In 2014, Kundai Chihuri took over her parents’ responsibilities at the age of 9. In search of better employment opportunities, her parents' immigrated to South Africa leaving Kundai to care for her two younger siblings, Haley (4) and Tanatswa (2). Abandoned and without a source of income, the three children were forced to drop out of school, “I dropped out of school in Grade 3, when my parents were still here. When they left, I started looking for part-time jobs to earn money.”
In the six years they have been away, Kundai’s parents have not sent any money, messages nor has anyone heard about their whereabouts. Kundai is one of many young girls, and boys, from Epworth who work the nearest neighbourhoods, Chadcombe and Hatfield for odd jobs, "I usually clean dishes for $25*. For $50, I will clean the house and if someone wants me to do their laundry, I charge $100."
Now 15 years old, Kundai is always weary of passers-by as she always fears for her personal security. “A man once walked into the yard and kept staring at me. When I saw him, I started screaming and my neighbours came to chase him away.” Following this incident and in acknowledgement of the burden on her granddaughter, Kundai’s paternal grandmother sent an invite for her younger siblings, “It was just before the lockdown and I didn’t have money to put them on the bus. We went to the bus rank anyway.” At the bus rank, Kundai spoke to the several bus drivers, hoping to find one willing to transport her minor siblings to the village. She was lucky.
Nursing troubles of their own, Kundai’s neighbours can only afford to cast a watchful eye around their surroundings to ensure trespassers do not catch her unaware. “Some of my friends gave up and decided to get married. I don’t want that. I want to go back to school and learn about the world.”
Kundai’s story is about a young girl, Nhamo (directly translated as woe) who lived with her father and step-mother. One day, as Nhamo was attending to her daily chores, her father raped her. She confided in her friends who, in turn, told their teacher. The school teacher reported the issue to the police and Nhamo’s father was arrested. Though he had been arrested, he had ruined his daughter’s life.
We need to take cognisance of our duty of care towards the safety of children particularly in the lockdown environment. There needs to be pre-emptive measures in safeguarding young people. As the lockdown continues and schools remain closed, it has become more difficult for them to report any instances abuse.
Interview Date: 18 July 2020
Location: EPWORTH, Harare, Zimbabwe
[Whispering Silence] This project was made possible with support from Africalia and the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation of Belgium.