A sister with a voice, a road which is never easy to tread!!-Tendai Sibanda

I am a product of one of the guerrilla fighters who were moving around the country during the time of ceasefire (liberation struggle), raping vulnerable women without giving a hoot. My mother as one of the victims was raped in 1979 and gave birth to me in 1980. She cursed herself so much that she was haunted psychologically. Two years after my birth, she passed on.

After the death of my mother, I was raised by my uncle. Growing up as an orphan is not any easy road, l felt lonely and isolated. On several occasions, l would creep to a corner and cry, wishing if my mom was still alive. The situation l went through during my childhood made me think marriage was the only escape route for me. I used to pray every day to be blessed with a lovely and caring husband. I passed my ‘’O’’ Level exams, but my uncle failed to raise money for me to continue with my education and that was the end of it.

Tendai Sibanda

No one paid attention to upgrade my welfare as they always wanted me to do household chores for them whilst they continued with their own lives. I moved from one household of my relatives to another, being their community service housemaid.

Four years later l decided to apply for nursing because I was tired of being an unpaid housekeeper. All my applications were turned down. I thought my troubles were over when l finally found the love of my life and we tied the knot. He was a geologist, a graduate from the University of Zimbabwe. I thought: “All is well with my soul. Poverty has finally flown out of the window”. Little did l know God had his own plans too. Just as I was hoping and planning to sire as many kids as possible with my husband, he died in 2004. This happened in the midst of us planning our paradise.

Life suddenly turned into a nightmare when l got a call from my late husband’s employer, six months after my husband’s death, asking me to vacate the company house and find alternative accommodation. That was when reality sunk in. I had no source of income, I contemplated suicide and my kids’ deaths, but I later decided against it and made peace with my soul. In order for me to be able to fend for my children, I decided to engage in sex work- my children had to continue surviving.

Sex work is not a stroll in the park. At times I would indulge in unprotected sex for more pay, and this has resulted in me contracting HIV, I became hopeless. My savior was BHASO a SAfAIDS partner, that approached me and invited me to join the Irish Aid programme that targets the key populations (sex workers) under the theme: ‘Give me a voice and l will do it myself’. I became a renewed person, well-empowered and able to stand for my rights too. I was given a voice to speak for other sex workers, take care of them, and empower them to create a better world for themselves. I owe my gratitude to SAfAIDS for giving me a voice to be self-empowered and advocate for all in sex work. I will not spread HIV to others because l know the importance of protecting myself and others.

I am now a sister with a voice of change. It is never too late to know and never too old to learn. I am still hoping that one day I will be able to fulfil my dream and be enrolled as a nurse.