Just as I was about to fall asleep a little after midnight there was a knock on the window of the car we were sleeping in, my friends and I were requested to go prepare late night tea for the mourners gathered and singing at the night vigil. Need we be reminded that we had been instructed to be up by 4am to sweep the yard and to start boiling water for the mourners to bath before starting on the preparation for breakfast and lunch.
Earlier when we had arrived the relatives were pleasantly happy that the daughter in law and her ‘helpers’ had arrived from the city to take over the hard labor. It was indeed hard labor and the fact that the reception we received had not been pleasant did made the work and experience much harder. I felt like crying more often than I had to say hello to anyone that arrived, not crying to mourn my father-in-law but because of the emotional abuse I was going through just because I was a daughter-in-law.
Day one was done a little after 1am and we surely were up by 4am to start on the chores. As some of my husband’s friends started assisting us with fetching water from the well so as to save our backs, they were soon stopped as it was not permitted to help the daughter-in-law to perform her duties. The same friends came over to assist in cutting the beast that had been slaughtered for consumption at the funeral lunch, but once again they were stopped because the cooking and the kitchen was not a place for men, that was the women’s duty.
At this moment I was numb, actually I thought I was but I was not ready for what was still to come. As tradition says, the daughter-in-law has to carry a bucket of water on her head and crawl to the grave with it. I thought it ended there, no one prepared me for anything more. As I finished pouring out the water and as I was about to get up I felt two whips strike across my back, they called it tradition.
Tinashe Madamombe is a freelance writer who is passionate about women’s empowerment and development. She enjoys writing opinion feminist pieces that challenge the status core