Tino squatted alone at the borehole square. The chilling winter breeze rested on his scantily dressed body, the frosty dew ate from below his bare feet. His hands were frozen, he could not move. The small pieces from the broken 20 litre water bucket he was struggling to lift were strewn all around him. A myriad of questions engulfed him. How would he explain it to his aunt, the bedwetting, now the smashed bucket? Will she spank him again, again for the third time in one morning?
There are many such cases in the Townships, of orphaned children who are left at the mercy of the extended family after their parents die of HIV/AIDS or migrate to the diaspora. The scourge has brought in its wake not only the loss of love but also the disintegration of social structures and support systems and also an increasing emotional distance between families.
In Tafara, Mabvuku and Chizhanje community, TAMACHI Conflict Management Association was established to help residents of this community to deal with all forms of conflicts that they encounter on a day to day basis. TAMACHI, an all women group strives to create safe spaces for children most of whom are victims of household conflicts, especially vulnerable orphans.
Mrs Chiremba, a member of TAMACHI narrated one among several emotional cases of the nature of abuse children suffer within the family structure. The story was about this seven year old boy, Tino, who lived an isolated life of abuse and misery. After the death of his parents, Tino’s uncle, a brother to his father took him into his house against the wish of his wife. Tino suffered years of physical and verbal abuse from his aunt.
At 7, Tino was a troubled child. In a residential area with water shortages and severe electricity cuts, his cold mornings were packed with household chores, collecting water from the borehole and firewood from far off fields. His school grades were appalling; he had no friends and no one to talk to. However all this abuse went on in the glaring sight of the neighbourhood and the community.
TAMACHI, came to his rescue. This women’s conflict management group has been engaged in bold efforts to break through the barriers of pain and fear that prevail in a township that has once been plagued by a tragic trail of conflicts for many years. The Association, comprising of experienced conflict mediators works to bring about harmony through a range of activities that include active listening, counselling and mediations.
“We have realised that so many minors are abused by their closest relatives, neighbours and friends yet the law cannot help them neither can they hear them out,” explained Mrs Dzangare, TAMACHI’s coordinator. “We have been trained and empowered to help rid this community of disputes and conflicts mainly due to misunderstandings in families and in the neighbourhoods”, she added.
The conflict issues vary. Many are between families dating back into yester years; others are intense domestic violence in households. The association partners with the local Police Public Relations department to transform relations in the community.
“Our main aim is to reduce the crime rate and conflict that has tarnished Tafara and Mabvuku with bad publicity. Residents should be made aware that dialogue has no costs and it goes a long way in mending relationships. Courts should be the last resort.” Mrs Dzanagare said.
“Several sexual abuse cases that took place some years ago have not been adequately dealt with by law enforcers. To this end neighbours have harboured bitterness, mistrust, hate and even fear towards each other. We intervene in such conflicts and we take time allowing all parties to relate their stories and grief.”
TAMACHI boasts of elder, wise and some middle aged, energetic women who have become the talk of the township. “After going through several well tailored training sessions with CCMT in basic conflict management, communication skills, mediation and moderation we are more confident and experienced. We are well known now, and wherever we go even in local schools, teachers express their relief when they see us. They know we can mediate with their superiors on any dispute.” said Mai Chiremba.
Mai Chiremba is markedly esteemed in this community; she was the main actor in Tino’s case and many others where children were abused. After investigating the young boy’s fate, she quickly alerted the police. As the police dealt with Tino’s foster parents, Mai Chiremba took the boy to the nearest clinic and had him examined. Unfortunately Tino was found HIV positive and had to be enrolled for paediatric anti retro viral drugs. He has since been moved to his biological mother’s sister and now receives basic food rations from a local care giving organisation.
TAMACHI’s work also involves educating the community on creating safe and healthy living conditions for the children who struggle with abuse and neglect. The association, through dialogue and mediation meetings has also managed to counsel parents to help assist their children’s recovery and develop skills to keep them safe by providing for them in all respects. TAMACHI has further intervened in acquiring birth certificates for many orphans in the community.
TAMACHI emphasises that it is everyone’s legal, social and moral responsibility to show love to all children. Children are shaped by what they are called, what they are given, how they dress and the health and education at their disposal. This responsibility starts in the home but flows into the neighbourhood and community at large.
To integrate the youths, the association is making wide strides in engaging the councillors in a bid to resuscitate recreational facilities for them to learn and share their experiences through sports and other activities.
Barbara Machawira, another member, teacher and sports trainer said “We have realised that conflict in the home and in communities affects children and they are incapable of dealing with it. Such children do less well in school and have more emotional and behavioural problems and are more likely to be delinquent. In the long run, adults who grew up in conflict inflicted households attain lower levels of education, earn less, are more likely to be incarcerated, have children out-of-wedlock and be divorced.”
Barbara adds, “We want to breed a responsible generation of children who live in peaceful and safe neighbourhoods. As we create conducive environments for their survival in their own households, we are sowing the seed for a future harmonious society”.