Love Letter to Myself

Dearest Tariro…

You are my day 1, you and I go way back, even before you were born. I am super proud of the woman you have become. No doubt, life hasn’t been a walk in the park for you. I marvel over and over again at how despite all the challenges that you have faced, you have kept your head high and kept the fighting spirit blazing. I decided to write you this love letter because there are many days that you forget that I love you deeply and unconditionally. There are times you wish other people loved you but today I want to remind you that no matter what, you will always have my love even with all your imperfections. It has always been you and me and it will always be you and me.

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I love you from the bottom of my heart because of your resilient spirit and soul. Life has thrown you under the bus countless times but you still stand up, dust yourself and face life fiercely. I would never love another being more than you. Indeed, there are many days you struggle loving yourself but I just want to remind you to be gentle and kind with yourself. Always know on those days when you feel worthless, unbelonging, ugly, useless, dirty, trashy, a failure etc that you can always come back to yourself because you will always be worthy in your come back my day 1 and know that you always have strength to forgive yourself and try again.

No matter what, whether you look at life from the east, the west, the north or the south, always be proud of all you have gone through and of the woman you have become. If I must say so myself, you are a warrior and a sheroe in my book. The world has tried to break you into pieces, but girl, you have never allowed it to win. Never be afraid to be your unique self and no one should ever define who you become, or who you should be, except you. I want to remind you today to stop being hard on yourself. You are doing the very best that you can. One day, everything will make sense. In the meantime, just breathe, be patient, be gentle and trust the process.

Darling, you are perfect in every sense. Even though you think that you are broken and irreparable, I want to remind you that there is so much beauty in your pain. You are a survivor, made whole by your experiences. Never give up on yourself, your passions and your dreams. Stop worrying about other people who hurt you because at the end of the day, all you are truly guaranteed is yourself, this you should never ever forget. Know that not everyone you meet in this life is meant to stay forever and that’s ok. You too, will leave other people and even disappoint them. All you should do is to appreciate everyone that has crossed your path and what they have taught you. Always look out for the lessons learnt. Be grateful to the people that have stayed and stood by you always and be sure when you are ready, to fill the spaces of those that have left you. Gracefully let go of people and things that are not meant for you or that have ceased to bring love and peace in your life.

Thank you for never giving up, and like the meaning of your name, never letting hope die and being so tough. You inspire others and you lift them up. If anything, I hope this letter will always remind you how much you mean to me and bring healing when you need it the most. We’ve been there, standing together. Sometimes crying in the shower, sometimes crying ourselves to sleep, sometimes snorting through our nose, but it’s always been you and me. Always and forever…

Love for eternity,

Tariro.

I see you-What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger!!!

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Today, I reminded myself that I needed to speak to myself like I would speak to someone I love and care about. I wanted to sincerely check in and ask myself, ‘Are you ok? How are you doing?’ May this also speak to you wherever you may be and whatever you may be going through.May these be words of encouragement that you are not ALONE.

There are times, moments, experiences, that make you question your entire existence and make you question whether your life is worth living and these are times when we need to look within and have real conversations with self.

Its ok not to be ok. Its ok to be hurting. Its ok to feel out of control and Its ok to not have all the answers.

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I know right now you might be feeling like you are drowning, like you have been fighting through a storm and as soon as you feel like you are reaching for air, you find yourself drowning in crashing waves again. It doesn’t look like you will ever be able to reach the shore and that’s exasperating.

You might have a million questions without answers ,what when why how did it happen ,some days are better than others. Some days it is easier to accept WHAT IS but on others there are too many unanswered questions and it does get very dark.  I’m just surviving and you probably are in the same boat where you are alive and dragging through the days because there is so  much that still needs to be done by you and so many people banking on your very existence.

I know it’s probably so hard right now. Inexplicably hard. You might be hurting, physically, mentally, emotionally. You may feel alone, misunderstood, unloved. You might question whether this chaotic, painful life is worth pursuing. You might even wonder whether anyone would miss you if you were to give it all up. It may feel like you are living in an invisible war-zone. Life has humbled you in untold ways. You have cried endlessly, be it in your doctor’s office or crying yourself to sleep in your bedroom. And I know, you may even know this is a cross or crosses that will last your whole life. But still you find strength to wake up every day, wipe those tears away and wear a smile that covers that underlying, invisible pain. And for that, I salute you!!!

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You might be wondering when the hurt will stop, but it is ok. You probably are confused with the irrational thought patterns. The tears that come and go without reason. The hollow, dark days. The tired days. The shaky, sweaty days. The incessant moments of panic rising up out of nowhere, the rage that takes you by surprise. But it is ok. Breath through the pain. Be gentle and kind with yourself. Take it one day at a time. Forgive yourself, forgive everyone, forgive the Universe-this is the foundation and beginning of your healing journey. Trust me, it is not an overnight process but it sure does get better with time. I believe that at some point, everything just stops hurting and you start living and being yourself again but it takes time and you have to do the work.

You may feel broken today, but I am here to remind us that  brighter days are coming. When night falls, we are guaranteed that the morning will come. Nothing – not illness, not pain, not heartbreaks, not depression, not anxiety – can change that truth. Hope defines you. Love defines you. You define you. You are not a victim. You are a survivor, a warrior. Remember this always, you continue to believe in your own worth even when you feel broken and alone. This is why You are here. You didn’t give up. You keep moving forward. You are so brave to face the pain and see yourself beyond it. I love you unconditionally!!!

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His word tells us, ‘ He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

  Breathe.  Love.  Laugh.  Pray.  Live. This too shall pass…

Making the Most of my life and activating the power within-Welcoming my 37th year…

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Six years ago, I was beaten, confused and depressed. It is June 2020 and my 37th birthday and all I see is a ray of sunshine, gratitude and a great future ahead. Indeed, these have been beautiful thirties-a decade of blossoming and becoming. It wasn’t an easy journey, I have learned a lot about who I am, my identity, career, relationships, what drives me and what I believe in.

As I turn 37, I realise that all the painful experiences, the tears, the pain, the joy, the self-doubt, the confusion, the success, the heartaches, the emotional roller coasters, the loneliness, the fear, the depression, the anxiety have been all necessary to get me to where I am today and all I can truly say is that I am humbled and grateful! Would I have wished to have it easier, definitely, but I have learnt to embrace all my life experiences with all their contradictions and be grateful for who I am and all that I am. The pleasure, the pain have all been part of this journey and if you ask me, they have been totally worth it.

Yes, I am still heartbroken by the turn of certain events in my life. Yes, I still cry,  a lot actually, and feel sad and sorry for myself intermittently . But what I know for sure, as I turn 37 is that my happiness lies in knowing that I am a survivor, I am beautifully scarred, and I am forgiveness.

I’m learning daily how to be more mindful and present in my life. It’s an ongoing practice that  I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out. I think I’m getting better at letting go of the past but more often than not I find myself in the past, hurting and crying. I find comfort in knowing that the journey of a thousand miles starts with small steps-so baby steps for now, is doing it for me.

As I celebrate my 37th year, I hope that I continue to learn to be gentle, patient and kind with myself so that as I grace through the days of my life I do so with so much ease and calm, knowing that I cant control how other people treat me or what happens to me but I can surely control how I react to every experience I go through.I know for sure that I am ‘beautifully and wonderfully made’ and that God is my rock and solid ground.

I have learned a painful truth in my life that the “shitty” things that happen to me are actually things my soul asks for. And It’s very hard to accept this truth- that my soul asked for all those multiple rape experiences, the molestation, the physical abuse as a child, the chronic illnesses, the heartbreaks, the betrayals, the violence experienced…Sometimes it’s so hard to get my head around all of these but you can’t be mad at the universe for that right?. In all these, I have mastered the art of loving this complex being unconditionally and unapologetically because self-love is the greatest love of all as Whitney Houston reminded us. I have had to unlearn and relearn a healthy sense of self in order to get the life I want. I have put myself on a self-rediscovery journey where I have done immense healing work on myself, read so many books, sought a deeper and better understanding of myself, to allow me to embrace my unaltered, authentic self. I must say, I am living my truth, and it’s incredibly liberating.

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As a person that thrives in solitude, I have learnt to create and live in my own time zone literally and metaphorically. Life is not a race, there is no manual for how to do it. Live your life the best way you know how to in your small corner. I know that I will reach certain milestones whenever I reach them- I am never too late or too early. I am doing this thing called life on my terms and my own time minding my own business whilst at it. This has been my greatest lesson of all time -comparison is the thief of happiness.

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 As I grow older, I am mastering the art of doing me and for me that has even meant episodes of disappearing from the public scene, rebooting and nurturing myself with unconditional love and tenderness. This has seen me not being active on social media for the past 3-4 years and realising that after all there isn’t much I am missing from it . The underlying truth is to live your truth and being comfortable knowing that your true self can’t possibly make everyone happy-and that is OK.

As an empath, I realised that I love to live in quiet, serene places with abundant nature. I made the bold decision to relocate from the capital city and built my house in a smaller city- Rusape, which is located in the most scenically beautiful province of Zimbabwe. I run in the wild when I go for my morning jogs, I take walks to the river with my kids and my dog, we wake up to the birds singing and my cocks crowing. I eat what I produce and I aspire to lead an organic and grounded life as far as possible. I am living a life in harmony with nature, that is more than I could have imagined. But does this mean, I have no worries, NO, never, I am still that girl who sometimes cries herself to sleep or wakes up in the middle of the night to cry.

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these are views that give me life…

I am still work in progress and I imagine this will be an ongoing process until the day I die. By committing to this process, I keep learning new lessons every day. One lesson I have learnt in my challenging 36th year was, ‘life doesn’t have to break us’, regardless of what we go through. In addition to the chronic illnesses I already battle, I discovered I have scoliosis and 2 discs on my spinal cord that degenerated and this saw me use the wheelchair and crutches to navigate- this was trying (story for another day), as if this was not enough, I have been battling with anaemia which has changed my life in so many untold ways. I appreciate taking the time to do self-work as it is allowing me to make space for unexpected miracles that keep showing up in my life, miracles I am certain will continue being a constant as I journey through life.

As I journey towards 38 and hoping to make it to 40 and beyond, I have made my health a priority. I had lost weight before and put back most of it but have now lost it and am committed to making this the last time I put my body through such stress. My health priorities encompasses the physical, sexual and mental aspects, which I have to prioritise at all cost. My mental health will always come first in everything I do and so will my physical health and sexual health. I love running and it is magical for my physical and mental health. I will stick to it, as it has me ‘running towards my salvation’. I have been working towards avoiding diets that imprison me and really just commit to taking care of myself and my body. That means eating healthy every day, not to look a certain way but to take care of myself and give me the energy I need to be my best and stop worrying about the calories. I just want to be healthy and holistically take care of my body.

I love travelling for leisure and I hope to plan more trips and adventures with my kids and loved ones. Being in lockdown has reminded me how much travelling I do and it’s been making me feel a little off as I have been confined to one place for too long. I can be a total homebody but getting out of the house and doing stuff and going places is one of the best ways to make memories that I always cherish. I love to write as I am able to fully express myself and I have not necessarily been doing much writing of late-here is to more writing.

Lastly, I hope to continue making an impact in as many girls and young women’s lives as I can. This is what I am passionate about, if I can make the life of any girl better than mine was or even better than it would have possibly been then I will sleep well at night. If anyone wants to make me happy then adopt a girl and pay for her education and improve her life-I know what education can do to one’s life-it’s a game changer and I am a living testimony.

Things are far, really far, from being perfect but what more could a person want in this life?  I am grateful, satisfied, and happy with where I am. I have made sure to surround myself with relationships where there is laughter, respect, fun, passion, and all of that put together is how I define love. Here is to more laughter, more love, more adventure, more tears, more pain, more hope, more growth, more LIFE…

My Vow My Responsibility…

When Prejudices are exposed: “The ‘gay’ problem”

Some call it the gay problem I call it intolerance of difference. The topic on LGBTQA is one that is always avoided by many at any cost. I remember very well attending the African Union Summit on children’s rights and when we were discussing the multiple discriminations faced by different groups of children I mentioned the LGBTQA children and the multiple untold discriminations that they encounter on a day to day basis. I must say it was as if I had taken my clothes off because of the response that was given. I guess for fear of engaging deeper into the conversation the facilitator evaded from engaging in an open discussion on the issue.

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One old woman just outrightly said ‘we cannot discuss this issue here’. Being in this space where already I had been labelled a ‘lesbian’ I coiled glad that even though people were not ready to engage they had heard the point that I had raised. After the session I was so relieved when one of the facilitators came to me and thanked me for raising that issue in that meeting as they said, ‘it was about time’. In a split of a second I had been made to feel like an outcast, speaking obscenities. A few months later I find myself in America with a number of my colleagues from different African countries. We are confronted with the issue and we have to talk about the issue of sexual orientation in a way that many are not comfortable to talk about as to many there is just one set of human beings, the heterosexual beings.

The discussions starts with the screening of Milk which shows the story of Harvey Milk who struggled as a gay activist and his perseverance after years of persecution saw him being elected as the first openly gay elected official. As the documentary starts playing, the initial scenes unsettle many, I look around the room when there is scene when 2 gay guys are being intimate. Most faces could not hide the disgust and during a break many talk about how they were repelled by the intimate scene.  After the screening of the documentary the questions that are put forward to the facilitator of the session expose the deep seated prejudices. One of the issues that strongly come out is that anyone who is queer chooses to be queer and should not then force people to accept them or to ‘tolerate’ them. This raises the critical, frequently asked question, ‘Is homosexuality a choice?’  Usually two responses are proffered. One is that YES IT IS and this leads to the conclusion that well those that choose to be homosexual are making an immoral choice and it is the government and society’s duty to discourage it. The other could be NO IT ISNT, a response indicating that sexual preference is biologically determined. But what if both answers are not correct? Because in as much as we want to fit people in neatly packed boxes it is not necessarily a correct reflection of how life plays out. Maybe sexuality is fluid and so does sexual preference and maybe we do not necessarily have an exact answer to it but as human beings can we not respect people as they are even if it does not align with our moral compass especially if they have not harmed anyone.

In all this we tend to forget that even the heterosexuals choose their sexual preferences either as a way to conform to society or because that is genuinely how they feel. To imagine that a society can punish someone for making a choice different from theirs is morally unimaginable. It’s ok to acknowledge that it’s not every time that we should have an explanation for something; it is ok to have none. There is no black and white in life as we are made to believe, there is purple, green and all the in-betweens…

I have had an opportunity to have a discussion with my male counterparts who are disgusted by this whole notion of homosexuality and yet they are adulterers. It is appalling how they simply justify their acts over homosexuality by saying, ‘atleast it is natural,’ and again it reminds me of the biblical teachings I got as I grew up that before I point at the twig in someone’s eye I must remove the log in mine’.

Religion and specifically the bible has been used as a tool of oppression in this regard. It is also funny and an irony to see how the same bible was used years ago to justify slavery and even the slaves themselves saw sense in the biblical passages that were spelt out that showed that slavery was sanctioned by ‘God’. If ‘god’ is love then indeed those that are believers should never be found to discriminate, condemn and victimise homosexuals on the basis of the ‘bible’. Prejudices are so real and if we do not acknowledge the deeply seated prejudices we have we could hurt many people in the process.

It is not even about tolerating or empathising with homosexuals but society just has to respect and accept that indeed human beings are different. In the same vein one’s sexual orientation does not essentially define them as we are all more than our sexual orientation. We never hear when one is being introduced that , ‘This is so and so and they are heterosexual’, labels victimise certain groups in society and if we are to experience and enjoy equity we should be able to embrace difference and know that we might be different but indeed we are equal.

Again this last week I asked myself the question that as a humanist I always ask myself what is it that I can humanly do to make the world a better place for those that make different choices from me and I am inclined to say RESPECT and LOVE does it all. I keep learning and unlearning…

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#YALI2016 Fellows

 

 

INDEPENDENT BUT NOT SO IN-DEPENDENT

At such a momentous time in Zimbabwe I feel like if only I was in Zimbabwe right now to participate in such history making events. I am so proud of being a young Zimbabwean right now because I am happy that we as Zimbabweans’ have managed to positively embrace modern technology in a way that is geared towards changing our narrative for the better. As we are saying #taneta(we are tired), #hatichadi(we don’t want this anymore), #hatichatyi (we are not afraid anymore) Zimbabweans are boldly making a clear message that Zimbabwe cannot continue business as usual. Things are just not right and honestly Zimbabweans cannot sit back and relax.

We always boast about being an independent nation, but hang on, what does it mean to be independent? Who is independent? I learnt at school that 18 April the day we celebrate our independence we will be celebrating how our freedom fighters fought against all odds to get us independent, removing the shackles of colonisation from us. I always knew that independence is not to be taken for granted, it is a privilege and as a ‘born free’ , meaning I was born after the war ended I felt greatly indebted for such sacrifices.

Growing up like many of my peers we realised that independence was a relative term. And as is stated in Animal Farm we got to know that indeed, ‘some animals are more equal than others’. Independence day celebrations of late are evidently for the Government and not for the general populace. People who come to Harare to celebrate this day are bused under threat and coercion of being excommunicated from their communities, not getting food subsidies from government or enjoying any benefit from the government and to some extent fear of victimisation. Very few Zimbabweans celebrate this day as it has ceased to have a meaning, for many it is a great day from work where they can catch up with friends and relatives.IMG-20160704-WA0003

We expect our government to govern, legislate, and make laws and policies strictly for the good of the nation. But all this at the moment is a fallacy. Zimbabweans are not free, they have no power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints. Speaking out and asking reasonable questions will make one disappear leaving behind orphaned children. What sort of a government does not want people to ask questions? what kind of a government thinks that the majority are not right, they are always right? What kind of a government disregards the views and concerns of its citizens? What government governs with threats and instils fear in its populace? What kind of a government is not receptive to change? What kind of government is always concerned about lining their pockets? What kind of a government boasts about their good educational system but their children are educated out of their country whilst ours have demoralised teachers teaching them? What kind of government boast about their success in improving the health system but they all run away to seek health services outside the country and yet its citizens should use the health facilities where the health personnel is so demotivated and underpaid?

For fear of too much verbosity Zimbabweans are not happy, we are far from being independent. All we want is to enjoy true and sweet Independence, freedom and liberty. We want equal opportunities, we want jobs, we want happiness, we want good governance, we want food, better health, better education, clean water and shelter, we want equality before the law, and we want free mediaFB_IMG_1467554368934

Enough of this repression and and mental slavery and on this day I am reminded of Bob Marley’s words, ‘emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind….’

Well Done ZIMBABWEANS, you have not only done this for yourself but for every generation to come. ALUTA CONTINUA!!!!

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VIVA #ShutdownZimbabwe2016

My experience with sexual harassment at the University of Zimbabwe Law Faculty…

Today I choose to write about my experiences with sexual harassment at the University of Zimbabwe Law School following a post by my friend that a number of junior lawyers are being exposed to sexual harassment within the legal fraternity. This cancer that is robbing the potential of so many girls and young women has to be uprooted.

Coming from St Theresa kwaBvekerwa and finding myself at the University of Zimbabwe as a first year law student was the best thing that ever happened to me, it was indeed a dream come true. All the injustices I had experienced as a child, a girl for that matter I was finally going to be empowered to deal with similar injustices. I was over the moon but not so fast this cindirella tale of me being at the University and studying and getting my degree flawlessly was yet to be challenged. I failed to get accommodation at the University and this was the beginning of most of my problems many of which I am not focusing on today in this article.  A month or so after starting school I saw a notice on the notice board asking me to go and see one of the senior staff members at the Law Faculty. I suddenly remembered that my sister had told me to see him when I had come to law school but I had not.

Upon entering his office he asked me if my sister had not told me about our relationship to which I told him I had been advised. He noted that when I had failed to secure accommodation I should have gone to see him and he would have sorted it out because with my heart condition I should have been given accommodation. Fast forward among other interactions he called for me again and I went to see him wherein he asked me if I was dating some senior law student as he had heard rumours to that effect. He went on to tell me how this senior student had come to the University without necessarily having the requisite points but because of some special entry and he mentioned something to the effect that, ‘ a headboy and a headmaster cannot fight for the same cake,’. I did not make anything out of it. I just thought it was a genuine question. Looking back I always say, ‘foolish me’, that should have been a red light but I never thought my ‘brother’ would cross that path.

One day as had become the norm that when he would not have seen me in a while he would put up a notice, he put up one and I went to see him. This time he informed me that he was going to UK and he asked if I was coming to the library the weekend to follow and I said yes I was. He asked me to see him me when I came. Saturday came and I went to see my ‘brother ‘in his office. He had a plastic bag full of groceries in his office which he handed to me and told me that since he would be away from the country for a while he thought I might get desperate. I was honestly overjoyed by my ‘brother’ s thoughtfulness. I found myself saying a prayer and thanking God for being the God of orphans and sending angels on earth to make provisions for his orphaned children. Back at home we said a prayer of thanksgiving with my sister.

‘Brother’ was to be away for some time. When he came back from UK he sent for me again. As soon as I entered his office he showed me insurance documents for several cars and houses which he owned. To be honest I was in my first year and I could not read anything into those documents he gave me, I did not fully appreciate what they really meant. I did not want to appear as a fool though to ‘brother’ so I did not expose my ignorance, I told myself after leaving his office I would surely google and know. He told me that if I worked hard I would also get properties for myself. He then gave me a bottle of perfume that he had bought for me, I was euphoric that finally I was for the first time in my life going to use perfume in a glass bottle not a can. Wow, me a village girl. What came afterwards baffled me. To my utter shock, horror and disbelief ‘brother’ had bought me red parachute panties. My mouth dried up, words could not come out, my throat failed me. I just found myself saying I can’t fit into them without holding the panties. He then asked me to try them going ahead to lock the office. I died and woke up in a split of a second. A million thoughts went through my mind, ‘what was going to happen to me’, ties  ‘what would I say’, ‘what had gotten into the mind of brother who was an angel sent from heaven’, ‘what had I done to call for this’, ‘maybe I smiled at him too much, maybe I showed him wrong signals, maybe I covertly agreed to all this without paying much attention,’ ‘so all this while that is how ‘brother’ looked at me, he was luring me’. I really could not believe what was happening, I then broke into tears, I really never saw this coming, I was so naïve thinking that he was genuine. I learnt from that day that things are not always as they seem. He then asked what was wrong and I said nothing but sobbed. He then said what would happen if people heard me crying. With my bottle of perfume, ‘yes with the bottle of perfume’ I left his office, left the panties on the desk and went.

imagesI could not control my tears and his secretary saw me, I told her what had happened and I also told the Registrar at that time. Nothing procedurally happened but from that day I knew never to go to his office, I knew I had to avoid him by all means possible and this included, ‘running away from him’ if he was walking in the direction I was going, I knew that I had to make sure I studied hard and passed well because I knew that if my paper was ever to pass through his hands needing calibration if I had not performed well he would fail me, I knew I would never study the course that he offered, ‘thank God it was optional’, now I will have to study it for my PHD. I was so sure I would never see ‘brother’ in the same light and that was the death of ‘brother’ in my life.

Poverty exposes one to so much abuse and violations. My dream of finishing Law school was in doldrums as I did not have money for fees. I was resolute I had to complete my law degree if ever I would be able to change our family narrative of being one of the poorest families amongst my relations. A lady assisted me with getting sewing skills and I started selling my wares, ponchos, children’s tracksuits and some clothing items. The money I made out of this business assisted me in my day to day needs but hyperinflation made it difficult for me to be able to raise both my fees and money for my busfare and upkeep whilst going to University. One of my high school teachers introduced me to a Professor within the Law Faculty highlighting my financial challenges. He told me to go and see him on a Friday. I went to his office and he gave me some chocolates from Netherlands and busfare that would last me the following week as I stayed in Chitungwiza with my little sister. He was to look and ask around at the University if there was some work I could do to cushion myself especially with regards transport and part fees payment. As a catholic believer those days that evening I said the rosary thanking God for being faithful and seeing me through it all. My dream of becoming a lawyer, the first one from my remote community was falling into place.

When he returned back to the University I went to see him to find out if he had good news for me. I had even dreamt of myself working and getting a paycheck at the end of the month in the waiting period to see him. He said because he had been away from the University he had not managed to speak to the responsible people. He tried to call one or two people to no avail. Again he handed me another box of chocolates which I gladly accepted and money which would last me more than a month for busfare. I openly praised God and shed a few tears because I was amazed at the kindness. When I was about to leave his office he asked me to go to his desk as he was on a wheelchair, close to him purporting that he wanted to show me something. Innocently I went and he put his hands on my shoulders and said he is sorry everything would work out well. Before I knew it he kissed me on the cheek. I did not say anything, I just walked out of his office and that was the last I went to see him. I only heard about him when he had passed on.

I knew then that finishing my law degree with any genuine and innocent assistance from any man was to never be a reality. These experiences and what I had gone through in my life before taught me to treat all men with so much suspicion because experience had taught me that I lived in a world with sex predators waiting to pounce on the innocent, powerless and poor. I told myself that indeed just as I had grown up being treated as a sexual object that narrative was real, I was a sex object. I did not even know where to report these cases and when I had told a friend about the chocolates I had received without saying the rest of the story she just said to me, ‘ be careful I hear that man loves women and has been involved with a number of students’. In the corridors I also started hearing about how ‘brother’ would date students who stayed at his house close to the Campus. In my mind I concluded that this was the order of the day. I knew then that I could never get any help. I also told myself that if I knew what was good for me I should shut my mouth if I really wanted that degree and indeed I kept it to myself but it killed me. This was the common truth for so many so who was I to talk about it. Years later when I spoke about it with senior authorities at the University, upon reflection that having this predator within the campus meant more and more girls were being exposed to his predatory tendencies, I was told about the difficulty of gathering the evidence considering the time that had lapsed and I knew I wanted to fight a lost battle.

Sexual harassment is linked to value systems that favor male authoritarianism and aggressiveness, and at the same time expect women to be subservient and passive.  This is the reason that has made sexual harassment be regarded as the norm.  There is generally a spirit of solidarity amongst man such that when you injure one, you injure all, so survivors of sexual harassment from my work experience regard reporting sexual harassment a futile exercise as it will only negatively impact on them as they are either fired from work or they fail to graduate from college. The hierarchical nature of the Universities and the patriarchal cultures of leadership creates various zones of vulnerability to sexual harassment especially in the students and junior employees. This often results in the difficulty of survivors of sexual harassment to voice their experiences due to pain, self-blame, humiliation, anger and confusion as society is quick to blame survivors for their experiences. These hierarchical relations seem to have neutralized a sexual contract in which some male academics and senior management consider it their right to demand for sex.

Now that I am older I will continue to talk about sexual harassment and how it impacts women because I have experienced it and would not want to see any other girl or woman experience it. Sexual harassment should be addressed if at all the playing field is ever to be levelled for women to reach their full potential.

 

Rising from that defining night!!!

That Defining Night-that defining moment!!!

That evening that definitely changed everything…

I still remember it as vivid as if it happened today

24 years later I still can’t forget an inch of it…

I will talk about it now that I have found my voice,

I will never be silenced again,

Pressed down on that sofa, tongue in my mouth for a moment…

All I could do was scream, tears running down my cheeks

I did not know what was happening to me, but I knew that this was so wrong

I felt as if I was being ripped open…

The pain was so unbearable,

What was happening to me? I wondered.

 

Tired of screaming and realising there would be no refugee, I just got lost in the moment

The screaming stopped; tears continued streaming down my cheeks

How could he be doing this to me?,

He was a priest trainee,

Mukoma Dickson I knew him, now I could not recognise him

What had gotten into him?

Why was this happening to me?

I will kill you and your family if you tell, he said,

A knife neatly tucked by his side,

I would die if I spoke so I was silenced.

That evening that changed everything, that evening that has had a lifetime impact on me…

 

Now this is my story, walking around with a fresh wound that never seems to heal…

Bandages, salts, betadine cant heal this wound, a wound I carry around…

That night that literally is a nightmare, that night that has made me for a long time struggle with my self esteem and confidence…

Torn apart like a piece of paper is what happened to me that night…

Hallucinations, playbacks, are a part of my reality,

A reality that many won’t understand,

A reality that sometimes throws me off balance,

A reality that has impacted greatly on my world outlook,

Hurtful words I have been told, ‘you are damaged goods…’, ‘you are loose you are not a virgin at your age?’, ‘Pull yourself together, rape isn’t anything out of this world because almost every woman’s first sexual experience is rape,’ ‘Forgive and forget and move on, you are dwelling too much on the past,’

Words from people that are ignorant of the inherent pain I am living with every day …

I have had to suck it all up in , it has killed me but I am glad I have found my voice,

A voice that will never be taken away from me…

 

Lived my life shrouded in so much pain and hurt,

Longing to be normal was my everyday dream,

Until I realised that my pain and hurting was my authentic normal and I had to use it to change many lives…

With this newfound voice I will talk until I see the change I hope to see,

Scars are still there but they keep reminding me of the wars and battles I have been through and now I look at myself as a victor, a wounded warrior…

Smiling hides the pain within but this pain has helped me grow and become a better version of me.

I have come to know and understand rape is about power and priviledge,

Instead of blaming myself for it, I now understand I did nothing to deserve being raped

It wasn’t my fault but the RAPIST’s…

 

I am a victor whose pain and hurt will be driven towards changing the lives of many…

I honour and embrace that young self who was traumatised to shape me into the person I am today,

I cherish my new found voice and I will never be silent about that defining night,

I choose happiness above all else…

 

Running-pathway to reclaiming my life

I have wished all my life if I could undo some of the experiences I have had so I can lead a normal life and feel how a normal life feels. This has been my wish for time immemorial but again experience has shown me that this is a fallacy. I hit lows and highs. The lows can be so unbearable that death seems to be the only scapegoat. The lows sink me in a dark hole where all hope slips under my feet. Running has attempted to change this. When I started running all I wanted was to be fit and healthy but it has been an amazing, fulfilling, life-birthing running journey.
Of late I have really been stressing as I prepare for the International Capetown Two Oceans Marathon. Am I going to finish my race in under 2hours 30minutes and get that bronze medal. I don’t want an ordinary medal for completion, I want a bronze, I keep telling myself. One of my running mates upon sharing my fears said to me, ‘Tary, the mere fact of being at that starting line you are already a winner. Even if you don’t get the bronze medal you are gunning for, you are a winner’. This is very true and sensible but the competitor in me keeps reminding myself how much of a failure I would be if I cannot get a bronze medal. The insurmountable pressure this has been putting on me has made me look deep within myself and search why I am running and what benefits I have been deriving from running without destructively focusing on that bronze medal.
Let me confess I am no elite runner; in fact I just put one leg in front of the other. When we started the year I dedicated all my runs to rape and sexual violence survivors using hush tags #run for hope, #hope for rape and sexual violence survivors. I guess many wonder when they see these hush tags every time I post my runs. I did this so I could never give up as giving up meant I was failing all the survivors who are silenced by both society and their assailants and suffer in solitude. I have survived rape, molestation, sexual harassment a couple of times in my life. I have cursed myself, blamed myself for all of these encounters. I have had so much shame all my life. I have hated myself all my life. I have wished I was born male. I have lived a life of pretence that all is ok and yet deep down under that smile and laugh is so much pain and hurting. I have looked at my life and told myself, there is no way that can be my life, it is not believable I have told myself. I have lived in denial, running away from myself. How can all those experiences happen to one person? I have convinced myself that I am cursed, what other explanation could befit such experiences by one person. I have told myself that it was a mistake that I was born because it seems from birth God had already turned his back on me. At times I sleep hoping to wake up dead or atleast with a different identity, one that I can celebrate.
Running is that one magical thing that has been helping me unlock much of my life that has been trapped for a long time. I hope this helps someone out there and PLEASE I DO NOT WANT TO BE PITIED. I have pitied myself all my life and now even though I am still work in progress I am a survivor and I view myself as a warrior back from war with scars that are a revelation of the feisty and strong person I am. I have chosen to remind myself that I do not necessarily need a medal, if I get it , it will be a bonus. I have never been a runner and from being overweight and not being able to run 400m to running 21km even at a snail’s pace, that in and of itself deserves to be celebrated. I have decided to focus on why I have vowed never to stop running even though it is so hard. I always laugh with some coallegues that when I run it is just a circus starring 1 actress-yours truly, I cry(real tears), I curse, I talk to myself, I ask myself why I am torturing myself, I even promise myself never to do it again. Funny thing after the run I feel so satisfied, I feel I am in control of my life, I feel like I have found diamond mines and I own them. It will be an over the top moment where I feel like a conqueror. Running has given much meaning to my life. I always say 9 out of 10 times running is the only thing that makes sense in my life.
Running has helped me confront all my baggage, deal with it especially during long runs, come to a resolve in some instances, find answers to some of the issues, get closure at times. Running has unravelled and opened that hidden Pandora box. I vividly remember this other 21km race organised by Harare Athletics Club. I cried half the distance. For the record, crying is almost like a ritual for most of my runs as it is an emotional process for me. I say if it gets tough and feel I cannot run it any more I will cry the race through. On this particular run my coach was pacing me, I burst into tears, not that silent streaming of tears, NO , that loud cry. I could not hold it back, I failed. As I went up an incline and I was psyching myself up I lost it. I started hearing all the voices I have been told by my assailants during the attacks. My head started playing up with me. I started having flashbacks of when I was raped and I was so powerless and my life depended on the mercy of my assailants. I tried to silence the voices but the more I silenced them the louder they became. I could not take it anymore. It was too much for me. I remembered how all my life I had been fighting to be ‘normal’. My coach asked me to stop and get into one of the cars. I thought about it and told myself my assailants had conquered me before but not this time. I was going to be a conqueror so I ran, on and on crying and wiping those tears off. I ran and was the last one. At the finishing line I was exhausted but I felt excited that indeed I had overcome and had managed to take full control of my life.
Countless times I have been told to forgive and forget, to pray, to move on but all this I have come to understand are just words and phrases put together. It is easier said than done. I have attempted to commit suicide countless times in my life but ever since I started running I have not attempted to take my own life. It does come to my mind sometimes but I have managed to quieten it and not pay attention to it. Running indeed has given me another lease to life and I do not take it for granted which is why I swear by running. If i am really stressed out or someone rubs me the wrong way and I probably cannot for one reason or the other tell them I just deal with it as I pound the road, afterwards that person and incident is history, dead and buried.
I truly understand why victims are called survivors because indeed after coming face to face with fear as the abuse unfolds, enduring all the trauma and still being able to face another day deserves a salutation and I do salute those survivors I meet in my everyday work.
Running has been the tool I have actively used in my journey to rediscovery. When I am running I am in cloud nine and there is never a better place to find myself. When for one reason or another I do not run for 3 continuous days my feet itch that is why wherever I go I take with me my running shoes. I could forget something else but never my running shoes. They are my lifeline. With running I have discovered inner strength I never knew I had. I have embraced myself in totality. I have a split personality and I always suppressed my introverted side but now I am so in love with that introverted person. I enjoy my personal space in a way I never did before. Before my running escapades being alone was a dread, I could not spend time alone, I needed to be with someone else. Now I can literally spend the whole weekend in my house alone after my run obviously and not feel lonely. It is amazing how I have grown so much in love with myself. Every run boosts the feel good hormones which has immensely contributed to the esteemed self love. Running has made me appreciate ME. After a gruesome run one can only tap one’s shoulder and silently say , ‘you are a conqueror’ and that reminds me always that I truly can do anything under the sun that I put my mind to. I am grateful running reminded me of all these qualities I possessed which somehow had been overshadowed by fear, hurt, bitterness and pain.
A greatest attribute that I have, thanks to running is knowing that indeed ‘I run my own race’. I have learnt and mastered that there is absolutely no need to compare myself to anybody because we all have different narratives. I live my life according to me, reminding myself that, ‘I am an original me and not a photocopy’. I am my authentic self living life according to my own dictates in unison with the Universe. When I started running and I would go for time trial runs that are coordinated by Harare Athletics Club, I would look around and see some old men and women and comfort myself that atleast I would not be last and I was always shocked to wits. I would ‘close prayers’. I would always be the last one. When we would start the run I would want to follow the same pace as others and before I knew it I would be worn out, panting. I would forget that I am asthmatic and my chest does take a while to heat up and open up. I realised I was Tariro and had to do what befit Tariro if ever I would enjoy running. That is what I do now, with my new found love TomTom, my running watch I pace myself as per my personal target for the day without succumbing to any pressure. That is what has kept me going, knowing that even if I am last I am running my own race and I am competing with none other than myself aiming to be better than I was before. This trait I have taken it to all spheres of my life, my social, professional and spiritual life and it has made me grow immensely. I always aim to be a better version of myself.
Having been raped by a priest trainee at age 8/9 my spirituality has always been a shaky ground. I must say with running I have managed to have a great relationship with my maker and the Universe, I have managed to redefine my own spiritual beliefs that suit me and make sense to me without being pressured into believing what everyone else around me believes in. I meditate during some of my runs, I have deep conversations with my maker and embrace what the universe throws at me. This has truly enriched my life in a way I could never explain. I have had people force their beliefs and religion left, right and centre down my throat but with running I am a solid spiritual being living my life in unison with the Universe. I would never tread those meditation moments for anything and that is why I prefer to run early in the morning when nature is giving the best life it can ever give fresh and pure.
Running has made me meet awesome beings. Runners are an awesome community of people who have so much love and discipline. I have connected with amazing people locally, regionally and internationally and I will not tread that for anything. The High Flyers team has just been so supportive and are now like family. There are moments when I have really convinced myself that running was not for me but they kept encouraging me and now I am confident to run.
Not so say we can all be runners but its worth giving a try especially if like me and many others you battle with trauma or chronic depression. Progress in running can be so slow, I have thought about throwing in the towel several times but I hang on to it and although progress is slow it is apparent and is not stopping. Running has helped me get my life back, be fit and healthy, gain a sense of self worth and wholeness which was stripped away from me years ago through the violations I experienced in my life. I feel like a new being in every respect and I always say at times I fail to recognise this new Tariro who is so amazing, loves life, fully embraces life with all its ups and downs and loves the self immensely from the bottom of her heart. I love this resilient me, resilience which has always been there but never acknowledged and running reawakened it. Running is my DNA which has reminded me that I am the one who feels and understands the pain I go through and I am the one who will carry the banner of victory at that crossing line and so it applies in my life. I am grateful I was broken and not shattered and with running all the broken pieces are being patched together one by one and new life is being breathed in me. In choosing to share my story I am hoping many will also heal or atleast begin that journey, I hope the blanket of silence around rape is broken, the victim blaming of rape and sexual violence survivors stops and we begin to have conversations that can enrich and improve the healing path for survivors appreciating the far reaching life impacts that such experiences have on survivors. To the universe I am grateful because it saw it fit for me to go through such experiences which have carved me into the passionate advocate for women and children’s rights that I am. As painful as it is I embrace it knowing this is what my soul asked for so that I could impact on other people’s lives.
What happened, happened. Is it painful? Yes, Can I change it? No. I am taking the best of what it has taught me and impacting other people’s lives and I could not have it any other way. My healing is not a destination, it is a journey a journey that has been so fulfilling. Will I be whole tomorrow? Probably not, I am patient with the process and growing with it. Running has been an instrumental pedestal to my healing and I will continue running for hope and life.

My Vows My Responsibility

The issue of adultery damages usually opens up unruly debates which are never conclusive. Married women in most instances pull out daggers protecting their marriages while men are not amused by such stances when their wives sue the ‘other woman’. What always baffles me is that when a man who has been adamant that a woman should not sue a girlfriend of their husband is asked if he should sue for adultery damages from a man who has an affair with his wife they are incensed.
Adultery is when two people have an intimate relationship and one or both of them are married to someone else at that time. Adultery damages are awarded to compensate the injured party. At law they are compensated for two things: Contumelia and lack of consortium. Contumelia is about hurt, pain and indignity that is as a result of the adultery whilst consortium refers to deprivation of things such as sex, loss of love and affection. From the aforegoing adultery damages seem to be awarded for the wayward behaviour of a partner who brings another into their marriage. However adultery damages do not apply to everyone who stays with a ‘husband’. These apply to people who are in a civil marriage popularly known as Chapter 5:11 previously known as Chapter 37, In this kind of a marriage both the man and the woman can sue for adultery damages. In all other marriages that we call marriages only the man has the prerogative to sue for adultery damages because all these regimes are potentially polygamous.
In essence the law on adultery damages makes the courts the gatekeeper to marriages as they play a pivotal role in preserving the marriage institution by punishing those that are promiscuous and intend to cause havoc within the institution. Those that ‘steal’ married persons from their partners are duly punished and this seems to be in tandem with the provision of the Zimbabwe Constitution of 2013 which in section 25 calls upon the state to protect and foster the family institution.
This begs the question who should uphold the sanctity of a marriage? It is important to reemphasise at this juncture that only the third party is sued for adultery damages. The ‘intruder’ is punished by law for knowingly invading and destroying a successful marriage. Were it not for the intruder’s actions the marriage would have been perfect. Who should adhere to the terms of a marriage contract? Is it society? Is it the two parties to the contract like in any other contract? In all fairness a marriage is a contract between 2 parties who commit to love each other exclusively. Suing a third party for the breakdown of a marriage shifts the responsibility from the cheating spouse who is guilty of failing to adhere to the terms of a marriage contract which he willy nilly signed. An analogy that quickly comes to mind would be if one fails to pay their rentals because they have not been paid at their workplace can the landlord sue the employer? They cannot simply because their tenant’s employer was never a part to the agreement of lease. It then boggles one’s mind how a person who was never party to a marriage contract can be sued for a contract she did not agree to.
Adultery damages seem to suggest that a husband or wife who is very sound in the mind could not prevent themselves from being ‘stolen’ as it were. When there is infidelity there is no doubt that some violation has been committed. The bone of contention is who is punishable for the violation. The most logical conclusion would be that the person who has to be liable is the person who knowing of the contract that they have tied themselves to- a contract which disallows them from engaging in an intimate relationship with anyone else ‘till death separates’ them should be punished for breach of contract. The adultery damages currently shifts blame to a third party for ‘leading astray’ a committed person who had no mens rea to be infedile.
It is important to reflect on the vows that married people make to each other when they are getting married. When people get married they promise each other eternal love. They say, ‘I XXXX take you XXXX to be my lawfully wedded wife/husband. To have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times Till Death Do Us Part. I choose you , forsaking all others…’ When one party fails to keep their vows they should be liable because they have violated the contract they swore by. Why is the third person always asked to single handedly pay for the atonement at the exemption of their accomplice? Is it not that the most guilty person is the one who walked away their marriage and brought in a third party.
Society seems to be in a quagmire. When a man has married and he has another girlfriend in most instances his family approves of it. On the other hand the same society will bash the girlfriend for being a home wrecker. Looking at single women they find themselves stuck in between a hard place and a rock. They live in a society that asks women to be attached to a man and belong to some man. There is so much pressure for single women of age to get married and yet the national statistics clearly reflect that there is a lesser percentage of men. Where do they get single men to get married to? Another twist to this is culturally polygamy is acceptable as a way of life for most men. When you hear people talk about men that have multiple wives, they are referred to as, ‘Bulls’, showing that they are strong and ‘real’ men. More so the phenomenon of the so called, ‘small houses’ seem to have been normalised and to some extent acceptable.

688571-husband-having-a-fight-with-his-wife-he-argues-she-has-a-lover-is-that-true
There is no doubt that a partner who has made vows of commitment to their partner and is living true to their word will be deeply hurt when their partner violates their agreement. The issue is so how does this innocent party get compensated? If an innocent party finds the adultery irreconcilable with a continued marriage relationship they have an option of divorce. The Marriage Act sets out adultery as one of the grounds for divorce. Adultery damages can never restore a failing marriage. It then seems melodramatic to ask a third person to pay for adultery damages and yet the guilty party is left unscathed. I would in my humble opinion say that shifting the blame to a third party absolves the adulterous partner of any responsibility and undermines their agency in this act. The adulterous partner is treated like a child or a person with a mental disability who has no capacity to make sound informed decisions. The assumption is were it not for this third party the adulterous partner would not have violated their marriage vows. This in my opinion is far fetched. Another way of looking at it is that partners in a marriage become each other’s property which should not be defended by law. How can human beings be denigrated to property?
A third party to a marriage should be absolved from any responsibility in the breakdown of a marriage because she never agreed to the terms of the married couple’s marriage. The restrictions placed on those that are married were never at any point placed on this third party. A marriage by its nature requires the married partners to behave in a certain way and not the whole world which is why in the vows there is no obligation that is placed on the whole of society. Honestly if married people have to heavily rely on the law providing for adultery damages to keep their marriage intact and scare away intruders then that is an appalling marriage because there is no trust in the love that these two people have for each other to keep them together. The threat for adultery damages can never keep an otherwise shaky marriage intact and believing that adultery damages can act as a deterrent for people to pursue adulterous relationships is stretching it too far.

The act of suing for adultery damages is a grave attempt to shift the blame for the breakdown of a marriage to a third party who is in no way a party to the marriage. The third party is blamed but the blameworthy spouse is unpunished and nothing can stop them from doing it again because the root cause of their infidelity was never addressed and they were never punished for their misconduct.
In conclusion adultery damages will in no way help in preserving the marriage institution because the guilty party will not reform as they are not punished for their acts. A marriage which in all fairness is intact can never be broken down by a third party so the law on adultery damages is archaic and finds no place in today’s society. Parties to a marriage should bear the consequences of their failure to adhere to the set out terms of their marriage without shifting the blame for the failure of their marriage to a third party.
N.B The views contained in this piece are my sole thoughts and are in no way attached to the organisations I work for!!!