WHEN my parents died, I no longer had a happy day in my life. I found myself always crying. When my father died I moved from Zvishavane, where I had grown up and been schooled to form three, to stay with my aunt in Harare.
My aunt had a very large family, and this was to be a major source of my troubles. Resources were scarce, and almost every one lashed out at me in frustration. I fortunately got help from the Basic Education Assistance module (BEAM). They paid my fees and I passed my O levels.
After my O levels, I went to stay with my grandfather Peter in the rural areas. Things there were difficult for me, but I persevered. I spent an unproductive 2005, because my grandfather said he had no funds to send me to A level.
Luckily I got sponsored by another donor, and again passed with distinctions. Sadly, my uncle told me I was not going to varsity because of limited funds, and he had done enough in my life. The year 2008 breezed by, and I was sitting idle at home.
I fell in love with Mike, and he paid lobola for me, so we got married in 2009. I got pregnant, and at three months I went for an HIV test. When the results came I nearly died of shock to find I was HIV-positive. It took me time to come to terms with this. My husband was then a teacher in Bulawayo, and I was worried about breaking the news to him. I had sleepless nights and lost weight.
I was still deliberating on how to tell him when he stumbled upon my medical card. He calmly said he was also going to get tested at the New Start Centre. At first things did not change in our relationship. What nagged me was that he never allowed me to visit him at his workplace. He said there was no accommodation for married couples, and transport was difficult.
When the child was one-and-a-half years old, my husband said he no longer loved me, because I was about to die. I cried my lungs out, but that did not move him. I was deeply aggrieved when he said I was to leave the baby behind and go. My world came tumbling down, as my son was the love of my life, and he was HIV-negative. It was the most traumatic experience ever.
I decided to go back to my grandfather, Peter. He blamed me for the failure of my marriage, as I was 'too docile'.
Life was unbearable, and it was difficult to show my face in the village. When people laughed at their private jokes I thought they were laughing at me. Everyone in the village knew my HIV status. My grandfather started calling me names, and this was extended to my son Craig. When I spoke to my son in his vernacular Ndebele, my uncle would start shouting, saying it was inappropriate.
That became the sad tale of my life. I was abused emotionally. My grandfather refused to eat the food I prepared, or even touch things I had used, saying I was on my deathbed.
Mike had promised to take care of Craig, but sent nothing towards his upkeep. If I called he said I should send Craig to him.
When I heard of Musasa I approached them for help. I saw no future for me, but in my sessions with them they told me I should stand up for my rights. Through the sessions I realized that my life was not as gloomy as I had thought.
Peter's taunts and histrionics no longer fazed me. When he saw I had developed resilience, he started accusing me of being a bad influence on my younger relatives. When he learnt that I was connected to Musasa the situation became worse. He assaulted my grandmother, and she reported him to the police. Interestingly, I was accused of inciting my granny's behaviour because of Musasa.
When someone came home late it was said to be my fault because of my influence. This angered me, and I decided to move away. My grandfather said he was happy with my decision, as he had wanted me to leave his homestead. I went to stay with his younger brother, who is a pastor, and I started a new life.
I went to court for maintenance of my baby, and was successful, as Mike was ordered to pay $80 a month. Mike and his father demanded to take the baby, so that they would not have to pay maintenance. When they failed to stop me they demanded the lobola back, but that hit a brick wall as well.
I went to Musasa with the latest developments and the organisation provided me with a lawyer free of charge. My sessions at Musasa strengthened me mentally and emotionally.
Mike withheld the medical aid card, although the court had told him not to do so. I sent him a text message informing him I was going back to court. That frightened him, and he later surrendered the card. He also promised to add another $20, which he paid for only one month.
Now things are fine, because Mike is contributing to the care of his child, and I am working as a relief teacher to help out. I have a passport that enables me to do cross-border trading, and I expect to advance my education, after which I also look forward to getting a good job.
*Not her real name.
Memory lives in Zimbabwe. This story is part of the "I" Stories series produced by the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence.