“Many second wives suffer in silence, and when I lost my husband, I chose to stand up for women that have entertained this,” said Grace Mhango. She is Gwanda Chakuamba’s second widow.
She said she knew she was dealing with a delicate issue that was likely to put her on the spotlight, considering that Chakuamba was a public figure, versatile politician, and that all eyes were going to be on his family as they were taking him to his last resting place in Nsanje.
Mhango stated that a lot of women have suffered in silence, claiming they are second legitimate wives, in some cases accepted by the society that they must be respected by first wives.
“In my case, I knew what I was to Chakuamba. When he died on that fateful day, October 24, I knew what I had to face and I prepared myself to be calm, but vigilant. I told myself that this is the only man I have known as my husband; with or without money, and it bothered me when I imagined how some people attempted to limit my space as I mourned him,” Mhango said.
She told herself that no one would stop her from mourning her husband and made it a point to speak for the voiceless womenfolk.
“It was not easy to see my husband being buried, I prayed for his dignified burial, free of any controversy but a few incidences happened during the funeral. I was summoned to go to police in Blantyre upon simmering tension at Comesa (Commonwealth Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) Hall, but that did not destroy my ego to stand for many women that suffer in silence,” Mhango said.
The 36-year-old said it is high time society accepted that second wives exist and gave them their space, including in sorrowful times.
The widow said although it is not enviable to wear a tag of a second wife, it is high time women stopped suffering in silence for being what they are, arguing that sometimes it is circumstances that force people into it.
Mhango, sounding like Regina Barreca, an American professor of English literature and feminist theory at a university, said second wives have always strived to make men their last women to marry.
In one of her writings, and from her personal experience, Barreca, who is also the author of It’s Not That I’m Bitter, said she never expected to be a second wife.
She writes: “As some statistics have it, we are one in every four married women you will meet. Yet we have to shake off the stigma attached to being the second wife and say, with a smile, Yes indeed, I’m his second wife. But I’m his last.”
Barreca, born in 1957, says no little girl longs to grow up and walk down the aisle to the strains of “Here Comes the Second Bride…”
“To sum up,” she joked, “I am married to a man I love and am lucky. We had both been married before, but does that really matter?
“Should second wives post billboards proclaiming that we are not necessarily women who flounce through life wearing ankle bracelets, feather boas, and alligator shoes?”