- A 21-year-old woman who lived a hard luck life doesn’t feel lucky that she has been granted a presidential amnesty to allow her to leave Zimbabwe’s Chikurubi Female Prison
- Instead the woman, one of 3000 released from Zimbabwe's prisons feels completely abandoned and fears what will happen to her without the security of prison life
- At the moment Gladys has been taken in by Prison Fellowship, an organisation that assists inmates and former prisoners in Waterfalls Harare, but how long they can do so is unknown
Gladys has always felt the shadow of poverty and deprivation over her life. Just a few months after her birth she was abandoned for the first time by her mother who left her with her paternal grandmother.
Briefly.co.za gathers that life has been a series of misfortunes for Gladys. From the struggle her single grandmother endured to fend for her and the rest of the family in Zimbabwe’s rural area of Karoi, to her having to drop out of school after only completing form one.
A victim of the sexism which has long denied girls access to any rights, her father, who had since remarried, told her he didn’t have money to school a girl. ALthough he did continue to pay for the education of her step-siblings.
With no schooling and prospects, Gladys ended up vulnerable to exploitation and like many other girls in similar situations, ended up pregnant by a “boyfriend” before even turning 16.
Her stepmother forced her to move in with the family of the father of the child, but she was far from welcome in the family of her reluctant “in-laws” and suffered bitterly until eventually repeating the cycle and, like her mother, running away to seek work.
Things seemed a little brighter after someone secured her a job as a maid in Damofalls, Harare and she, with the aid of her employer, using social media decided to look for her mother.
However, when she finally found her mum, the woman wasn’t pleased to see her and to make matters even worse, shortly thereafter Gladys found herself unemployed as her employer said they could no longer pay for her services.
While she did find a new job, her new employer did not pay her for nearly a year. So in 2016 she left without notice and found another job as a maid, this time in Crowhill.
Just two weeks later, Gladys was arrested on charges of indecently assaulting the previous employer’s 14-year-old son and she was locked up on remand from December 2016 to February 2017.
Throughout the trial, Gladys maintained her innocence, and still insists she was wrongly convicted. “I failed to defend myself in court because I would cry continuously,” she sobbed.
“I was young and did not understand what was happening. I kept asking myself why me? It pains to work for nearly a year without being paid and when you finally let go, false accusations are levelled against you,” she described the court proceedings which finally found her guilty.
Her sentence was handed down on 14 February, 2017, so while others were showered with love on Valentine’s day, Gladys was ushered into prison for the first day of an effective six-year sentence.
The news of the presidential amnesty doesn’t make Gladys happy at all. “Many people are celebrating their release, but I have nowhere to go. For me, there is no celebration and I think I am cursed. No one came to stand by me during trial, I never received a single visitor while in prison and upon being freed there is no one to celebrate with me or give me a place to stay.”
Gladys said while prison officers were announcing the names of pardoned inmates she dreaded hearing her name being called out since prison is really the first real home she has had. Gladys feels that now the amnesty has taken even that away from her.
Prison Fellowship, an organisation that assists inmates and former prisoners in Waterfalls Harare has taken her in temporarily but she is unsure how long they will be able to care for her there.
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