This Abortion Dilemma – It’s The Women Who Bear The Brunt

By Roselyne Sachiti

“My uterus was also damaged because of the pricking. The doctor had to remove it. I cried and begged him not to. He said I would die if he did not. The hysterectomy was performed when I was only 15.”


A small black pot “sits” on a paraffin stove in a poorly ventilated, crowded room at Mbare Flats, in Harare.

The smell of paraffin coupled with that of dried fish being boiled in the pot is overwhelming, and somehow acrid, yet inside the dim room; 31-year-old Pamela sits comfortably as she grates tomatoes.

She is the sole caregiver of her 80-year-old grandmother and ensures she is well fed daily. Pamela has stayed with her grandmother since her parents died when she was only five years old and they are best of friends — sometimes.

Her social life is not that exciting. All of Pamela’s friends are either married or have children, yet a mistake she made as a teenager has kept her from enjoying the same.

At 15, Pamela became pregnant and went for a backyard abortion which resulted in a hysterectomy as her uterus was badly damaged and developed a severe infection.

“When I was in Form 2, I became pregnant and my boyfriend Mike who was 10-years-older said he could not take care of me and the baby since he was married with two children.

“My classmate Sheila recommended that I visit a woman along Jo’burg lines also here in Mbare who was known for getting rid of unwanted pregnancies.

“That woman had helped Sheila’s sister Beulah to successfully abort. I asked the woman to help me abort. I wanted to finish school and move out of the dingy Mbare Flats. “I did not want to burden my grandmother who was struggling to take care of me and my two sisters,” said Pamela.

She did not tell her grandmother that she was pregnant as she feared that the old woman would take her to Mike who had refused responsibility. Young as she was, she had no knowledge of condoms as contraception or even other means of avoiding pregnancy.

“When I missed my period which was regular, I was scared. I cried. I screamed. I squeezed my tummy hoping the foetus would pop out. I wanted to commit suicide,” she explained. According to Sheila, the woman wanted money for the abortion service. She also asked her to bring cotton wool and a bucket.

“I asked my grandmother for money to buy textbooks but used it to pay for the backyard abortion,” she added. On the day of the abortion, the one and a half month pregnant Pamela and Sheila were knocking at the woman’s door as early as 5am.

The teenage girls did not want any prying eyes to see them since gossip moved fast in their neighbourhood.

“She told us to wait outside a bit since she was working on another patient who had come earlier. I started to have second thoughts as I could hear the girl screaming.

“I wondered what this woman was doing to her. I could hear the woman’s voice say ‘you better be strong, this is the result of having unprotected sex with married men at your age’.”

When the woman was done with her first “patient”, Pamela sheepishly walked in holding her small bucket. The time was now 9 am, the June winter cold, so were Pamela’s feet and hands.

“The woman was dark skinned, huge and her arms were flabby. She had a mean look, one that makes your heart pound fast. Her presence intimidated me.

“The room a small cabin was dark, darker than the one I lived in with my grandmother. A paraffin lamp provided light. There was a small mat, bucket of water, a pair of latex gloves, and a sharp stick.


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