Standing together in the face of abandonement

Date: September 29, 2009
  • SHARE:

My story started in 1989 when I got married to a man who presented himself to me as a single man. My parents accepted his gesture and allowed him to marry me after he had paid dowry as per our Tonga tradition.
Before we got married, he told me he was the father of two but that he was single. After the marriage, about a year later, the number increased from two kids to six.
One day, his mother-in-law (mother to his first wife) walked in my house and bluntly informed me that the man I called my husband was already married, separated from his wife, but that they were not divorced.
When my husband returned home, I confronted him on this issue and he apologetically confirmed the story. I knew I was in hot soup. I am a child born out of a polygamous marriage. My mother was a second wife to my father, so I was already familiar with the happenings in a polygamous marriage. Since I was already pregnant by then, and the fact that his wife was not back, I saw no point of leaving him.  
In 1994, his first wife started coming home and my husband asked me to accept her as part of the family, especially since she was the first wife and they were married. Looking at the misery that was showing on the first wife’s face, I understood that she was going through a lot and I accepted that she move in with us.
Problems in my marriage started immediately because I was working but the first wife was not. Every time I bought anything or cooked food, mostly bought with my own money, the first wife would grab the food on grounds that the money was from our husband, accusing that the man was fond of me and not her.
The trend went on until in 1999 when our husband who was a Human Resource Officer at a government ministry decided to stop work and moved to his farm. By then, he had managed to the first wife a job as a cleaner in the same ministry where I was working.
This was the beginning of serious problems for us all. After few months he came back home and told us that he did not want any of us to visit him at the farm, instead we should concentrate on educating and feeding our children because he was no longer going to be providing anything for us.  
Before long, news reached us that this was because he had married another woman, to make it three wives. This angered both of us so much that the first wife decided to follow him with all her children to the farm. However, before the night was over, he chased her  back.
Two days later, our husband came to our house and informed us that it was true that he had married another woman. He told us never to visit him at the farm without his permission. He reiterated that he is never going to provide food for us but that we should work hard to educate our children and look for food for them.
It was at this stage that I confirmed that polygamy was a dirty game and in reality, it was not marriage. I told myself that if I had to carry on with life, I had to be a strong by myself.
The first wife was devastated with our husband’s behaviour and almost took her own life. Since problems had forced us to develop a good relationship between ourselves and our children for survival, I advised my friend against this move. I told her that there is no need to take her life over a man, who was does not provide anything for the family. I reminded her about her seven children that needed her attention.
 I comforted her and told her that even if the husband does nothing, the fact that we were both working was fine, although our income was inadequate to cater for all our needs with our children. These problems forced us to develop a close relationship.
As if his mistreating behaviour was not enough, in 2001, our husband stopped having conjugal rights with both of us and just concentrated on the third wife. He completely stopped coming and even changed his phone numbers. We would only see him if there was an illness or sickness in the family. After couple of years, he came back home and told us that we were still his and it was up to us to follow him to the farm.
We discussed the issue and vowed never to follow him for conjugal rights. We thought about HIV/AIDS and how many wives have died of the disease at the hands of polygamy.  
I have always known polygamous marriage not to be good and very few people in such marriages have peace and enjoy life. There is so much unfaithfulness in polygamous marriage and that is the reason there are so many deaths among such couples in this era of HIV/AIDS.  
There is always fighting and quarrelling among the wives. In situations where you find the wives becoming friends, they usually work together against the husband. In many cases, they encourage each other to have extra marital affairs and keep each other’s secrets.
Now there is nothing I can do, because my husband has not officially divorced me. I am still living in the matrimonial house and have to look after my children, educate them so that tomorrow they can have a better future and look after both of us.
I do not intend to seek divorce as long as he does not do so. I want to maintain my title. For me, it is marriage for life, whether in polygamy or not.
* not her real name.
Mubayandi   Kwiima* writes with Perpertual Sichikwenkwe, a freelance writerin Zambia. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service, which offers fresh news on every day news.

Comment on Standing together in the face of abandonement

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *