Abuser turns gender activist

Mukanya* with Tapiwa Manyati

Mukanya* with Tapiwa Manyati

When I joined Zimbabwe's Padare Men's Forum on Gender my life changed from a women abuser to a gender activist.

This is my story. I was born in 1967 and lived in Highfield, Harare.

I grew up with the belief that to be a man you have to use power in everything you do. As I grew up I developed an interest in music and night- clubbing. I became a womaniser, an abuser. I was also a dagga smoker.

In 1984 I worked for a popular local band as a door attendant. We used to travel to Zambia, London, South Africa, Mozambique and other countries.

As the door attendant I became popular with girls because I was their ticket to the shows.

Some nights I would sleep with five or more women desperate to see their favourite band perform.

I did this while I was married to my first wife. I usually spent nights away from home, leaving her alone with our child. I never gave her room to ask where I was or to complain.

Being a man meant that my word was final. I used to beat her up just to make her realise who was the man.

Neighbours watched helplessly as I beat her up. Once she collapsed I would then walk away boasting about my manhood.

My ill-placed ego made me believe that I was too much of a man to have one wife. I started comparing her with the commercial sex workers I used to hang out with.

The abuse stopped when she scalded me with boiling water and I was hospitalised for five months. We divorced and I got married again.

In 1994, I got sick and it was discovered I had TB and I was also HIV-positive. My health deteriorated and my second wife left me.

My family took me to Mashambanzou centre for the terminally ill.

I thought about committing suicide but I realised that it would only deprive my children of a father.

By the time I went back home I was almost fully recovered from that specific disease. I then joined a network of people living with HIV-Aids. I then committed myself to living positively.

In 2000, I met the director of the Padare/Enkundleni/Mens Forum on Gender at a workshop in Harare. I was impressed by the idea of male involvement in gender issues and when I got back home I started a local chapter of Padare.

I am now happily married and I do no beat up my wife.

l The story is written with the assistance of Tapiwa Manyati as part of the I Story series of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.