History

 xxx and Roseline

I was born in Wagoma Village and like many of the school kids today walked 3kms to attend school.  Both my parents were teachers that reinforced a high value of my education. Along with enjoying my education, my childhood was fun, as I participated in communal chores such as herding animals, collecting firewood, brining water from the late, milking cows.

Through child eyes in the 1980’s there seemed to be a togetherness of our villagers, as respect was unspoken but rued. I would later learn, of so many rules, and traditions that were unspoken but opened my eyes to the inhumanity that was actually happening.

As the 90’s approached my idealistic village, turned dark as death began to sweep the villagers by large numbers.  There was a new disease, HIV/AIDS around the world, which they called it ‘chira’ in my community, and it was killing my extended family and the rest of the community.  As a young girl, I saw our world change so much and yet my people remained still, paralyzed in customs or thoughts that could not change the situation. Most of the community’s young men were dying, which meant a large amount of children went orphaned, and soon I sadly realized they will never know the joys I knew as a child.  No one spoke up.  No one talked about the death.  I was 26 years old and asked to speak at these funerals.  And even though they laughed when I spoke, I was determined to continue to speak and bring back the homes that now have become graveyards.

A woman’s worth was the children she brought forth, better if they were sons. Discovering I was not able to bare children was of great trauma for me at this period. Mental, physical and emotional abuse followed, coupled with stigma that touched every part my life. I chose to walk away from the marriage. But in my community only death made people part. I had broken one of the unspoken laws. My losses began, my house was set on fire, my tailoring business burnt, I lost my government job and a educational scholarship; friends and family ostracized me. I learned first hand the plight of a childless African woman, and the pain of divorce.

I endured, and survived.  I even found love and married again.

My remarriage did not last long. At 32 yrs. of age in 2007, I became a widow. Shock and fear gripped me. My community said I carried a bad omen. Stigma and widow abuse set in. I would later realize that my culture had so many rules that I, as widow now, was not allowed to try to break or attempt to overlook. I began to question some of these and it marked my awareness campaign on widow abuse to date; what I was going through in my culture were abuses that noneone should have to go through after losing their spouse. It woke me up.

I closed my business, turned my house into a meeting place and started hosting fellow widows, sharing our grief, pains and supporting each other; and this gave birth to Rona Foundation.

I later bought land from a widow (pictured above), and started Wagoma Orphans & Widows Centre to re-build the perishing forgotten village, where I was born and brought up. I ended up with 166 orphans and more coming to feed on any given day. 85% of the population are widows and orphans.

I champion this ongoing awareness campaign, with an aim to achieve policy and legislation to ‘Stop Widow Abuse’.  The world is waking up to this silent calamity.  I dream of a day when my country will have Widowhood Laws and treat widows with equal human rights. And replicate the widows and orphans centre in other counties and communities to give widows a voice.

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