I feel humbled and honoured to write about my mom`s dedication for her children in times of hardships. I was brought up from “poor family” that appears not to be poor due to my mother`s hard working. My father was a busi-nessman after spending a number of years working in South Africa he managed to have a hotel and a shop.
Unfortunately the wealth he had acquired was swallowed up by his drinking beer and mismanagement of the funds. He would not pay fees or spend his money on fam-ily expenses but on “outsiders”. The raring of chickens and gardening made my mother to have enough financial support us. Seviria (my beloved mother) started experiencing domes-tic violence despite her hardworking just after her marriage until she had her first grand child of her fourth daughter.
It is my mother`s un-bearable life experience that motivated me to choose such a topic as a dissertation (The role of Culture and the Roman Catholic Church on HIV and AIDS among the Shona Manyika women in Manicaland Zimbabwe.). My late mother who used to be beaten by my father for no apparent reason, or for small things such as putting too much salt in the vegetables or when she differed from him in any way.
I am told that there were many occasions when my mother’s brothers, especially uncle Evaristo, came to our home wanting to take her back. But, thinking of her children, she would refuse. I am told that one time she was beaten up and was left almost half dead and was taken to the hospital by some well-wishers. It is reported that when she was discharged from the hospital her brothers came and took her to their home.
There they forbad her to go back to her husband, saying, “Enough is enough, you will not go!!!” So my mother had to escape. The main reason for her running away from the place of “safety” to a “dangerous” place of in-justice and inequality was her concern for her children. (“This is has always made cry hate my father”) Thanks be to God that it was before the era of HIV and AIDS pandemic.
I am sure the situation could have been worsened. Again may I say that if it were not for the resil-ience and commitment of most women, about three-quarters of our families would have bro-ken up in Africa and beyond. In this situation
one would not hesitate to say that poverty is a breeding ground for gender violence both in culture and the Church.
Perhaps most of the well off people whom we now see around would not be holding those high positions if their mothers had not chosen to suffer for them and rather than taking the easy and comfortable way out. Consequently, I humbly admit that my mother was one of those women who were totally dedicated to their family. If she were one of those women who throw their babies into toilets, she would not have endured the pain of forcing herself back to the family where her “enemy” was. It was through her resilience and love of her children that she finally managed to convert my father who eventually become a staunch Catholic. It would be unjust for me not to mention the big role that was played by aunt Sr Mary (who is also a Carmelite nun). She would play the mediation and peace building role rooted on our Catholic teachings in many times of conflict between my mother and father as well as between my father and my mother`s relatives who were encouraging separation of my parents due to domestic vio-lence. Saying “enough is enough, let them separate”. This life of brutality and misery was the fate of most of the women in my village and this has inspired me to have a research on this topic as a contribution to women`s libera-tion and empowerment.
It is true that this sort of an attitude is chang-ing slowly owing to many different activists who are fighting for gender equality. I believe that education rooted in the gospel mandate is also contributing to this small change, as mentioned by Uchem (2001). In addition, the outstanding works by African theologians have contributed to reducing the cases of violence against women in homes.
The Circle has provided some penetrating and informative reflections on women’s vul-nerability to HIV and AIDS, as well as under-scoring the impact of cultural and theological factors on this.
Ayanga (2016) explains the origin of the Cir-cle. It was started in 1989 in Accra, led by Mercy Amba Oduyoye. It aimed to be the voice of the African Christian women “at the grassroots level”. It is through this informa-tion that the researcher learned that African women have the potential to be leaders when given the chance. The Circle had voice-less African women at its heart and it wanted to liberate and empower African women. Its work is not confined to one place, as it is for all voiceless women in Africa. The Circle works in collaboration with the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians, to bring African women out into the open. (Ayanga, 2016). Its vision and mission is to be the voice of African women through research and publications.
Consequently, I am inviting more women to join the Circle and work towards the emanci-pation of African women. Ayanga (2016) points out that for many years African women in religion and culture have not been participating in the growth of theology. For Ayanga (2016), voicelessness is a horrible disease. Others say that individuals who keep quiet are incomplete. This statement challenged the researcher, and is meant to be a challenge to everyone to break the silence by getting involved. The journey towards Af-rican women’s emancipation and freedom for African women will benefit everyone. Both African women religious and the laity suffer the bondage of inequality and injustice. But research and publications can become the
voice of the voiceless in academia and in soci-ety (Ayanga, 2016). The Circle was born at the time when HIV and AIDS was also having its impact. When was discovered that HIV and AIDS was mostly targeting women and chil-dren the Circle was instituted to rescue women. Oduyoye and the Circle carried out outstanding work together with Dube and others. notes Books and articles by Dube (2009) have contributed to the work of the Circle theology (Ayanga, 2016).
Ayanga (2016) further states that women in the Church are only the recipients of theol-ogy: they do not create a theology that is rooted on their own experiences. It is true that women’s voice is often not heard. The most visible activities in the Church are done by men. However, behind the scenes these activities are led by women, but their involve-ment is unnoticed. African women studying theology are advised to work together to solve these problems. Many mothers are in deep sorrow seeing their children leaving home in search of work and being made slaves or sex toys for their bosses. As a result of Zim-babwean economic hardships some of the country’s fine young women search for em-ployment outside their country. At a public seminar at Arrupe Jesuit University on 14 March 2018 young Zimbabwean women shared their story of mistreatment in Kuwait in search of employment. They narrated a horrific tale that showed the power of rich and influential people who take advantage of those deprived of resources. May I sadly say that Zimbabwe right now has become a hunt-ing ground for desperate women who are sinking in deep poverty. The Circle has man-aged to be the voice of non-Christians relig-ions. As there are many faith communities the Circle needs to be more rooted in ecumenical matters and accommodate Islamic and Afri-can traditional values and their attitudes. The writer equally wishes to contribute towards research and publications to add value to re-search on women’s voice in important issues that affect them.
Owusu-Ansah (2016) points out that it was by getting in touch with the ecumenical move-ment that Oduyoye made contact with Isabel Johnson of the All Africa Conference of Churches Women’s Desk, and Daisy Obi of the Christian Council of Nigeria, who was di-rector of the Institute of Church and Society, and organised the first conference of All Afri-can Women in Theology in 1980. According to Owusu-Ansah (2016) the problems that are faced by African women in today’s situation emanate from issues of power and authority.
Some taboos, norms and laws do not allow women to be involved in some activities. If these issues are addressed African women will be liberated and empowered (Kilonzo and Mugwagwa, 2009; Manyonganise and Museka, 2010). It is through the works of these women that I have hope and confidence that women`s liberation and empowerment at hand though challenges still exist. Owusu- Ansah (2016) reminds the reader that the younger current generation of the Circle still faces challenges. They need to continue help-ing the weak to stand up and strengthening those losing hope, as well as undertaking high-level research and publication.
In conclusion I continue saluting my mother who endured suffering for the good of us. If she had chosen to live a happy and comfort-able life I would not be what I am today. As a family we continue cherishing her sacrificial life that has made great things happen to all my brothers and sisters. We have learned a lot of lessons from her. Thus love, selflessness, endurance and forgiveness.
Ayanga, H. O. 2016. “Voice of the Voiceless: The Legacy of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians”, Verbum et Ecclesia, 37, 2.
Dube, M. W. and Kanyoro, M. (eds) 2004. Grant Me Justice! HIV/AIDS & Gender Readings of the Bible. Geneva: WCC Publications
Dube, M. W. 2009. “HIV and AIDS Research and Writing in the Circle of African Women Theologians, 2002–2006”. In E. Chitando, and N. Hadebe (eds), Compas-sionate Circles: African Women Theolo-gians Facing HIV, (173–196). Geneva: World Council of Churches.
Kilonzo, S. M. and Mugwagwa, J. 2009. “Societal Beliefs, Scientific Technologies and HIV/AIDS in Africa: Facing the Chal-lenge of Integrating Local Communities in Kenya and Zimbabwe”. International Journal of Technology Management and Sustainable Development, 8, 3, 249– 264.
Manyonganise, M. and Museka, G. 2010. “Incestuous Child Sexual Abuse in Shona Society: Implications on the Educational Achievements of the Girl Child”, Zim-babwe Journal of Educational Research, 22, 2, 226–241.
Owusu-Ansah, S. 2016. “The Role of Circle Women in Curbing Violence against Women and Girls in Africa”. Verbum et Ecclesia 37, 2, a1594.
Uchem, R. 2001. “Overcoming Women’s Sub-ordination in the Igbo African Culture and in the Catholic Church: Envisioning an Inclusive Theology with Reference to Women”. USA: dissertation.com.