Vongayi Mashingaidze is a nature-loving single mother of three, two boys and one girl. She enjoys cooking, dancing, travelling and loving other people. She is dedicated to community work and strongly believes in the power of togetherness. This is her story in her own words.
My relationship with my ex-husband was my second relationship. I dated him for four years with no red flag until I got pregnant. He had a wife in the rural areas and his family was very secretive about it. When I eloped to his house, we had to have a family meeting with family members. The meeting took three hours to start, but everyone was around. People were very hesitant to sit down and talk about what seemed to me like a good thing.
So finally, the family met in the evening. When this lady entered the room, there was an uncomfortable energy that accompanied her. She was introduced as the first wife. She had arrived late afternoon that very day, hence the delay for the meeting to start.
It was an unbearable blow for me, and my whole world shattered when I learnt it. I wanted to run away from it all.
The dark cloud that I felt never left me since then. [My ex] just suddenly changed from being the sweet guy to [being] the worst. He wanted us both as his women. He was taking his first wife back after she had left for three years.
I became a maid instead of a wife. [I] was staying with his sisters. He never cared for me [or] our unborn baby. My first child stayed with my family. I was torn…right to my core. I couldn’t help myself.
I was raised by a hardworking woman who believed more in working hard than anything else. So I wanted to get away from all the extreme poverty that I felt trapped me. Seventeen people [were] living in one room with a new-born baby. I couldn’t find a better way to nurse my baby except outside. So I wanted to leave the place.
But leaving was not easy. I [would] think of my first failed relationship with a baby, then this one. What would people think of me? What would my brothers say? What [would] my friends say about this? How [would] I associate with my neighbours, my classmates? It was all about other people – nothing about me.
I noticed red flags when I was already in the situation. I was not supposed to stay, endure and have another child with this man. But the thing of ‘other people’ tied me to this unwanted, unyielding toxic relationship.
My ex-husband’s family members did not have good relations with his first wife. He did surprise them by taking her in after three years [of] being away. She was an unwanted woman by all her in-laws. So at first, this kind of brainwashed me, but it did not heal me, neither did it make our man hate her. Instead, he was obsessed with her. Every weekend, he would buy her an outfit whilst I was starving, staying with aunties and babamuninis (uncles). He failed to provide basic necessities for his child, which made his priorities clear.
When asked how she dealt with the situation, Vongayi had the following to say:
So thinking of being self-reliant I sold some of my clothes and resumed cross-border trading. I felt I could stay away from them, thinking my ex-husband would change his ways towards me, but this was all in vain. [This] never happened. He never came to sleep over. I could foot all the bills alone: rent, food, everything.
I ran away from him to Botswana. He followed me and brought me back. My family told me to quit, but I couldn’t leave him. [I was] still thinking about other people.
I got pregnant again. After giving birth, nothing changed between us, and then I almost broke down. It was extreme, and my family took me back home and nursed me [back].
Gradually, I began to start feeling like I was wasting my time. Time passed by, and when my family took me back home, it was temporary. I went back, but there was a little shift in my mind, heart and body. I wanted to leave. To be very far away from this.
I looked for accommodation in one of the cheapest suburbs I could find (Epworth in Harare). I had to go to his workplace for food. But at times, I [would] miss him. I engaged myself in a lot of activities, especially buying and selling. This reduced my pressure on him. I became busy and focused on sustainability. Then he would wonder why I wasn’t going to ask for anything from him. Gradually, I began to focus on self (self-love) and kids. I had deteriorated to the point of not buying myself anything, no self-care or love. He grew jealous.
Vongayi told The Weight She Carries that because of her change in lifestyle, her now ex-husband began accusing her of infidelity and would always come and check on her and the kids. Her decision to love herself made regain her confidence and eventually she wanted to know who she really was.
I attended a “Young Women are Medicine” workshop at Kufunda Village and a lot shifted. I then began to feel the need and hunger to know my purpose or calling. This energy or awareness led me to connect with my inner self…I started exploring and loving myself more than ever. I was no longer desperate for him.
I changed location, even my lifestyle. I am regaining my confidence gradually. I finally left him in 2007, after telling him that this relationship is not good for me. I did this in a very humble, respectful manner. I engaged his sister and uncle. He was not cooperative.
So for every step I took, I [would] notify our mediators that if he does not respond by such a day, I will do X. If I get to X, I will move on to Y, then Z when I applied for maintenance and it’s on garnishee order. He is also paying school fees for both the children.
I never stopped communicating with him about children’s issues. I can interact with other people in respectful manner. I feel this is also giving me the opportunity to awaken more love for my children and my circles around me.
Some of my key achievements were self-improvement and being in a position where I can love and value myself. It’s continuously unfolding a lot of untapped idle energies in my life from within.
I can now say ‘yes’ when I really mean it or ‘no’ without regrets. I feel I am growing more grounded because I am getting to know myself better. With tears in my eyes, I can now look at myself in the mirror and afford to smile at myself and rise up again.