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AFTER being duped of most of the cash by their husbands’ relatives despite raising their children alone, some widows are now taking charge of lobola negotiations for their daughters.

Although huge progress has been made in protecting women from the seizure of property such as houses by in laws upon the death of their husbands, many are still losing out when daughters they would have raised alone get married.

In many cases, relatives of their late spouses turn up for the lobola negotiations, as indeed they should under tradition, and then leave with most of the cash.

But some women have now decided to make a stand.

NewZimbabwe.com recently witnessed three marriage negotiations which were presided over by widowed mothers with the help of their brothers in a development that has been received with mixed feelings in society.

Former deputy women’s affairs minister, Jessie Manjome, said culture is dynamic adding that the development signalled the collapse of patriarchy even in the most conservative bastions of customary law.

“Patriarchal African traditional family relations have been in crisis since roora itself stopped being a legal requirement for marriage with the passing of the Legal Age Majority Act in 1985,” she said.

“It’s time to redefine our African traditions in the interest of equality.”

Some Harare widows who spoke to this publication said it was not acceptable that they struggle to singlehandedly raise their children only for their husbands’ relatives to turn up and collect the money when their daughters get married.

“My husband died leaving me with three daughters aged 15, 8 and 5 years,” said a woman who only identified herself as Mai Mazorodze.

“I had to work hard and become a cross border to fend for and sent my kids to school. But when the eldest was getting married my late husband’s relatives came and took all the money.

“I was only left with some clothing outfits. But come the second marriage, I decided that once beaten twice shy.

“I need money to send the last born to school. So I had my brothers do everything and made sure they handed over the money to me.”

Her views were supported by Glen Norah widow Jestina Ndlovu who said her husband sent his two younger brothers to school but, when he passed on, they were nowhere to be seen only to appear and benefit from the marriage of her daughter.

“I will never forget the help my late husband extended to his young brothers since he was the first born, but they disappeared when he passed on,” said Ndlovu.

“I invited them to come and do the traditional things as my daughter was getting married and only to vanish with all the money. I’m going it alone this time I need money to finish this house.”

Tariro Makanga Chikumbirike, SAfAIDS communication manager, said, “I understand where women are coming from.

“There would be instances where the husband’s relatives would only want to feature when it’s time for lobola and, in the process, charge absurd amounts almost to pull her down.

“This is what is pushing women to go to these extremes (of conducting lobola negotiations on their own).

“Culturally the fathers should be present, but with the changing times and the fact that people would not be close to my child, I might be forced to go it alone. l was going it alone in her life, so why now?”

Women and Law in Southern Africa director, Sylvia Chirau, said the responsibility of looking after a child rests with both parents, adding that people should not treat their daughters as money-makers through lobola.

Source : New Zimbabwe