By Nhau Mangirazi
Rumbidzai Bakasa*, a mother of seven girls, says her life was hell until she joined a community savings club in Zimbabwe’s Mashonaland West’s Hurungwe district.
Bakasa said she gathered the courage to escape an abusive marriage during the lockdown to slow down the spread of Covid-19 to stay at a safe house in Karoi where she was persuaded to join the Women War VeteransClub.
The community savings clubs are an initiative of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development.
Bakasa (40), said her 22-year-old marriage became abusive after she gave birth to girls only against her husband’s wishes to have boys.
‘‘I went through hell because of my husband and in-laws,” she said.
“I was ill-treated for several years.
“My crime was that I only gave birth to girls when my husband and in-laws were expecting boys.”
Bakasa was rescued by Musasa, a non-governmental organisation that provides relief to survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). She said her arrival at the safe house was the turning point in her life.
From there she started doing temporary work at farms around Hurungwe through which she managed to raise money to pay contributions to the Women War Veterans Club where she pays US$40 monthly contributions.
“I raised enough money for monthly contributions of US$40 a month through part-time work at the farms,” Bakasa said.
“It changed my life for the better. “The Women War Veterans Club has a Member of Parliament, the elderly and GBV survivors.
“GBV victims have gone through a lot in life, but through the activities at the club we are learning to live again.”
Bakasa said she was inspired to join the group by the fact that Hurungwe proportional representation MP, Goodluck Kwaramba, was part of the Women War Veterans Club.
“That gave me hope that I could make it up in life without thinking much about the past,’’ she added.
Other members of club include two wives of local chiefs.
Miriam Kagoro, a Women’s Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development district officer in Karoi, said the clubs had become a sanctuary for GBV survivors during Covid-19 lockdowns.
‘‘As Hurungwe district we have assisted several groups through these clubs,” Kagoro said.
“The ministry is working on instilling a culture of saving in communities and we target women and girls mostly as the old Shona vernacular adage says, Musha Mukadzi, meaning once we empower the girl child the community is safe.
“This has gone a long way in curbing poverty during lockdown periods whereby people struggle to make money.”
She said the clubs were also useful in restricting movements during Covid-19 lockdowns.
‘‘These savings clubs will limit movements for shopping purposes, and this helps slow down the spread of Covid 19.”
Kwaramba said the clubs were helping victims of gender-based violence to regain their confidence and rebuild their lives.
‘‘I am part of the Women War Veterans Club in Hurungwe,” she said.
“I am part of the community, and the club has brought confidence among other members, including victims of gender-based violence.
“We managed to buy groceries, blankets, pots and plates among others from our US$40 monthly contributions.
“It is giving hope to everyone. We did this to accommodate GBV victims so that they can rebuild their lives.”
Musasa says it recorded a spike in gender-based violence cases after Zimbabwe started imposing lockdowns to slow down the spread of Covid-19 last year.
- Not her real name