Yesterday I had the joy of going to Kamwala with Tresa to purchase more fabric for our beautiful bracelets and headbands. After returning with a bundle of vibrant colors and African prints, I just sat in the house with Tresa to hear of her life outside of CiH, outside of the training class. Little did I know, I was about to learn more than I have in a while about this culture, by just sitting. And listening. And loving. Tresa is a 23-year-old beautiful mother of two boys, George (6) and Joshua (2). Tresa is Elina’s daughter and lives with her in Ng’ombe, along with the other children. Her smile lights up an entire room. She has a singing voice that brings joy to everyone. Behind that smile and that voice is a story, a life of hardship which she faces each and every day.
You can read more details of Tresa’s story here, but let me share a bit of what she shared with me yesterday. Our heart as an organization was ignited by the story of a widow, but continues to grow with the stories of other vulnerable women, such as Tresa’s as a single mother. Tresa was offered promises of marriage and security with each of her son’s fathers, but each time proved to be a lie, a scar, a burden for her to endure.
Single mothers don’t receive “child support” in Zambia. They receive what is called “damages” because the child left behind from a man is said to have “damaged her life.” This is just a one-time payment of less than $1,000, but a payment that many women never receive due to corruption and bribes throughout the system. Tresa has never received a single payment from George or Joshua’s fathers.
When talking about marriage, Tresa said she desires and hopes to marry someday, but culturally it’s not that easy. Most men do not accept other men’s children as their own, so when a man marries a woman with other children, he neglects to treat her children fairly, as humans even. Tresa shared that her married friend’s husband refuses to let her children attend school and eat full meals. The oppression of the woman isn’t isolated to her life, it’s culturally carried by her children as well. That’s why Tresa told me, “it’s better that I remain alone, so that my children will not have to face that.”
When we hear injustices, we tend to say, “something has to be done, that’s just not right.” I absolutely agree with that. But we can’t change a culture with deep-rooted customs, traditions and beliefs just overnight. We can help Tresa, and the other single mothers suffering from this hardship in Zambia. Before CiH, trapped in poverty, unable to send George to school without the help of a working husband, Tresa has suffered greatly in ways unimaginable to most of us. Tresa has been empowered though, to take advantage of opportunities brought by CiH to enjoy a new life, one not just improved through finances, but changed through renewed confidence, the ability to send George to school this term and to feed both him and Joshua, and with the hope of renting her own place with her beautiful family. Tresa won’t let her title as a single mother define her life or the life of her children. She is a woman: strong, courageous, beautiful, selfless, hopeful, empowered.
Thank you for bringing hope to single mothers in Zambia. Join us as we witness the ripple effects of one program in one compound in Lusaka. It can’t happen without you.
With Chikondi, Amy