Oh, how we miss the point!


A week ago a woman gave birth at a tollgate. According to the story the woman was on her way to Gweru Hospital where she had been referred to by the Shangani District Hospital presumably because the district hospital was not capacitated to do the delivery.

But that’s just my deduction.

What was reported is that the woman was already in labor when she caught a ride from a haulage truck driver who was heading in the same direction and when the truck was stopped at the tollgate; she was on the verge of delivering; the truck driver saw it fit to leave her somewhere near the tollgate so that he could rush along and go on his way.

Can’t blame the poor fellow though – he was probably terrified that he would end up being saddled with a new born baby and all the mess that accompanies childbirth moreover, he certainly wouldn’t want his employer to find out that he had turned the company vehicle into a delivery room.

In any event the woman was unceremoniously dumped on the roadside, where she ‘rolled’ around on the ground, writhing in agony before her anguished cries attracted the attention of the police and Revenue authorities who were manning the toll gate.

With the assistance of these officials, she delivered a healthy baby and remained attached to the infant as none of them wanted to hazard cutting the umbilical cord; they couldn’t decide how many centimeters to cut off from.

In any event, an ambulance from Gweru conveniently arrived with paramedics who proceeded to cut the cord and ferry the woman to hospital where we are told the woman is recovering very well.

The story was written in the light-hearted manner of one telling an entertaining story; the tone conveying a hint of humor because – well it’s one of those stories one can tell knowing they will have an engaged and enthralled audience.

What makes it all the more appealing is that it’s all true and with a nice little ‘happy’ ending to wrap it all up – the baby is safe, the mother is recovering, the officials who were there now have a story they can one day share with their grandchildren and of course, it was suggested that the infant be named “tollgate”.

So all’s well that ends well, right? Wrong!

It seems to me that this report totally missed the point.

The point is, why on God’s green earth was the woman referred to Gweru in the first place? Why are district hospitals incapacitated and why; with less than five years to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are we still having women’s maternal healthcare being so grossly ignored?

The point is why, in a three decade old independent Zimbabwe, are women giving birth in the open like animals?

And oh, the indignity of it!

Anyone who is well-versed on the subject of the arduous rigors involved in birthing will know that the exercise is excruciating and it is, for every woman a time of extreme vulnerability.

There is indeed, nothing trivial about it because of the high risk involved, too many women die giving birth and others die due to pregnancy related complications yet coverage given to these tragic occurrences borders mostly on nonchalance without any appreciation of the gravity of these incidents.

To my way of thinking, the story raises several issues that warrant interrogation and are basically screaming for scrutiny.

One of them is the glaring lack of sensitivity with which the subject is treated – so matter-of-factly and it somehow succeeds in making the woman’s plight almost inconsequential.

Needless to say, gender sensitivity is a notion whose import has largely gone unheeded or has not been prioritized in many sectors of our society – this is just one manifestation of this culture of indifference.

What is even more upsetting is that these attitudes permeate to all other coverage of matters that directly affect women and impact on their health and interests.

There is something wrong with a health delivery system that fails women at a time as crucial as child birth – but there is something inhumane about a society that would condone this by finding the slightest element of humor in what is clearly outrageous.

And of all the things that could be said about a woman delivering in such unusual and inappropriate circumstances; the very least one can do is remember to point out the fact that we expect more of our Government – what with the combined weight of three political parties?

It’s just sooo frustrating!!!

8 thoughts on “Oh, how we miss the point!

  1. Bridget Judah says:

    accountability and intergrity are qualities our leaders need to grasp, or atleast fake them. when a wman has a baby in the opn like an animal because no one gave a damn enuff, u knw no one is evn faking it. its out ther- we dnt care and pls go ahead n call ur baby ‘tollgate’. u’d thnk the author wrote the article to provoke thoughts or debate, bt no- he wsnt fakng it either. he dsnt give a hoot.

  2. Liberty Bhebhe says:

    Your opinion piece, just like most that you have written, successfully appeals to every human being’s softer/emotional side. It is funny how such a serious story can pass through the hands of editors, whom I presume are male, and be approved as a humourous story and not one that will make citizens question the priorities of any government

    I think there is a point you miss as well because you made your own deductions. It is the point of the circumstances that led the woman to hitch hike minutes before her time of delievery. In addressing the challenges that women face, lets also try to confront the poverty that makes them more vulnerable. Perhaps a discussion with the woman in question will reveal that she was facing resource constraints which resulted in her hitch hiking instead of hiring a car or using an ambulance in the first place. I make these submissions because Shangani is a small mining town and as a result of the crises in Zimbabwe a lot of the mines closed down leaving people unemployed……

    Noticed i will end up writting an article so let me end here

  3. khanyile mlotshwa says:

    Delta, I have also had a problem with this tabloidisation trend that has (1)seen serious matters being reduced to jokes, and (2) exposed the levels of ignorance and lack of depth among this generation of journalists. This is a serious issue as you have pointed out and for the journalist not to interrogate the weakness of our health system but to resort to some kind of ‘folktale’ journalism where all is well that ends well, is grave and critical. Journalists today are exhibiting encyclopedic levels of laziness, insincerity, lack of education and skill…

  4. Taffy says:

    those in the leadership might not even know that there are district hospitals yet still these hospitals are incapacitated why because they themslves or their dearests are priviledged to go to only the best and those that will give them the best services, unlike the women in these district areas they have no choice but to go these clinics were the service is but deplorable or worse still some would opt using the old women as midwives in the process risking their and the babies life.Why then cant the people who have the opportunity to have their voices heard by those responsible be the voice for these people such that their plight is heard and all women regardless of social status or location may have a chance to better health care Be the voice for the voiceless

  5. t madzura says:

    Glossing over stories of a serious nature and dramatising such issues has become the order of the as you correctly observe. It takes journalists of your calibre who are discerning to be able to see the depth of such a serious story that was reduced to mere humour.

  6. yolanda katonha says:

    well i believe at times God just stretches his hand full of love and protects his own. he wouldn’t have left the child to survive. im happy for this lady. and this just goes to show that the world is full of drama and humour wldnt mind to do a movie on that. but surely at times i feel being a good samaritan pays even if this driver was on duty im sure his officials wld cut him some slake

  7. Bonnie says:

    Zimbabwe now is not necessarily “Zimbabwe 30 years after independence”. It’s Zimbabwe 30 years after 1980. This took a dive a few years back and the preogress made was erased. Its like we were running tied to an elastic band and once we reached a certain point, the band pulled us back right to were we began. We have no hope whatsoever of meeting the MDGs deadline so we should stop talkin about them. We have to rebuild the hardware upon which to launch an MDG programme anyway so….

  8. Mlevu says:

    I think journalists need to be sensitised. Delta, the story in point revealed a higher degree of ignorance and insensitivity of the journalist who wrote. It is apparent that the lives of women, especially pregnant women are at risk but someone just chooses to tabloidise the story. i also think journalists are missing the point when it coms to news. The story would have made a lot of impact had been reported as a developmental story indicating the health crisis faced with women. Also, the reporter should have centred his view on health standards in general in order to appeal to the powers that be. what has become of our national newspaper when they will now adopt an uMthunywa stance. Lets leave tabloids news to tablod newspapers and do serious reporting on matters of national interest.

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