05 July 2013

Eunice Chidenga - A Story of Injustice

Eunice Chidenga was once a normal happy Zambian woman. She was married and had 6 wonderful children and a loving husband. Then her husband died in February 2010 at the young age of 39, and her nightmare began. Eunice lived in Siambani village in the Gwembe Valley of Zambia an area that is still extremely traditional and notorious for witch craft. As the custom goes after her husband died she was inherited by a relative of her husband.

There are many reasons good and bad for why a relative might inherit a wife. The good side is it is meant to make sure that a widow is cared for. Like Boaz being a kinsmen redeemer for Naomi it gives women the chance to keep family land. The bad reasons are numerous. For one thing there is a belief that your husband's ghost will haunt you if you are not "cleansed" (essentially raped) by one of your husband's male relatives. Another bad thing is the widow is often given no choice when she is inherited. What it often comes down to is that when there is poverty adding an additional wife with children who are not your own will most likely lead to abuse and neglect.

The man who inherited Eunice works on a kapenta boat meaning every night except during the full moon he is out on the boat. When he goes on land it's for 2 things, booze and sex, which consequently waste all of the money his family needs to survive. He would regularly arrive home and find no food because he hadn't given the family any money, so he would beat Eunice and some times the children blaming them for his money problems. Eunice's children are the sweetest kids anyone could ever hope for. They started calling their step father "Batata" a respectful word for Dad. He yelled at them screaming "Don't call me father. You have no father. Your father is dead, and I will never be a father to you!" Two of Eunice's children were teenagers, but of the youngest 2 were boys and 2 were girls. The step father didn't treat the girls too badly. He refused to allow them to go to school and used them for hauling water, washing clothes, and cooking food. He hated the boys. He refused to allow them to eat from his food, go to school, or pay for them to get medical treatment. Eunice started selling fritters and using the money she made to keep her children alive, but the money was never enough.

When I met Eunice and her 4 youngest kids Lasteria, Mashombe, Fleza, and Meter my heart was broken. Fleza and Mashombe were skin and bones. They came to my house in the morning and I saw the children shivering from the cold since they had neither long pants nor sweatshirts. Eunice bore scares of witchcraft on her chest and explained her husband had tried to kill her. She told me with tears in her eyes that she wanted me to take her children at the orphanage. She said she was going to leave the man who had inherited her, but she wouldn't be able to feed her children.

Helping people is more difficult than it seems. If I take in children who have a mother at the orphanage I'll be in hot water with Social Welfare, and I could jeopardize my project. Not only that, but I'm setting a precedent and will soon have dozens of mother's on my doorstep demanding that I also take their children and accusing me of favoritism. I could easily lose the respect of the community which could lead to the collapse of my whole project. Furthermore as amazing as I believe the orphanage is, I also believe if a child's mom is alive they'll usually be better off with her. I don't want to encourage people to abdicate their responsibility to care for their children or their relative's children. For even more reasons than I can put here I knew there was no way I could take in her children at my orphanage. I also knew that I had to help Eunice.

So I got her kids sweatshirts to help with the cold. The kids came by every day and Fleza and Meter would fight over who got to help me pump water for the garden. They won me over with their desire to help out in any way they could. Eunice moved to her parent's village about 4 kilometers away with her children. The man who inherited her didn't care at all. We decided to help her with food while she tries to get on her feet. Eunice loves her kids so much and is happy to have them with her and the kids love being around their grandparents who love them so much.

heaven to earth, to fight for justice, and fight to end suffering, so I've tried. What I know is that Eunice and the children's lives are no longer in danger, they are no longer cold, and they are no longer hungry. Please pray for Eunice and her children as they try to get back on their feet.

 This is a picture of Eunice receiving soem food after she moved to her parents place. She is pictured on the left with her daughter Lasteria on her left and Meter on her right. She is holding Trison her son from the man who inherited her. Her sister is sitting on her right.
 This is a picture of Fleza and Mashombe the first day I met them. I can say they are all smiles now.

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