2/20/2013: In Zimbabwe, even when the law is supposed to protect women, in reality many women are still at a huge disadvantage when they want to practice even their most basic rights. Mary, a mother of two and a widow, fought her late husaband's family for the simple right to own a home.
A small class outing at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Bindura, Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy of Ms. Nicole Nassar.
“You will not live in this house!” screamed her brother-in-law as Mary was forced to flee her own home after the death of her husband. Mary and her two daughters, aged eight and ten, were thrown out of their home almost immediately after Mary’s husband passed away, even though she was legally entitled to inherit their family home. With nowhere to go, Mary and her children were forced to move into a tin shack that lacked furnishing, proper sanitation and space.
Although the Zimbabwean legal system states that widows should inherit all property upon the death of their husbands, many times traditional practices supersede the law, allowing women and children to be completely disinherited.
SOS Helps Fight Injustice
Unaware that the law was on her side, Mary lost her property and her rights to everything she had owned after her husband passed away. Fortunately, a neighbor heard about her plight and tracked Mary and her children down. She told Mary that the SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Program in Bindura might be able to help her regain her home.
Mary approached SOS Children’s Villages Zimbabwe, who was able to get her legal counsel with a local non-profit, the Justice for Children Trust. With this contact on hand, Mary was able to fight for her right to live in the home she had shared with her husband, the home in which they had raised their daughters.
A girl from the SOS Social Center in Bindura, Zimbabwe. Photo courtesy os Ms. Andrea Schmidt.
Now, several months later, Mary is the legal owner of the home and all her effects. Her children are happy, healthy and enjoying their childhoods with their moths. Sadly, after Mary’s brother-in-law was removed from Mary’s family home, he ruined part of the house. Even though Mary cannot live in her home at the moment, she is just happy that the house is in her possession.
At Work for Communities in Zimbabwe
SOS Children’s Villages Zimbabwe often acts as a referral point for members of the community who need legal help, but don’t know how to proceed. Many women, like Mary, don’t require the long term care that SOS offers, but instead simply need community programs that can help them through tough times.
The SOS Family Strengthening program in Bindura does just that. Over the year the program has referred many women to legal agencies that were willing and able to help them, often for free. SOS will always work for social justice, especially for women and children, who tend to be the most vulnerable members of society in places like Zimbabwe.
Donate to SOS Children’s Villages today to help assist women and their families access services that ensure their basic human rights.