“Small” houses or more commonly “smell” houses (so called by many because they are disgusting and unorthodox) have become a hot topic for discussions in zimbabwe with many calling for their end . I was going through the press today and I was touched by how many stories are featured about women. Some had to with domestic violence and one really made me reflect. As women we should be our sister’s keepers but it seems we are now responsible for each other’s pain. The small house saga continues to deepen every day. Small house refers to a mistress or girlfriend of a married man. The man has his family and also the small house so named because he somehow spends time there a lot. Usually the original wife is unaware about the existence of the other woman but recently many of the “smell houses” want to be known and harass the first wife and become sometimes officially second wives. What people take for granted is the pain that the wife goes through. For many when they get married they have nothing and work for many years for one or two assets, overnight the smell house comes and destroys it and in many instances wants to benefit where they did not sow What is disheartening is how we took one step forward and ten backwards. The institution of polygamy had already been stopped in Zimbabwe but this is a reintroduction in a very deceptive way. Many have found out that their husbands are living double lives with two or more women that they are involved with, usually with kids. To make matters worse people do not respect their vows. With high prevalence of HIV you would think people would be more cautious especially the young but it seems all the advocacy is going to waste. It seems people have accepted that a man can’t live with one woman. But that’s exactly what we fought to remove so why are we bringing it back. The women involved are very cruel towards each other barraging each other with phone calls and a lot of public fights. Surely is this what we bargained for. The idea that a man has to cheat has been accepted for too long and women need to take drastic action if this is to stop but many do the obvious, keep quiet and wait for the man to come to his senses and come back. When they do there is no disclosure as the man expects to be just forgiven and continue to the next one. I feel that my country carries a lot of women with wounds that can never be healed all wrapped in silence determined to never speak out and keep an exterior that shows everything to be okay. The end result is anger and even If you don’t know it, it’s most likely your children are being raised in a volatile environment of anger and hurt leading to violent characters as adults and more broken families. Women lets be considerate and respect each other. Why are we fighting each other and why are we hurting each other. Why is it that the enemy of a woman is another woman? But many of the small houses have argued that it is these same men who put them in this situation initially. Many married men date young womn after masquerading as single men. It is only when the girl is pregnant that they open up about their marital status. The defense of the women is who then will marry them so they stick to the married men for upkeep. What baffles the mind though is how some of the girls are led astray, mind you we are not talking about teenage girls but mature , educated and professional women. What happened to safe sex etc. the idea of unprotected casual sex is a topic on its own that I shall dwell on another day but surely isn’t life worth more than that. What about the children growing up in these environments what are they learning?? This makes me really mad never think he chose you because you are special he will still do the same to you. Let’s feel for each other. When women unite there will be no one to commit all these vices with. Women have become so bold that some have reportedly turned up at their boyfriend’s weddings to celebrate with them. But many of the smell houses say they will never get married. They have no reason to because they have lost all hope and belief that there is an innocent man out there. They also prefer married man because they go back to their families, they don’t want to be bothered by a nagging man they say. They only have to endure the man when they need physical satisfaction and money. This means they can have many men that they are dating at the same time. This seems to be a subtle form of prostitution. Women why pawn our bodies whilst fighting for respect and recognition. We need to be seen as more than sexual objects yet many a times we present ourselves this way. I may be judging too harshly so The question i am posing to my dear sisters the world over to share your country experiences is –is marriage perpetuating violence and pain for women, two-are unmarried women more independent than married women and finally is being unmarried the answer to a happy future as a woman??????????


You are discussing a quandry that many women face, throughout the world. I find it disheartening that women who live very different lives and in very different geographical locations have such similar experiences. This is a complex phenomenon that is supported and condoned by patriarchal institutions and system in each of our countries. Thank you for sharing this and posing the question.

"Be the change you want in the world." Gandhi Debra K. Adams, MAIS * Survivors In Service: Self Empowerment Strategies (SiSSeS) * Consultant/Speaker/Author & Owner/Founder. Please learn more about me here: http://re.vu/debrakadams

women need to stand together and stop such things. am sure if we all join together this phenomenon will end. what a pity that we are all fighting patriarchy but perpetuating it as women. thanx for sharing regards pelagia

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest. regards pela

I too have the same story to tell you and i am surprised at the name is also the same - in our local language, it is translated - "chinna veedu" meaning small house. Many a time, these women play an important role in murdering the wife or torturing and keeping them in control threatening the lives of the children so that the wife remains silent. Good that you brought this out. Keep sharing


Merlin James

yes they murder the wife and they wage a war against the wife. many a times the wife is quiet whilst the small house insults her and even alters the mind of the husband such that he may even stop looking after his children. this is terrible and women must act together to stop this inhumane thing

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest. regards pela

Many religions perpetuate a "god" status for men. Until women refuse to bear children for men not ready to be in fully equal partnerships, nothing will change.