MSC stories, focus group discussions and key informant interviews feedback
In an attempt to assess ZWLA’s effectiveness in the lives of women and the communities at large, data were collected from legal aid clients and community education participants. This information was gathered through most significant change stories and focus group discussions. Data collected reveals that ZWLA’s activities are changing women’s lives in a positive way. This was evidenced from focus group discussions and most significant change stories told by women who had received legal aid from ZWLA. Below are 2 most significant change stories collected from legal aid clients in Bulawayo.
Most significant Change Story 1
Fadzai Madhaka aged 31, a ZWLA client whose divorce case was recently completed was pleased to share her experiences and how ZWLA helped her. This is how she narrated her story………….
“The assistance that I got from ZWLA was on matrimonial issues, I think I’m that person who had many issues, I had a maintenance case, protection order and a divorce. I grew up in conservative family; I was a church girl and a typical good girl who got into marriage expecting the best. I met my husband when we were working for the same organisation. We were in love at that time and we had a nice white wedding. When I was right into the marriage that was when I realised that good things don’t always happen to good people. My husband turned out to be an abusive partner and very irresponsible. In the whole duration of our marriage we never really stayed together. He worked in Beitbridge and I was based in Bulawayo. He made me stay with his parents and I wasn’t really happy there. I went out of my way to please people, to please him and to please my in-laws. He was irresponsible and couldn’t support the family though he had a good job. So I ended up being the one taking care of the family while he was busy having a good time with his money.
The main issue that led to the demise of our marriage was infidelity. It was a sad thing to hear that he’s seeing someone and in such situations you start asking yourself questions like is there something wrong with me that is making him go to someone else, it really destroys your ego and self-confidence and that is exactly what happened to me. What made it worse was that even the lady that he cheated with was also working for the same organisation we worked for. They were both based in Beitbridge. Everyone at work was talking about the affair and naturally, you are the last person to know about it. They even had a child together and our children were born in the same year. It was like at the time I was busy breastfeeding he was also busy impregnating some else. It was really a bad experience. There was a lot of fighting and abuse, we were in and out of the police stations and court rooms, we had a rollercoaster marriage and within the same year of our marriage we were already filing for divorce. I was miserable but because it was a new marriage and I was raised up in a background that said marriage is for keeps, I had to hang in that marriage. I couldn’t even contemplate divorce.
Telling my aunts about the problems wasn’t helpful in anyway as they advised me to put up saying we will get used to each other, all men are like that and I should learn to be patient and forgiving. So eventually I moved out from the in-laws place and found my own place and he wasn’t happy with that. He told me out rightly that since I have moved out it meant the end of our marriage. He even stopped calling to find out how the child was doing, that’s when I decided to go for maintenance. ZWLA assisted me and I got $250 per month which was good at the time. Although it was a good move, it also made matters worse because he thought since he was giving me his dollar he could do anything that he wanted with me, so he would come to my place, beat up and even in the streets. Everyone in the block of flats I lived knew us because of the fights we had. My flat always had broken windows and doors from the fighting. At one time we were in the newspapers regarding the violence and the beating I got from him. One incident I vividly remember was when he brutally hit me because he was angry that I had a new phone. He probably thought someone had bought that phone for me. We were at his parent’s place and he beat me in front of his siblings and other family members. He wasn’t happy with the maintenance that he was made to pay and at one time he came and took the child from me to his parents and the boy was only 6 months old. I came back to ZWLA and got a protection order.
Although I had a protection order I would still allow him in my home and only when he got violent I would rush to the police to report him for breaching the protection order and then he would get arrested. In all the occasions I had reported him for breaching the protection order I would later feel pity for him and go back to the police to get him out of the cells. The reason I would allow him in my home and feel pity for him when he’s arrested was I felt I didn’t want to deny my son time with his father, as someone who also came from a broken home I told myself I didn’t want my son to grow up the same way I did. Eventually he filed for divorce as a self-actor (with no lawyer to represent him) and I consented. Although there was consent the divorce took about 3 years to be concluded. This was because we didn’t agree on the sharing of property. We didn’t have much property since we had not been married for a long time but yet he wanted us to share everything in half including things like teaspoons and kitchen utensils which were largely wedding gifts from my mum, relatives and friends. He then went quiet and stopped filing papers for some time. He however went on to have another wedding the same marriage chapter as mine (chapter 5.11) which does not allow 2 wives and that was a criminal offence. I heard the news about the wedding before it transpired and people were actually saying I should go with my marriage certificate and stop the wedding. I asked myself some questions: do I still love this guy? What do I gain from stopping his wedding? Our marriage is long over and what will I benefit from stopping the wedding? I made peace with it and allowed the wedding to take place. I came to ZWLA for assistance in the divorce processing and at that time he was serious too, so he got a lawyer to represent him.
Our divorce was finalised 5 months after his second wedding. He pays maintenance although he’s not consistent. I lost my job and I have since moved back home where I don’t pay rentals. I’m trying to make the best for my child and at one time I wanted to go back to the maintenance court to resolve the issue of his arrears but frankly the court is not a place you want to visit frequently, court processes take long to be resolved and the people who work there are sometimes hostile. All these factors inhibit women from taking action and claiming their rights. The assistance I got from ZWLA was immense and besides being assisted legally, of note was the empowerment aspect I got. I got to know and affirm my rights. I became more assertive and even if I come across someone going through what I went through at that time, I’m in a better position to assist them and give advice based on the assistance I got from ZWLA. I can refer people for services. Throughout all this drama, trouble and pain I went through, I emerged stronger, more assertive and with increased knowledge of my rights. I read the newspapers about women who are abused and yet put up with that and are sometimes eventually murdered by men and I realise that I made the right decision to give up that marriage. From the assistance I got from ZWLA I’m better able to talk to other women in similar situations, I share my story and I blog. If ZWLA has a newsletter I’m very much willing to write an article about my story for publication”.