NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka
ELIZABETH Chisela bears scars on her face sustained from domestic violence she suffered at the hands of her husband. One scar is under her eye and the other just above her forehead.
However, the biggest scar which lives an indelible mark not only on her body but her entire life is the removal of her uterus.
Sitting in a car with this author, Elizabeth narrates her ordeal in utter regret amid tears streaming down her face.
Fifth born in a family of eight, I was 16 years old and doing my Grade Nine at John Laing Basic School when I met my husband at school. He was 25 years old at the time.
He was a Congolese national coming from a rich background and who would drive to my school to drop his younger sister.
Somehow, we always met and on one of the days, we struck up a conversation and I thought he was an interesting guy, so we kept on chatting whenever we met.
I got taken up by his ‘smooth’ words and when he asked me to get into a relationship with him, I agreed.
During the course of dating, I fell pregnant and when I told him about it, he moved out of his parents’ home to his own house, after which he asked me to marry him and I accepted.
His family paid the bride price but I observed that between my parents, my mother was eager for me to get married while my father wanted me to continue with school because when the Grade Nine results came out, I had passed very well.
I don’t blame my parents that I got married early because I was at that point in my life as a teenager where the flashy things of life were more attractive than reason.
Ah! Little did I know about the harrowing experiences I was going to go through. How I wish I could permanently wipe away those memories of the life that robbed me of my fertility, education, my youth, and self-worth, among other things.
Married life at a young age is difficult because you are not prepared mentally, physically and many other ways.
My former husband expected me to do things as someone who was a full-grown woman with knowledge of married life but I must say I fell short of that.
You see, when you are young, your mind is not fully developed and you also don’t understand quite well issues to do with marriage but even when I tried to do things the right way, he always found fault and that is what brought about the abuse. He suddenly became like a monster.
He would beat me and kick me and as pregnant as I was, we continued fighting.
I was physically weak and my body was not prepared to have a baby. Therefore, I ended up having a caesarean operation (CS) but unfortunately I lost the baby.
Thinking that would teach him a lesson so that he could stop beating me, he instead continued the abuse, attracting intervention from our family members.
During discussions, my father was eager for me to leave that marriage but my mother always told me to hang on, saying men are naturally like that, so I stayed, hanging on to the threads of what was left of my miserable marriage.
After I lost my first child, I fell pregnant again and this validated my stay in the marriage thinking it was now too late for me to leave my husband.
I went through another CS and feeling defeated, I concluded that I was indeed in my marriage to stay because in any case, I had nowhere to go.
At this time, we had shifted to the Copperbelt Province. I felt trapped but encouraged myself to be strong, recalling society’s views which say for better for worse, once you are in it you just have to endure.
That was the kind of lifestyle I led and I lost hope for a better tomorrow.
I fell pregnant for the third time but had so many complications resulting in the removal of my uterus and this escalated the avalanche of abuse from my husband.
Some of the physical abuse was orchestrated by his family, who believe that a woman should have as many children as possible, but how could I give him any more, now that my uterus had been removed?
My husband took advantage of that to have extra-marital affairs and to beat me even more knowing that I had nowhere to go.
One day, he requested me to prepare him some beef stew but instead I cooked chicken because there was no beef.
When he came home in a drunken stupor and didn’t find beef stew, he beat me almost to death and this is when I sustained cuts under my eye and on my forehead.
I tried on several occasions to report the matter to the police but I never got any assistance, so I didn’t win.
It was then that my husband began dating women his age and who were educated because I only ended up in grade nine. This was painful.
And when push came to shove, I decided that it’s either I stay in this marriage and die or run away, but I had no money to travel back to Lusaka.
I went to a neighbour who sympathised with me and gave me some money.
Grateful for the gesture, I left all my belongings, took my two children and rushed to the bus station envisioning what it would be like to get back to the safety of home in Lusaka.
I have never looked back from that day. My husband tried phoning me but I never picked his calls. He also never followed me and that is how I got back my freedom.
It was unbelievable that I had left behind those eight years of painful marriage but I was now faced with figuring out what to do with my life.
I was browsing on Facebook when I came across New Generation Time, an organisation which seeks to end child marriage and empower the girl-child with skills.
Burdened with my sorrows, I contacted the organisation, joined them and I have now been trained as an activist involved in the fight against the vice.
I am also the public relations officer for the organisation but I am also an actress featuring in the television series ‘Fake Prophet’, where I use the name Cynthia, and ‘Love on Fire’ on Zambezi Magic appearing under the same name.
I look back at the years when I traded my education for early marriage, I suffered all that physical abuse which has left ugly scars on my face distorting my looks, I lost my uterus in the process, and yet I am still of marriageable age. Today I ask myself, was it really worth it?
My advice to young people is that there is no true love among adolescents as they are mostly moved by material things.
Concentrate on your education and become independent because that is what your crutch for life becomes.
NOMSA NKANA, Lusaka