Have you ever been inspired by an individual you have not met? Someone who altered your mind set and twisted your thoughts for the better and yet that person had no clue you existed? Allow me to tell you the story of my redemption.

I recall the unfolding of events that led to a better me. It was a sweltering day. I had a yellow sleeveless dress on and it barely covered my bums. But my excuse was the heat; it felt like my flesh was on fire. My mom looked at me with her warning eyes then she spoke,

“Are you really going with me dressed like that?”

I shrugged and then smiled, “I’m just flaunting what my momma gave me.”

With my puppy eyes in play I managed to make her laugh and I was off the hook.

The walk to her friend’s house was very short, it was literally the next street from ours, but walking with my mom you picked up your pace until you were practically running. Upon our arrival I was out of breath, breathing heavily as if I was being chased down by a few tsotsis. Before we could even knock we were met by the friend. Her personality was exaggerated I thought.

“Sanibonani ninjani”

This was accompanied by a huge smile and an embrace. She led us to our respective seats.

My mom got to sit on the cushy cuddly sofas and as for me I was led to those hard wooden chairs in the dining room. I did not understand the separation really; I just felt u nwelcomed, like a spare wheel that was being carried around in case it would be needed. I kept on fidgeting in hopes of finding a better position but those chairs were designed to be uncomfortable and my fight was pointless.

My listening hat was on and the conversations just came and went infiltrating their way into my head.

“My friend, unazo izindaba maan” meaning “you have news.”

Honestly this woman can talk for days, my thoughts exactly! Then there was that one conversation that intrigued me; I listened with more zeal and processed the information. All the while staring at the floral pink and white curtains and observing the sun rays peeking through the gap. The unwelcomed light forcing its entry into the house brought about unwanted heat; I was sweating like a pig and I kept using my hand to wipe away the sweat.

”How dare you embarrass and shame us like this!” Mr Madlopha was furious with Naledi after he found out about her pregnancy. “I will kill you with my bare hands Naledi.”

The rage and anger had taken over and a hard slap sent Naledi stumbling on the floor.

“I am truly sorry uncle I will do anything to make this right just please tell me what to do.”

Naledi was left there pleading and crying on the hard cold floor. The next day her clothes were packed and she was sent to her aunt’s place. A few months passed and she received news about the passing of her baby daddy.

That same young woman studied hard and became a teacher and later became a principal. She educated her baby girl not just academically but she taught her about life as well. She raised her right even if I say so myself as she turned out to be an impressive young woman working for a reputable company at the age of 33.To me her story gave me hope and changed my perspective on teenage pregnancies.

I was judgmental and harsh and I realised it was never my place to judge them in the first place. They made a mistake but that one unplanned pregnancy did not define their whole lives. They had the power to change their lives and make it wonderful. They could raise those kids right and ensure that history did not repeat itself.

She built a home for herself and her child, which is an immense accomplishment in my neighbourhood.

“She has one of those big cars that intimidate you, no wonder she does not have a man!” I heard my mom say.

I do not know the cousin, I have never met her, but her life story inspired me and challenged me to do better and most importantly it made me proud to be a woman. Her mere existence dwindled my judgemental nature and turned me into a more open book. I now realise that it was not my place to be judging people I didn’t know.

My way back home felt like a long walk to freedom. I could not believe the magnitude of the impact that the story of one person had on me. Thanks to my lucky stars I managed to get out of that unfriendly house alone because my walk was in slow motion.

“yee mtana phakamisa amanyawo!” meaning “hurry the hell up child” is what my mother would have said to me.

The dogs were barking, the cars were hooting, street vendors laughed for no reason. There were whistles from random guys and hellos I had to endure that exhausted me physically. My mind was under construction. It was getting rid of all the biased views, judgments and untested theories I had about teenage pregnancy. I walked slowly and took every step with purpose, for I was a changed woman.