"I was living like a slave"

From the life of Erepina Mutasa, mother and maid in Zimabwe.
 

By Peter Lüthi, Biovision

I am on a project visit in Makuwe Village in the South of Zimabwe. Here, Biovision supports small farmers in applying the yield-increasing, ecological cultivation method Push-pull. During lunch I start talking to Erepina Mutaasa, a daughter of a farmer’s family. I ask her if she wants to tell me something about herself. Biovision doesn’t just want to report on projects, I explain to her, but also wants to give insights into the lifes of people in project areas. She’s pleased about the request and accepts it.  

In the afternoon we meet up on the border of the settlement, in the shade of a tree. The young woman sits down on a stone and starts telling her story.  A man passes by and casually greets her. Erepina Mutasa lowers her gaze and sighs. “Did you hear what he called me?” she’s asking me. “He said “Hello grandmother””. Even though he’s older than me. “Actually, I should find myself a husband”, she adds. “But it is very difficult. I’m a mother of a six year old boy and I’m living at my parent’s house”. Life in the village isn’t easy and offers little perspective. Erepina Mutasa’s dad is suffering from diabetes and needs expensive medication which has been lowering the family’s budget for years.  

Already as a teenager she had to quit her school and make a living as a maid in the city. Which she is still doing up to this day. Her last employment as a cook in a takeaway and as a domestic help for the takeaway's owners was a disaster. “My workdays started at four o’clock in the morning in the kitchen. At four o’clock in the afternoon my work continued as a caregiver and with managing the household” she explains. “The work was very exhausting, and I hardly made any money. I was living like a slave.”

"Finding a husband is difficult"

Moreover, every now and then she found herself alone with the patron. On one of those nights, he had invited over some friends. The men were drinking and started hitting on her. Erepina Mutasa takes a deep breath and continues: “I fled before I would have gotten AIDS or become pregnant with a second child.”

Already seven years ago she got married in the city. Shortly after the birth of her child, the child’s father disappeared. Eventually, Erepina Mutasa found out that he had another wife he was living together with. Her parents accepted the separation from her husband and took her in with her child. Ever since, the grandmother has been watching the boy when she has to work in the city for a few months, in order to pay for her livelihood as well as her son’s school fees.  

Meanwhile the sun has started to set in Makuwe and for Erepina Mutasa it’s time to leave.  “I don’t want to bring any disgrace on my family” she says during farewell. “But I’m dreaming of finishing my school, being independent and having a good life with my son.”

Appendum

Unfortunately, Erepina Mutasa’s dreams didn't come true: Recently, the sad message reached us at Biovision that the young woman was the victim of a deadly road accident.