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Granny assists women in violent relationships

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AFTER being victim of marital abuse, a Chegutu grandmother, Ellen Rogine Patana (66) has committed herself to helping several gender-based violence victims in rural areas access free legal services for the past 24 years.

BY MUNESU NYAKUDYA

Patana could not continue with her education after Standard Six, as her family had fallen on hard times.

She got married at a very tender age, gave birth to five children, before she separated from her husband, who dumped her for another woman. Patana experienced the worst form of psychological torture from her husband before he finally left her.

Memories of what she went through still linger in her mind like it happened yesterday.

With the man gone, Patana desperately needed to do something that could occupy her and save her from the emotional pain.

“I attended a lot of Women and Girl –Child Empowerment Initiative (Wagi) workshops, and because I was a fast learner, they referred me to the Msasa Project in 1993, where I got my initial training,” she said.

Msasa Project is a Zimbabwean NGO that works to challenge cultural norms and community attitudes around gender issues.

“From then, I worked as a volunteer because they had clarified in the beginning that it was voluntary. That is when I was chosen by the leaders because they had seen potential in me to go and get trained by the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (Zwala).

“At Zwala, they trained us real law for three years, but they specified that we were going to working on voluntary terms because they could not afford to pay us,” she said.

Patana passed the course with flying colours and from there she started receiving clients from all over Chegutu, and other clients came from as far as Sanyati.

“I have helped a lot of women for free. Some of the famous rape cases that came from Chegutu, I am the one who helped the victims deal with their cases, for instance, the famous case of Paul Tembo, who raped more than five women and children and infected them with diseases.

“People used to say that he was untouchable and he would brag that he won’t go to prison, but I brought the victims together and he was given a 75-year sentence. I also challenged some chiefs that they do not charge livestock for rape cases,” she added.

“I have been doing all this for free since I was young, now I am old and all my work has gone unnoticed. I should have won awards for my good work, but I am not worried that no one notices it because I know God notices my work.”

Zwala director, Abigail Matsvayi, said Patana had done great both for the community of Chegutu and Zwala as an organisation.

“She came as a client and then later we enrolled her and trained her to become a care educator of basic laws. We have worked with her over the years and she has done so well.

“The kind of work that she does basically is to help women to fill maintenance forms and help women, who are in violent relationships among other things. She has also been mobilising and supporting women to come to court, which is a great job because some women and children dread to come to court because it is a difficult experience,” Matsvayi said.

“Mrs Patana also worked on a famous case of a serial rapist, who was sentenced for 75 years. This man was a rapist, who had raped more than five children and adults, but he was very popular and protected by the community. So she managed to mobilise the community and they came together and the man was jailed,” she said.

“We are grateful of the services she has been providing for many years. However, the services that she provides are for free.”

Another client, who did not want to be named, said that Patana helped her a lot and sometimes she would go out of her way.

“Gogo Patana helped me a lot. I had not been legally married and another woman was now taking my husband and all the property we had worked for. I approached her and she helped me through everything,” the woman said.

“What made the whole situation easy is that she did not ask for anything, but she did everything for free, for instance, she would walk long distances to meet me. At some point, she even gave me her own clothes. She is a nice person and she does all this out of passion. She may not get anything here on earth for helping a lot of women, and men, sometimes. But I know that God in heaven is watching and one day she will be rewarded,” she said.

Patana does not only help female victims, but she also helps men. She recently helped a man, who was having problems with his wife’s ex-husband, who kept threatening him to divorce her because she was the mother of his two children.

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