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Addressing Gender Based Violence head-on - story of Ndaziona

Ndaziona’s home for the past one year where she is living with her 3 children

Life was all rosy for Ndaziona (not her real name) when she decided to get married to her husband in 1991. Little did it occur to her that her husband would one day turn into a monster defiling three of his own biological daughters. When the zeal for getting rich got irresistible for her husband, he resorted to traditional doctors for quick riches. He said he was advised to start sleeping with his three daughters as charm for the fulfilment of his long time desire to prosperity.

Although, Ndaziona knew about the issue, she could not report because culture demands that marriage issues be handled with high secrecy. Ndaziona informed her father and mother in laws about it. Surprisingly, they shouted at her saying the issue was a family matter as such it needed to be settled only with her husband within the confines of their patrimonial home.

Her other option was to reveal the traumatising experience to her parents. Little did she know that it would not be any different from her husband’s parents. “They told me to shut up and keep the “issue” to myself. I thought they would understand me being my biological parents” recalled Ndaziona. When Ndaziona reached her boiling point, she decided to report the issue to a member of Kabunduli women forum (community structure established by ACTION AID) who secretly reported the matter to Nkhatabay Police. The husband was arrested and sentenced to 26 years imprisonment with hard labour which was later reduced to 9 years.

Life became a nightmare for Ndaziona and the children immediately after her husband got arrested. The husband’s family geared up to kill her and the three daughters for sending their relative to jail. Ndaziona’s family too scorned her for ironically being stupid by reporting the case. “My father told me to go back and ask for assistance from the NGOs that helped me send my husband to jail. He further told me in the face that there was no land where I could settle because all the land he had belonged to his male children and that the best I could do was to go back to my husband’s place.”
With nowhere to go, Ndaziona secured a small piece of land within her home village to construct a small shelter for herself and her children where she has been living since 2012. With the patrilineal system being practiced in Nkhatabay, efforts by well wishers to construct a permanent house for Ndaziona proved futile as culturally, Ndaziona and her children now belong to her husband’s village.
Little by little, the plight of Ndaziona started to fade away in people’s minds and life continued as normal.

How the agony resurfaced?

Ndaziona’s nightmare came into limelight again through one of the Community Based Educators, Linesi (not her real name) who benefited from a training on gender related laws that was organized by Church and Society Programme (CSP) of the Livingstonia Synod which is implementing a Gender Equality and Women Empowerment Programme with financial support from European Union and UNFPA. Immediately after the training, Linesi remembered the agony of Ndaziona and decided to refer her case to CSP for assistance.

The team from CSP and TA Kabunduli visited Ndaziona in order to establish real facts on the ground and record the case for redress. So far, the project has linked Ndaziona’s family to the Nkhatabay Social Welfare office for immediate interventions on the issue. Discussions are also underway with St Johns of God Centre to provide psych-socio support to Ndaziona’s 3 daughters.
CSP quickly mobilized the media to publicize the plight of Ndaziona so that duty bearers and other GBV response service providers swiftly act on Ndaziona’s case.

Ndaziona now belongs to a group of other 9 GBV survivors mobilized by CSP which will be supported with pig farming as part of economic empowerment. Ndaziona has also been linked to a Village Saving Loan (VSL) group just established in the area. TA Kabunduli has since allocated a piece of land to Ndaziona where community members are now constructing a temporary, but habitable shelter for Ndaziona and her children.