The saying that “when life gives you lemons turn them into lemonade”, came to my mind when I first heard about Boniswa”Bonnie” Mzimba’s story. A formidable advocate and former nurse, Mzimba is the proud founder of the Powerhouse Development Services (PDS), a non-profit organisation formed to help empower women who after losing their husbands, find themselves dejected and ostracised by the society they live in. She should know better having been in that situation herself when she was left to raise her children alone after losing her husband 16 years ago. As if that was not bad enough she also had to endure the pain of being shunned by her in-laws as well as her church, pillars that were supposed to offer her the then much needed support.
Her nomination and a receiver of the Johnson & Johnson and Daily Dispatch Local Heroes Award on October 28, is testimony of the impact and good work PDS is doing. ECN caught up with her to learn more about her experiences and what the organisation is all about.
ECN: What psychological trauma do woman experience after losing a husband?
BM: Losing a husband, no matter the circumstances is unexplainable and a life changing experience. You lose your dignity, your right to speak and the right to do things for yourself. It can throw you off track especially if you are a young widow because at that stage you have the whole life ahead of you, such a loss can be devastating. This is why you find widows using drugs and getting into unhealthy relationships.
ECN: What is PDS about, and where did it all start?
BM: Powerhouse Development Services ( PDS ) was an idea born from the abuse experienced by widows, for example we are accused of killing our husbands, denied the right to bury them, dispossessed of our belongings and are told to follow traditional practices such as a forced marriage to our late husband’s brother. After doing extensive research I decided to start PDS in 2015, to empower women who find themselves in such situations.
ECN: What organisation have you worked with since starting PDS?
BM: We have worked with various organisations, like last year we visited the Steve Biko Centre were we hosted a seminar with the Commission for Gender Equality, South African Human Rights Council, Africans for African Women Empowerment, the Law Fraternity and the BCM Deputy Executive mayor. We encouraged widows to be socially and economically transformed. We also hold quarterly seminars across the country to raise public awareness about the plight of widows.
ECN:Tell us more about International Widows Day?
BM: First endorsed in 2011, June 23 marks International Widows Day. It is aimed at recognising widows worldwide and for the government and communities to establish programmes to assist and encourage widows.
ECN: How can widows in need of support reach you?
BM: We have an sms line called Widows on Call, anyone experiencing abuse or problems can send a text message to the 072 461 0891.