South Africa: We walked to school barefooted

South Africa: We walked to school barefooted

Date: December 9, 2014
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*Trigger warning: Violence*
My name is *Zinzile Zulu. I grew up living with my parents and brother in a poor home. My brother and I used to walk barefooted to school, until the feet become very sore in winter; we had cuts on our heels. That was very hard for us. Other children used to laugh at us and make fun of us for not having shoes. And that our feet were cut, this made me feel very sad and embarrassed. Our father used to drink a lot of alcohol while at home there was no food to eat. After drinking he would beat my mom and chase us away. We would sleep at the neighbours at the shelter. My dad would come to fetch us and he would swear at us and beat us and my mother even more. Although my dad was always abusive to mom, she stayed because of the family.

When I was 15 years old my mother became very sick until she passed away. My brother left home and stayed with my uncle and I was left with my dad. I lived with my father who used to leave me alone with no food at home and he would go to his girlfriends. If I asked for food he would swear at me. Life at home became unbearable so I went to live with my aunty. At my aunt’s place my cousin *Zwelethu Zungu used to drink and swear at me. He did things to me that made me feel like he could rape me. He would come to my room as he pleased and pretended to look for something. At times aunt would not give me food as well.

When I was 21 years old I met *Tebogo Zwane and we started dating. I then fell pregnant and my aunt chased me out of her house. I stayed with my friends and their parents complained that I would be bad influence. My boyfriend invited me to stay with him and his mother even though he also came from a poor home, but he managed. We lived together, then the mother of my boyfriend got sick and she passed away. After she died, my boyfriend and I lived together, then he also got sick and then passed away when our baby was 3 months old.

I went back to my aunt’s house and the ill-treatment was worse this time. There was a lady who helped me get a job. I sent my child to crèche. My aunt and cousin continued to be abusive. One day my aunt told me to leave her house with my child. She swore at us saying we were a burden.
Another lady referred me to Lifeline to see social workers. I went Lifeline and told them my whole story and I was sick during that time. I got counselling and they referred me to the Haven Shelter and I lived there with my daughter. In 2010 I felt sicker and went to hospital, the child continued to be at school through Haven shelter.
When I returned from hospital the house mothers at the shelter took care of me, until I got better. Once I was better they asked me to help them at the shelter and to gain a little bit of money to help my daughter. They were impressed by my well behaviour and hired me to become a house mother at the shelter. Even now I am still working at the shelter. I went to study for a home based care course in 2011. My life became better; I also changed and feel better about my life.
Even now there are problems but I know that God is with me. I want to finish my schooling and get education.



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