Patience Tarumbwa is a 33-year-old Zimbabwean woman who lives in Bulawayo, the second-largest city in Zimbabwe. She has four children: two boys and two girls.
“My story is an evolving one. Growing up, I witnessed a lot of abuse during my childhood as my parents would always fight physically and verbally. There were times when it was bad such that we would pack up and leave and sometimes we would seek shelter at a neighbour’s house.”
Patience told The Weight She Carries that she still is affected by loud noises and doors banging, fearing the next thing coming is a fight. Despite the abuse, Patience mentioned that she was an A student and very vocal.
“From childhood, I have always wanted to become a lawyer for women and children, and I have always had the advocacy within me. It comes from my childhood as I felt no one spoke for my mother and us as the children. Thankfully, I have managed to work on my dreams after having to go through devastating experiences which affected me. There were many scars I carried. As a child, I was sexually abused, and I could not speak about it as there were already a lot of issues going on at home and I felt [ashamed],” she said.
Patience relocated to South Africa after her O levels for a gap year to figure herself out, but trouble was lurking.
“I met the father of my first child. I was coming from all the brokenness; I wanted to be loved. I was naïve about contraceptives and this resulted in my pregnancy as a teen. In all this, I just wanted to have my child and unconditional love from my child, but things do not work out that way. It became difficult [since] I was having a child as a child, and also in a foreign country. I don’t remember having my youth.”
Patience found herself struggling to provide for her child.
“I faced difficulties as the father was not supportive. I was literally homeless and my faith in God kept me going. My parents decided to take my child [to] Zimbabwe, which was one step ahead for me. However, there was already another man who was interested in me. He was there for me and my son, and I let him in. I got pregnant again. I had baby number two whilst looking after [my eldest]. I just crashed down as I had big dreams but felt [like] a failure,” she said.
Patience gave birth to her second baby at the age of 19. She was now a teen mother of two. She told The Weight She Carries that the father of her second child was there but not there because he was an alcoholic. So, she felt trapped until a guardian angel came to her rescue.
“A family friend took me in and urged me to leave the father of my child because of the life that he was living. He advised me to go back home to Zimbabwe. I was afraid as to how I would face my parents, but he went out of his way and travelled all the way to Zimbabwe to talk to my parents with me. Fortunately, I [was] welcomed back home well,” she said.
Patience recalls hugging her father and he did not let her go, which was different from what she had expected. She’d thought he’d be disgusted and embarrassed of her.
“The whole tradition had to be practised of apologising as per culture, and I was accepted home. So, I stayed home and tried to pull my act together and landed myself a job with the support of my parents.
“After some time, I met my ex-husband in 2009. He was my neighbour, and without healing, grieving and knowing my purpose, I entered into a relationship I had no business entering into. It did not matter what happened after the ‘I dos’ – we were [both] broken and could not be able to heal each other. I got abused emotionally and financially; it was public because of his occupation.
“He cheated a lot and blamed me for the cheating. He told me things like, ‘It’s just sex, and you should have no problem with it as long as I come home to you.’ He also spoke ill of [the] children I had prior to meeting him. I was in foreign countries when I was with him, and I could not work so I was totally dependent on him, and he made me feel that he controlled all money aspects and repeatedly told me I am what I am today because of his money.
“I had two more children from the marriage and after my decision to walk away from the abuse, it resulted in me [being in my] 20s divorced [with] four children. I felt like a mess, but I got to understand that the beauty about hitting rock bottom is that the only way is up. You can’t go further than bottom.”
Patience stated that her divorce was an eyeopener. After the divorce she began working on herself and her faith. She pursued her degree in development studies and realized she could still do what she desired.
“I began to find my voice and my gift. It has not been easy and will not be easy as I have kids that I should take care of, and I am not as flexible as other people since I am the sole breadwinner, but they give me [a] reason to carry on,” she said.
Patience said not only are the financial constraints of being the sole breadwinner challenging, but also the stigma she faces.
“[The] emotional damage [is] due to the labels that I was given with regards to the situation I was in: having children yet not married, being divorced and a single mother in my 30s. It was also the reason why I ended up getting married to my ex: to prove a point that I am also worthy. But I learnt your worth can never be tied down to an item. Your self-worth comes from inside and I had to work on that.
“One of the other challenges is dating where you will be labelled as clingy, [or] desperate, and it becomes a challenge. There is already a perception about you before they get to know you. I have learnt that someone’s opinion about me isn’t my truth.”
Another challenge for Patience comes from raising sons as a single mother when it comes to potty training, sex education, discipline, and other issues.
“[It is] not easy as I play duties of both mother and father. My support system has been my family and church. My mother and sisters have cultivated good relationships with my children.”
As for her biggest accomplishments, Patience simply stated, “Finding my voice again; being able to rise again. I have a business and a foundation. We work a lot with prison inmates and if asked why, I always mention that it is because inmates are not only in the physical prison with four walls we see, but it may be emotional [and] mental. They deal with two prisons, so being there for them enables them to have a certain type of freedom.”
Patience had the following advice for girls in general as well as teen mothers:
“Know that you are valuable and important. Your body is valuable. You do not have to give it away to prove a point. You are full of potential; you should wait till you are in the right setup. If you are waiting to have sex, weigh out the pros and cons and [it] should be done [in] the right setup as sex comes with emotional [consequences].
“For teen mothers, I would like to advise that you have started a beautiful journey. The fact of choosing [to be] a mother means you will accomplish things that will leave a mark in this world as you want to make your children’s lives better. Whichever situation you are in, make the most of it and pick yourself up. If God did it for me, He will do it for you.”
Patience Tarumbwa is currently working on her new podcast “Practising Patience: A Single Mother’s Diary.” She is the vice secretary-general of Zimbabwe Youths in ICT and a member of The Zim Rights in addition to being a motivational speaker and team builder facilitator. She is the founder of Gemstone International Foundation for Transformation G.I.F.T. and director of Tanzanite Pvt Ltd.
You can contact Patience via:
Twitter. @sg_ madam