Sunday, December 14, 2008

Malawi: NGOs fail to honour their pledges to woman whose husband cut off her arms

In 2006 Marietta Samuel, 33, a mother of three children, had her arms cut off by her former husband, Herbert Samuel, in an attack fuelled by jealousy: an example of Malawi's widespread violence against women. He was sentenced to a 15-year jail term.

"I first met my husband in 1999 and we immediately started dating. Some months later we got married. At first he was a good man and he was really nice to me. But one thing that surprised was that he did not have friends in our village. He lived an isolated life, and if he made any friends they were not from our village - they usually came from far.

"Slowly, I started noticing some strange behaviour in him. He started drinking heavily, and every time he came home he would hurl insults at me for no reason at all. He then started battering me.

"Every time he went to join his friends at the tavern for a drinking spree, I anticipated something terrible. This went on for days. He beat me senseless and I had a black eye. I was admitted to a clinic in the district for a long time. When I was healed, I said enough was enough. I packed my belongings and left for my village to join my parents.

"Herbert came to apologise but I was taking none of it. It was our marriage counsellors who reasoned with me to forgive him. They said problems will always be there in every family. I heard their plea and thought it wise to rejoin my husband. That was the biggest mistake in life that I ever made.

"He behaved well but only for the first few weeks, and then resorted to his old bad habits, drinking and battering me. I remained with him, hoping he would change some day in the future, but all I could see in him was an angry man whose temper could erupt anytime.

"Then he travelled to a neighbouring town and came back with a second wife. I was disturbed; everyone was, but we could do nothing. The woman did not live with us for long. She ran away after noticing how cruel Herbert was.

"For the second time I left him and went back to my parents. This time I vowed not to go back to him. He tried to entice me but I said, 'No'.

"When he realised that I was not going back to him he resorted to intimidating and threatening me. I told him he was wasting his time. He said some day I would regret my decision.

"Then it happened. I was doing some piecework with my younger sister, Polina, in the field of a certain man from our village when I saw him coming. He was wearing a sweater and a pair of dirty trousers. He asked me why I was there. I said I was doing piecework to buy maize-flour because there was literally nothing in the house for the children to eat.

"Then he said, 'You will see'. Before I realised what was happening, he had already produced a sharp machete and hacked me in the head. I fell down and passed out. He then sliced my arms. This time my sister was calling for help and running towards the village to tell people about the horrible scene.

"After this heinous act Herbert disappeared for a month. Villagers took me to a mission clinic in the village but the doctors said the case was beyond their capacity. People had to hire an ambulance to Lilongwe Central Hospital [in the capital city], where they amputated my limbs.

"I now have artificial limbs which I use when I am eating. There is nothing else that I can do. I am living with my brother. Life is not easy for me and my children. The State President, Bingu wa Mutharika, gave me K100,000 (US$714.3); non-governmental organisations that pledged to assist me have not honoured their pledges.

"My mother, who was doing almost everything for me, passed away. She was my beacon of hope. I just pray to God to intervene; my situation is really tough and I need immediate help.

"Herbert is now in prison serving a 15-year jail term. Although he is responsible for my present condition, I have forgiven him. Sometimes I wonder why he had to do this to me."

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Photo: Copyright IRINMalawi:
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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