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Hosanna (part I): Being educated changed my value system

Hosanna was born in Zimbabwe, and was educated in Zambia and the UK for college and university. She was diagnosed with HIV 14 years ago, and has since founded Hwupenyu Health and Wellbeing in Glasgow,

hosanna educated

Hosanna was born in Zimbabwe, and was educated in Zambia and the UK for college and university. She was diagnosed with HIV 14 years ago, and has since founded Hwupenyu Health and Wellbeing in Glasgow, a support service for women living with HIV. Here she relates the first part of her story.

I was born under the African sky, in Zimbabwe during colonial times. My dad really believed in educating children, especially girls, because he was a police officer and he had witnessed many horrendous cases of young women being murdered in relationships. He always used to say that if you were educated, a man would not treat you that way so he made sure we went to school. Therefore, I went to boarding school, which was my life from the age of 11 to 17 years old.

In Zambia I went to Evelyn Hall College where for the first time I saw an African woman reading the news on television, and I thought to myself: “I want to be that one.” Where I was, coming from there were no black faces on television, it was colonial times – it was apartheid.

I stayed in Zambia for 18 months and then I decided I was not quite happy there. I wanted to go to the UK, so I came. I was quite intelligent – and very good with academics, reading was not my problem. I think if I would have focused more, I would have ended up with a PhD but I was a bit playful… Very playful. I met this person when I was 25, at Bradford University doing my degree in Bachelors Business Studies, and he decided he wanted to get married and he wanted me to go to Africa. I could not miss that opportunity so I went back to Africa without finishing my degree, which was a big mistake.

Educated women, marriage and value systems

The marriage never lasted because what I did not realise was that when I came here as a teenage girl my value system had really shifted. However, you do not notice until you are back in your environment, in this case Zimbabwe. I was learning to question everything. Like, “Why? Why are you asking me to put on this dress? Please stop telling me what I should wear for any occasion.”

Therefore, this marriage was not the best of marriages and it collapsed in no time. Then I was a divorcee. I did not even understand my culture either – if you are a divorcee, you are a pariah. You are an outsider. Because you are not a good woman. I did not know that. Because I had developed into an educated woman when I was here in the UK. I found it very difficult to fit into my own culture and the value systems.

Another one of the things I also realised at that time was the guys I was meeting with – they would want to sleep with me but they would not want to marry me because I wasn’t ‘marrying material’. It was hard to navigate through that culture, so in my late 20’s I decided I had had enough of Zimbabwe. I decided to go to the States. In those days things were easy, you could travel and you did not need to be going through all those security checks so I just got my visa, got on a plane, I went to the States!

It was a visitor’s visa and within a week I had gotten a job at the Zimbabwe Permanent Mission to the United Nations as a typist. I found myself staying in the States for almost ten years. I met my second husband, and when his time in the U.S. ended, we went back to Africa.

When you are educated and living in the diaspora, the Western World, and you meet an African man, he is very westernized; he does the dishes, he helps you with the children. He is doing everything that he should be doing. But when you get to Africa, or ‘home’ as we call it, he just stops. It’s like a switch that is so instant that you think, “Who am I married to? This is not the person I married. The person I married used to do the dishes, now he is telling you it is not his place to do the dishes! This was the person that I thought loved me.”

He did love me, in his own strange way.

Confronting my husband’s HIV

About seven years into the marriage, my husband started ailing. You don’t think about HIV, do you? You just think, “What’s wrong with him?”

I took him to the doctor and told him to do all the tests. Then when he got the results, he came back and said, “Oh, you know, the doctor said that there’s nothing. I’m going to get better.”

I assumed that that is what the doctor had told him because I thought that was the truth. But the doctor had told him that he had HIV and he should have been going on ARVs. He didn’t tell me all of that. This was in March of that year. By September he had really bad diarrhoea and it would not go away, even with anti-diuretics, so I had to drive him to the emergency department. They admitted him.

I was so angry that I walked to the doctor’s surgery and spoke to the doctor. I said, “What is wrong with my husband? He’s in the hospital now with diarrhoea, which will not stop. What’s going on?”

He said, “What do you mean what’s going on?”

I said, “I mean exactly that because when he came, he did the tests and when he came back to me he said there is nothing wrong with him and you said he is fine and he is going to get better. But now six months down the line he is hospital with diarrhoea- he is wasting!”

This doctor turns around and says, “But I told your husband he has HIV and he has to start considering taking ARVs. I even gave him his prescription.”

I felt very angry. I felt very alienated.

Read part two of Hosanna’s story here. Get educated about her organisation Hwupenyu Health and Wellbeing here.


1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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