Strength Redefined: Single Motherhood in Zimbabwe





Zimbabwe gained independence from Great Britain in 1980. Most of the white owned farms were then placed under a “land ownership law” whereby the majority of arable land was left unused and land was repossessed by the military. Only 300 of 4500 farms remain. In a fertile country such as Zimbabwe this had a significant effect on food production as employment. Alongside this, President Mugabe’s “Operation clean the filth” in 2005 destroyed thousands of homes. This was done under the guise of eradicating slums but Mugabe was in fact eliminating the voting demographic for the opposing party. So with thousands of homeless and unemployed citizens, beaten and suppressed by military police Zimbabwe’s society experienced a rapidly sharp decline. It was once a country described by travellers as the “Jewel of Africa” and boasted a stable healthcare and education system. In comparison to other African countries Zimbabwe was relatively prosperous. Watching the documentary “Zimbabwe’s forgotten children” I was horrified at the conditions human beings were living in. There was one young single mother living in an abandoned car with her two month old baby. She had little food and a plastic sheet to protect her from the rain. One mother was dying of AIDS in a slum with her two young children. Her eight year old daughter was taking care of her and her baby sister. They would sometimes go days without eating and have to rely on foreign aid from the USA to survive. These women scrounge, prostitute themselves, beg and go without every single day to keep their children alive. They don’t know what each morning will bring. They have no time to think of a distant future but instead live from sunrise to sunset. Each morning is like a reset button, they are starving again. They have no water again. They are ill again. The woman living in the skeleton of a car considers herself lucky. Motherhood is a struggle. Single Motherhood is a greater struggle. Yet when I watched these women cry because their children were starving and dying I realised that I am rich in every way. I suddenly became grateful for the water in my taps, the heating, the clothes, the ability to take my children to a doctor if they need it. This documentary was far more effective than a UNICEF advert or a leaflet I could pick up and forget about. To see young children speaking of their “heavy hearts” was more than unbearable. An eight year old’s heart should be nothing but happy and joyful. So yes, I will continue to write about the trials and tribulations of single motherhood in a first world country. I will still have bad days. But every time I moan about the kids not eating their food or sleeping properly I’m going to stop myself and be grateful. I’m going to think of these women as I’m in my warm bed with a book. Hopefully one day I can be in a position to help them. Because now, I know the true definition of strong.



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