By Trevor Makonyonga
The economic woes faced by Zimbabwe have forced many to get out of their ways and embark on life journeys that are more distressful than the act of merely breathing. As if struggling for breath is not enough, the rise of survival discrepancies in most Zimbabweans’ lives is alarming as they will do anything to see through the day. People will sell anything to survive; from underwear to toiletries to their bodies. Of such people who have survived by putting more than their lives on the line to survive is Sandra.
Sandra (not real name) has an exceptional story of the realities of survival and the livelihood of the lowest classes in Zimbabwe. Born in a family of four in a small mining town of Zvishavane to mine workers, the 21 year old young lady says she has seen a lot at her age than her average age mates.
She narrated, “I was born in Zvishavane 21 years ago and I have seen a lot in the short period of my existence than a lot of people. My parents were mine labourers at Shabanie Mine and lost their jobs when I was about 10. As a family, it became an inevitable task for everyone to fend for the family so as to live. I began responsible for my parents when I was just a child.”
Her eyes were filled with tears and her face lit with dull brightness as if to emphasis her ordeal. The eloquence in her speech during screamed inward voices of extreme pain but her body expression paraded some form of ineffable strength that is admirable.
“When parents lost their jobs, I automatically dropped out of school and started working in a shop for an old family friend. I loved my parents so much that I would not abandon them like what my two older siblings had done.
My siblings left for Botswana and never communicated. So I had to take up responsibility. Almost 2 years had working in the shop that one day I was thinking and in my mind I realised I was making less money.” She continued.
“I was obviously naïve, so I stole money from my employers and left a little to my parents and fled to Masvingo. My employers were good people they never reported me to the police. So I started my life in Masvingo at 14 as a vendor. Vending aggravated to selling my body. The transition was so sudden to notice. I just found myself a prostitute.” Sandra said.
Sandra also shared how she survived a life threatening abortion and how she was unlucky in relationships. She also that her life symbolised the lives of many young women in Zimbabwe.
“I was fresh on the market so I attracted many customers. This is the same as many shuttered voiceless girlsin Zimbabwe. Reality was to catch up with me when I fail pregnant at 15. Not knowing the father of my child made me die inside. To date I am in regret. I was going to be a mother and was not ready. So I went for abortion. In this country abortion is not allowed so I did this under the advice of some old lady a friend referred me to. I almost died but miraculously both the kid and I were safe.
“At 16 I was a mother, with no clue of how to survive. I got involved with a married man just sail through the storm but the relationship was more draining than it was refreshing. So I left him and replaced him with a robber. I did not know he was a robber when we first met. He believed in me so much that he convinced me to go to school which I did.” She said.
She took time to share how transformation in her life started.
“When I was 18, just after sitting for my O’ Level exams I got jailed for obstruction of justice as I tried to save my boyfriend. He is still in jail and will only be out in 20 years’ time. He urged me to seek Christ before he went to jail which I did. My pastor takes care of my son right now and after being in prison for a year I have a lot to give back to the community. I have gone back to Zvishavane and apologised to my ex-employers and have seen my mother.
I was heartbroken to learn of my father’s passing. I will be sitting for my A’ Levels soon. I am fighting my bitterness and I am succeeding. Though I am struggling to get over my former lifestyle, I am glad that I am well equipped now as I am working now. I have gone through a lot to give up on life.”
Sandra is one of the few women who gather courage to recollect pieces of their past and make sense of the senseless. She is living strong in somewhere in Harare currently.