By Regis Nhumba
Winfilda Dembedza (21) says many women in Zimbabwe are finding themselves trapped in marriages that are stifling their personal growth and academic participation due to some patriarchal practices that give men the power to determine the role of women at home.
Winfilda lives in Kadoma, a small farming town located 142 kilometres south west of Harare, Zimbabwe. Winfilda says she recently got married to her childhood sweetheart, Christopher Chihari (30) when she was a first year student at university.
“I am currently studying for my Psychology degree at a local university. Before I got married, I was looking forward to graduating and getting a job. My husband had also indicated that he had no problems with my plans. That was one of the main reasons why I had agreed to getting married,” says Winfilda.
Winfilda says her husband works in the family business and that he has no intention of getting a job elsewhere. She says the businesses are doing well and she and her husband are financially stable. Winfilda says a few weeks after her wedding, she started to make preparations for going back to university for her second year.
“When I was making preparations for going back to university, I noticed that my husband was not excited about my going back to college. He then openly told me that this was my final year at university. I was shocked because I was in my second year at university and I was doing a four year programme,” says Winfilda.
After the initial shock, Winfilda says she engaged her husband with the hope of making him understand her plans.
“When I explained my academic plans, my husband said that this was never going to happen. His expectation was that I was going to get pregnant soon and start to look after the children. He said he had enough resources to support both of us and therefore there was no need for me to get a degree and look for employment elsewhere,” says Winfilda.
Winfilda says she had planned to start a family after getting her degree and was therefore shuttered when she heard Christopher outlining his plans. Winfilda says she decided to engage her husband’s family to resolve the misunderstanding. She says she was disappointed when they all supported her husband.
“I had thought that since my husband’s family was financially vibrant, they were also socially open about gender and women’s rights. I never thought that they have a primitive understanding of the role of women in the family. I was distraught as I realised that all my plans were getting to a dead end,” says Winfilda.
Winfilda says the decision by her husband to stop her from completing her degree was unfortunate and misguided. She feels that her husband was insecure about her getting a degree when the rest of the women in the family were not educated.
“I only realised after we got married that all the women in the family were not educated. It is surprising that in this era we still have men who are insecure about their wives going to school. I feel cheated because before we got married, Christopher had indicated that he had no problems with me going to university. Now that he has paid bridal price he now controls me. I feel trapped. I no longer have any say in my future,” says Winfilda.
Winfilda says she will abide by what Christopher said for now until she has come up with a plan to continue with her education. She says although she is finishing her second year, it is painful that she will not be going for her third year which is reserved for industrial attachment.
“I will not give up easily. For now I will just get along until I find ways of continuing with my education. I am still too young to commit myself to spending the rest of my life at home. There are many issues to consider here. What if he dies and I am left alone. Who will support me? I need to be able to support myself and my children in the event that he is no longer there,” says Winfilda.
Winfilda says many women who are financially dependent on their husbands live a life of bondage as they do not even make personal decisions. She says that it is imperative for women to get educated and be employed so that they are not subjected to modern day slavery.