Mother of four battles to survive

| Pharie Sefali
The area where Zuziwe is raising her children. Photo by Pharie Sefali.

HIV-positive Zuziwe* from Nyanga is worried about how she is going to survive this winter because she says she doesn’t have enough food or blankets for her children.

“I have four children who are 12, ten, five and three years old, and I am six months pregnant. I do not know how to support them,”she says.

Zuziwe claims that her life before she moved to the shack was good and people respected her. “I used to work as a domestic worker but got fired because I was too sick to work.

“In our community if you are a woman and you have many children other people will not respect you,” she says.

She says her husband left her leaving her and the children sick. But her husband, who did not want to be named, says not all the children are his and he has no money to support them anyway.

When Groundup visited Zuziwe’s home, the zinc roof was broken and full of holes. When it rains, says Zuziwe, the family uses buckets and lots of newspaper to cover the holes so that water won’t come into the house. The broken windows are covered with old sheets. The shack is dark and cold and hardly has any furniture.

Since she is too sick to do things for herself her blankets are dirty but the older children do help with the house chores.

“Sometimes my children do not go to school because they have to take care of the young children. Or they do not have warm clothes to wear since it’s winter so I would rather have them stay indoors. We hardly have enough food to eat. We survive on the government grant which is R320 for each of my young children. And some of the neighbours are generous, they assist us when necessary”, she says.

Zuziwe said she is HIV-positive and she is on medication.

Her 12 year old daughter said that she was worried about her future. “All I know is I want to go to school but my family conditions make me think twice. I am the older one and I have to take care of the others. Sometimes it’s hard to dream because all I do is worry about what we’re going to eat the next day.”

“At school we are taught to dream and plan our future. But When I do that I seem selfish because I always think of staying alone in a big house.”

“Other girls dress up and talk about nice activities but for me things are different, I have to always worry about things. And my mother is so protective of me I hardly go outside and play,” she said. Lumkile Sivile of the Treatment Action Campaign said TAC could help by educating people on how to take care of their health and by referring those who were sick to the right place.

A social worker in the area said many women believed that if a woman gave a man a family he would stay, but that was not always true, which was why so many women ended up as single parents with many children.

“The life struggles of Zuziwe are common to many women,” she said. “Social Development provides a space for women to talk about their problems. People should make use of social workers in their areas.”

*Surname withheld in the interests of privacy.

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