“I DARE you to lay a hand on me and the whole world will hear of your shame . . . It is not the bread that you earn which enticed me into matrimony!”

Translated By Monica Cheru-Mpambwashe
“I DARE you to lay a hand on me and the whole world will hear of your shame . . . It is not the bread that you earn which enticed me into matrimony!”

Words to this effect are often heard when a married woman is threatened with violence by her spouse. The point that the woman will be putting across in plain language is that wealth is not enough compensation for a man’s inability to satisfy his partner in bed.
Man or woman, a spouse who fails to measure to a partner’s expectations may jeopardise a relationship. There are marriages that are crumbling in silence because one of the parties involved is not getting their conjugal dues in the manner they expect.
Traditionally pending her marriage, a woman’s paternal aunts sat her down and advised her on how to keep her man happy in the bedroom.
This role has since been replaced by women’s gatherings like kitchen parties and church fellowships where the issue of keeping the bedroom fires burning is normally the discussion topic of choice.
In the past even young men about to get married were instructed on what to do and how to do it in on their marital bed.

Herbs that were believed to enhance the size of the male sexual organ were given to boys as a matter of course while sexually active men sought herbs and food stuffs believed to increase virility.
Today’s man is spoilt for choice with the availability of everything from traditional local herbs, imported versions like ‘Vhuka Vhuka’ and the Viagra generics freely available on the black market.
The women have their own bag of tricks to choose from depending on age and cultural influences from their own families or those that they marry into.
One option is the practice called Chinamwari, a word that has no direct equivalent in English which describes an initiation process in some cultures in which a girl is mentored into womanhood.
Some modern women are not comfortable with admitting that they subscribe to the custom. But a visit to well-known Chinamwari instructors like Sekuru Sugar in Norton, will reveal that far from falling off, the tradition is stronger than ever as women strive to keep their men sexually satisfied.
In a survey carried out by Kwayedza newspaper a short while ago, it was revealed that many women including some high-ranking professionals in the public and private sectors are patronising the various Chinamwari “colleges”.
“I DARE you to lay a hand on me and the whole world will hear of your shame . . . It is not the bread that you earn which enticed me into matrimony!”

One of the women netted in the survey is a high ranking official in the legal circles who was in Chitungwiza seeking to replace her waist beads whose string had broken.
Charges for the various products range from a minimum of two dollars for waist beads up to more than US$50 for the lessons on sexual expertise.
In the practical lesson items like razor blades, needles, knives and thorns are placed underneath the pelvis of the naked initiate who must then move here waist as instructed.
Lowering the pelvis to the ground before the instructor says so is out of question on account of the above-mentioned dangerous objects poised to punish those who would be lazy.
Chinamwari is traditionally associated with ethnic groups like the Chewa, Lemba, Shangaan, Ngoni, Venda, Tonga, Nsenga and Tambuka, but with the advent of urbanisation and intermarriages the practice has spread to other ethnicities.

The Chewa call the practice “Chinamwali” and the Shangaan refer to it as Khomba.
In those communities that still observe the initiation practices in the traditional way, the ceremonies for both sexes are carried out in winter and the initiates go into camp away from the village. parents and other relatives – socially they are not permitted to discuss sexual matters with the initiates.
The camps are off limits to all other people. In places like Chilonga in Chiredzi any trespassers are beaten up and fined a beast.

Years of good harvest are usually chosen for the rites to ensure that hunger is not an issue in the camps. In the Chinamwari camps designated elder women then instruct the girls on their own sexuality and how to please their men.
“We train girls from the age of 10 on good ethics like respect for elders and also how to handle a man,” revealed Mbuya Adiji Saidi, an instructor in traditional mores and practices as well as a spirit medium.
Some men are said to be actively on the prowl for Chinamwari graduates with some opting to pay for their for partners, wives and lovers to be trained. She also confirmed that it is a gender-balanced custom as the men have equivalent camps where they get circumcised and learn how to be masters in the bedroom.
“These men become so expert in bed that some women walk away from their rich husbands in preference of penniless men who have been through the initiation ceremony,” Mbuya Liza Manyoni a Chinamwari instructor operating in St Mary’s, Chitungwiza opined.
Mbuya Liza Manyoni said that her course only takes three weeks whereas the traditional Shangaan rites take up to three months resulting in absenteeism from school.
“We teach women to pull at their labia to ensure easy passage for the man. Although we start at ten we also take married women who have not had the advantage of going through the initiation,” she added.

Mbuya Liza Nyoni also explained the use and significance of the multi strands of tiny beads that encircle the waists of Chinamwari graduates:
“Beads are very important as they differentiate between a man and a woman in the bedroom. If you have no beads then you are a lightweight.
“A clever woman adorns herself with beads which also tickle her partner while providing him with a sex toy.”
She further elaborated that in some cases the beads have a sound like a traditional musical rattle as the woman moves during the sexual act which adds to her sexual allure. She said that a woman can wear up to six strands around her waist at any given moment and once in place, the beads are a permanent companion for life unless the string breaks.
The Chinamwari instructor said some men are unfaithful because they do not get sexual satisfaction in the marital bed. She urged all women to work hard in the area to reduce infidelity and the spreading of STIs including HIV whose high prevalence is blamed on multiple concurrent sexual partners.

She seems to believes that all women must turn into angelic paragons of all virtues:
“A woman must give her husband a warm welcome, remove his jacket and shoes and cook him the meals he likes, always speak to him in a soft voice as well as satisfy him in bed.”
In 2004 the late chief Naboth Makoni launched a programme in which girls in his chiefdom were to get tested for virginity. Those whose maidenhead was found to be intact were to be rewarded with educational scholarships. This was a measure to fight the spread of HIV.

But the critics of the custom point out that there are reports of girls who once initiated into the intricacies of sexual pleasure end up dropping out of school and joining the commercial sex trade to maximise returns on the expertise that they would have gained. A 13-year-old girl in Chitungwiza has reportedly dropped out of school after going through the Chinamwari rites in St Mary’s. She is said to be now a regular sight in bars and like places.

In Chiredzi there are similar reports of girls dropping out of school for early marriages or prostitution after the initiation ceremony. In St Mary’s the Chewa community has built a hall where initiation rites are held during school holidays.
Zimbabwe Traditional Healers Association (Zinatha) president professor Gordon Chavhunduka expressed disapproval of educating minors in sexual matters:
“The young are the future and we do not want habits that erode and negatively impact on the perception of our customs. This practice should be banned,” he said.
The original article was written by Muchaneta Chimuka and appeared in Kwayedza – April 22-28, 2011 edition.

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