The following personal story was narrated to The Weight She Carries contributor Ivy Chibanda:
I am not proud of my past, but when I look at young girls today, my wish for them is that they don’t repeat the same mistakes I made. If I could change my past, I would, but I can’t. All I can do is work on my future.
During my teenage years, I became aware of my beauty. I grew into a beautiful teenager, with my breasts budding well, curvy hips and an attractive behind. Walking to school, I attracted every sort of man. And knowing very well how I made them feel, I would flaunt my body in front of them because their comments flattered me. I felt like I was the most beautiful woman in the world, considering the fact that whenever they whistled at me or stopped their cars, they would choose me among my friends.
I lost focus on my studies, never mind the fact that I wasn’t very smart and had to work extra hard in school. My parents tried urging me to focus on my studies, but their words fell on deaf ears.
Men with cars would come and pick me up from school and drop me off near home. It wasn’t long before my mother knew of the mischief I was up to. She was disappointed in me considering what she was going through just to send me and my siblings to school.
Unfortunately, I failed my final high school exams and my mother wasn’t forgiving. She had warned me that if I continued misbehaving I would fail, but I hadn’t listened. She was not even interested in taking me back to school so I could rewrite my examinations. I had wasted my chance and she did not have money to spend on rewriting. She wanted to focus on my siblings. I was distraught.
After a while, I managed to convince her to pay for a secretarial course that wasn’t strict about exam results. I took the 6-month course. I passed the course and my mother’s friend helped me get employment in different companies where I would hold temporary positions.
While working, I became associated with many different men – married men, of course – who would promise me the world. I was blinded by simple things like lunch and money for clothes, and for some reason, I thought that was love.
I never dated a guy my age. For me, they were beneath me. I wanted the older guys. Maybe if I had given some of the younger guys a chance, I would have known what it felt like to be mutually in love.
The married men never bought me the ‘special’ things for nothing in return. I had nothing else to offer other than my own body, and I would willingly give it to them. A little extra stuff and I would agree to unprotected sex.
I fell pregnant at 20, and I couldn’t tell my mother…she would kill me. Worse still, what would the people from church think of me? I had no option but to have an abortion. The guy who was supposedly the father also didn’t want the child because it would affect his marriage, so he sponsored the abortion.
It wasn’t easy but I had to do it. One would think I learnt my lesson, but unfortunately, I didn’t. I continued to see married men. I soon fell for one who seemed to be genuinely in love with me and told me he wanted me to be his second wife. I didn’t like the idea, but I felt that my time for getting married was up, so I agreed. I fell pregnant by him, and when I told him, he seemed happy.
Two weeks later, he slowly started withdrawing from me and I knew that I had been played again. I wasn’t working, I couldn’t afford to raise a child on my own, so I had to risk my life again. I had another abortion. I vowed never to do it again. I prayed for someone who truly loved me. I had to repent.
The cycle continued with me as the other woman, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Sometimes I would find out later that the guy was married.
There came a point when I fell in love with a guy who was two or so years older than me. He loved me, or so I thought. We dated for some time, and again, I fell pregnant. This time, I was not going to abort my baby.
He took responsibility and he was willing to marry me but the money for my bride price was not yet available. When I began to show, I eloped to his home. Things became sour quickly. He was no longer the guy I had fallen for. I wasn’t even living comfortably and so I went back home. I didn’t find a reason to stay with him.
I gave birth to a baby girl, his replica. It was clear this child was his. He was very happy about his baby, especially because she looked like him, but he wouldn’t budge about marriage. So I went back to my mother’s house.
My daughter gave me so much joy and I decided there was no need for me to chase after a man. I now have a decent job and I can afford to take care of my baby, so I decided to move out and live my own life. I decided to rewrite the subjects I failed, and I took up a course which I completed. Now I am working on my diploma and hope I can go as far as getting a degree.
Looking back, I can see that I wasted my time on things that didn’t matter. Things I could have patiently waited for and I would have had plenty at this time. I lost my dignity to men who will not even look at me now, and are happy with their families. I disappointed my mother, but I am trying by all means to make it up to her.
My daughter is my joy, and when I look at her, I pray she chooses the right path. To all my young sisters out there, there is a time for everything and eventually you will have it all. Focus on your studies first, and everything else will follow. I am not proud of my past, but I am working on my future. I hope my story will help you make better choices than I did.