The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu , Sunday Life Reporter
TODAY, her voice is heard wherever radio signals reach but there was a time when Farie Jules, born Farai Juliet Magada, would have given anything just for a single pair to listen to her cries.
To those who follow Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s radio Classic 263, Jules is infallible, with her eloquence as either a newsreader or presenter seemingly designed to capture the attention of a listener and ensnare their heart. While millions are born everyday with the gift of speech, only a few blessed with this gift of gab – that rare ability to seduce an audience, entice them to draw closer to their radio sets and leave the presenter’s voice echoing in the listener’s inner ear long after one has gone off air.
Jules is one of those people born with this rare gift. While today she only has to lean into a microphone for her voice to reach hundreds of ears in Zimbabwe and beyond, there was a time when she yearned for a single pair of ears to give her a much-needed audience. This was back when she was only a confused 15-year-old that had just been given up for marriage by her mother. To a 15-year-old Farie, a proverbial deer caught in the headlights, the world in those days did not make much sense. She was a child who was about to have a child of her own, joining hundreds of child brides in Zimbabwe whose fate is usually swept under the carpet.
However, the nation has increasingly become conscious of the dire consequences of child marriages, as media scrutiny airs in public a nation’s dirty and shameful laundry. As the country was reeling from the blow of the rape of a nine-year-old in Tsholotsho and the murder of a 15-year-old bride by her husband in Gwanda, Zimbabwe was dealt another blow last week after the revelation that another eight-year-old is six months pregnant in Bindura. For Farie, the recent episodes have been a painful reminder of her own experience as a child bride. She has walked in the shoes of girls married off before their time and the journey was blistering.
“This child (Tsholotsho) does not know anything because when I was a child having a child, I had to grow up very fast,” she told Sunday Life in an interview.
“I had to develop very quickly and no one ever asked if I was okay as I experienced what I experienced in my marriage and it is something that when I think about, still hurts me, in as much as I have begun my journey of healing. I am still walking that journey, learning and discovering myself in those places in my head where I locked certain memories that hurt me. That’s how I can find my healing but I don’t want any other girl to go through that as well and when I’m now in a position to help any girl that needs the comfort of a mother or a sister, I’m always going to be there because I understand.”
The fourth child in a family of six, Farie said the hardest thing for her to do was to find a sympathetic ear, as her siblings were still too young to process what was happening to her.
“I never had really people to talk or open up to, and that’s where the issue was. When I did have people to talk to, they were close friends but there was a lot of fear in me and I didn’t have a good support system. I didn’t know where to get counselling so I could work on myself mentally and also physically.
When I finally did find my voice and stopped feeling the shame of sharing my story it became much better,” she said.
Throughout her own experience, Farie said she never felt her life was her own but instead went through the days and, eventually, years, as if operating on autopilot.
“Mentally I wasn’t stable and I didn’t quite understand what was going on. It felt like an out-of-body experience whereby I was watching someone else go through life. Being a mother of three daughters, I thought I wouldn’t want a person to go through life that way. I wouldn’t want any other girl to go through life in that manner,” she said.
After 11 years of a shameful union which gave her three daughters, Farie walked away at the age of 26 to start her life anew, following her passion for film to eventually become a recognised actress, producer and presenter. The scars of that traumatic decade, however, still linger, affecting future relationships and even how she looks at herself.
“That experience changes your behavioural patterns. It changes the way you interact with people and the way you carry yourself. Personally, it affected my self-esteem and the way I date. Like right now, I have challenges when it comes to dating people I have fear of trusting people. I have fear of making mistakes and for some reasons it seems like I attract a certain kind of people that have certain behavioural patterns and sometimes I can be a toxic person without knowing that I’m being a toxic person. Those small things are triggered by a past of fear for abandonment, fear of being rejected or fear of being made to feel I am not good enough. So, all that can contribute negatively in one’s day to day life,” she said.
Moved by the case of Anna Machaya, the 15-year-old who passed away while giving birth at a Johane Marange Apostolic Church Shrine in Mafararikwa last year, Farie started the Pink and Purple Foundation, an organisation that seeks to lend a helping hand and shoulder to cry on for girls like Anna and herself.
“The idea came about last year when the story of Anna Machaya came out in the media. It was something that prompted me to start this because I used to imagine everything that she went through. I imagined how scared she was and honestly it was something that hurt me because I never had anyone to defend me, or anyone to protect me. It wasn’t an easy process and there was a lot going on.
“Now that there’s another nine-year-old who’s the mother of a beautiful girl it saddens me because I’m thinking she shouldn’t be going through that. Pink and Purple are a foundation for the girl child, and we aim to protect them from such abuse, from perpetrators that think they can get away with doing this to girls, those who think that they can put girls in such positions and get away with it,” she said.
Having lived most of her married life isolated from the wider world, Farie said it was important for victims to find a listening ear, something that her foundation was keen to provide.
“If you’re in an abusive relationship or marriage, it always affects you mentally and those are things that you need to get out of as soon as you can. Even when you get out of it, the mind is where everything plays out and tomorrow it will affect you. You need to get help fast while you still can and one thing you have to know is that it is never too late to do so,” she said.