you community leaders to address these issues in your communities. We need to empower these young girls so that they don’t depend on older men. Also if a woman is empowered, she can have a voice in the house,” he said.
If a man is promiscuous and refuses to use protection, Mr Mpofu said, a woman who is empowered can stand her ground unlike those who depend on their husbands.
Mr Mpofu thanked the First Lady for affording his organisation an opportunity to speak to community leaders and said this would help reduce the rate of new infections.
It was all smiles as the participants were given an assortment of foodstuffs and maize seed by the First Lady.