Pregnant and unaware — The story of a 42-year-old disabled woman Nkomwa Foundation Trust director Mr Pick Nkomwa

Sukulwenkosi Dube-Matutu, [email protected]

*MS Nomsa Ncube woke up in the early hours of Thursday last week to find a newborn baby boy lying naked in her yard, crying uncontrollably.

She grabbed the baby and rushed to her bedroom to cover it with a blanket. Ms Ncube immediately knew that the baby belonged to her intellectually challenged elder sister, *Ms Agnes Sibanda.

Ms Sibanda (42) from the Magedleni area of Gwanda gave birth to a baby boy but does not fully understand the new development in her life because of her disability. She is suspected to have delivered the baby in the early hours of Thursday last week next to a hut and then went back to sleep. 

Ms Sibanda who also has weak limbs and poor eye sight is suspected to have been sexually abused by several men in her community. Her younger sister who stays with her only discovered the pregnancy last month at around seven months.

Sexual abuse survivor- Image taken from Shutterstock

Meanwhile, Ms Sibanda did not know that she was pregnant. She reportedly just complained of stomach and back pains.

A Chronicle news crew visited Ms Sibanda at the Gwanda Provincial Hospital maternity ward where she was admitted after giving birth. Her baby boy was placed under the care of nurses during her two-day stay at the hospital.

Her younger sister, Ms Ncube said Ms Sibanda became angry the first time she was told that she was expecting a baby.

“I stay with my sister who is intellectually challenged. I had no idea she was pregnant and I only discovered last month when I noticed that her stomach was bulging. I took her to the hospital for examination and they confirmed that she was seven months pregnant. She was due for delivery next month.

“When she heard that she was pregnant, she became very angry and denied it. She said there was no way she could be pregnant as she doesn’t have a husband. After she had delivered the baby, my sister could hardly understand that she is now a mother,” said Ms Ncube

She said after giving birth, her sister left the baby as she did not understand what had happened. Ms Ncube said her sister might have difficulties looking after the baby because of her mental state and physical disability.  

She said she is also not sure whether her sister will agree to breastfeed her baby.

“My sister gave birth to the baby and left it outside, a clear indication that she doesn’t understand anything that has happened to her. We have tried explaining to her that she is now a mother but she doesn’t understand. We have reported the matter to the Department of Social Welfare and Nkomwa Foundation Trust and we will also take the matter to the police. I hope the culprit or culprits will be apprehended because what they have done to my sister is inhumane. My sister can’t cook, do household chores or other things without assistance,” said Ms Ncube.

She said her sister needs assistance in fending for her newborn son who is now her responsibility.

Nkomwa Foundation Trust director Mr Pick Nkomwa said preliminary investigations have shown that Ms Sibanda could have been sexually abused by several men from her community. 

He raised concerns over rampant cases of abuse of people with disability (PWD), mostly women and girls.

He said they continue to receive cases of abuse of people with disability especially from the rural community. 

Mr Nkomwa said the perpetrators take advantage of the failure of their victims to report the incidents. 

He said sexual abuse perpetrators usually take advantage of PWDs who are intellectually challenged and hearing impaired.

As an organisation, Mr Nkomwa said they have improved their presence within communities in order to detect these offences and also raise awareness within communities.

“Women and girls with disabilities continue to face intersecting forms of discrimination due to their gender, disability and social and negative cultural norms as well as religious beliefs. These factors increase their vulnerability and put them at higher risk of gender based violence and sexual and gender based violence, harmful practices, poverty and marginalisation,” he said.

Mr Nkomwa said some cases go by undetected while others are never reported. He said there is a need for families and communities to be on the lookout for their relatives that might be subjected to abuse.

“Relatives and community members must be on the lookout for any signs of victimisation of their disabled relatives. They shouldn’t ignore signs or communication that can come from their disabled relatives. There is a need for continued sensitisation of community members on disability issues,” he said. — @DubeMatutu

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