Makananelo Rapuleng – Lesotho

Makananelo Rapuleng – Lesotho

Date: August 19, 2016
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My life has changed and I can never go back

I cannot stop laughing when I recall my first interaction with Gender Links. We were in the conference room at our council and we were told that we were going to write our stories about what happened to us. I was very nervous and had serious reservations as I had the idea in my mind that after we had written our stories they were going to be shared with the full house and honestly I did not want to write my story, I wanted to lie. I think somehow Me Ntolo saw that there was something wrong with me and she came to me and assured me that there was no way that my story was going to be shared and I started to relax and write the story of my life.

My name is Makananelo Rapuleng from Qacha’s Nek, one of the mountainous districts of Lesotho. It is very small but has scattered rural villages and the rate of gender based violence (GBV) is very high and most of the cases in the villages are not reported because women are so dependent on men and they cannot imagine how life would be without their men. The very frustrating thing about the district is that most people, if not the majority of them, are illiterate and they are very keen on culture and therefore it is very difficult for them to adapt to new things.

My husband used to abuse me very badly and sometimes I would even end up in the hospital because he would just beat me up without a reason. My councillor knew about my situation and one day told me about Gender Links. I attended the first meeting where we were asked to write our stories, although I did not want to write anything because I thought that they were going to read our stories in front of all those people. I finally wrote my story and I somehow felt healed and wished I could just see my husband at that time so that I could tell him that I had forgiven him. I was very happy when I went back home and he wondered what was going on where I had come from, because he realised that I was very different.

I attended all the three phases and was able to learn many things that changed not only my life, but my family and my community. When I attended phase two we were asked to draw up our business plans. I did not know what that was because I had never heard of it before, but our facilitators were very nice and explained everything to us. Even though I did not have a business that was running well, I knew a few basics about business. I planted beans and after reaping, I would sell them to people in the villages, but I was now taught about marketing and how best to advertise my business. I used to make just R20 profit for every bag, and honestly that was just too little as my husband is not working and we had children that were schooling. Our life was very difficult but I guess we were used to it, but after the training I was able to make more money, not because I increased prices, but because I found more markets as I was able to advertise my product and get people to buy what I was selling.

Since I was able to market my business more customers came. During the training we were told how to use the internet to market our business and since I did not have a fancy smart phone I would only sms people to tell them when the beans were ready and that is how my customers were informed. I had to find two people to help me and I had to pay their salaries every month. Another thing that I was told at the workshops was that we should open bank accounts in which to deposit our income. It was the first time that I had a bank account and I still cannot believe it as I had always thought it was only for people who have a lot of money. The people with whom I am working have families and they are able to pay their children’s school fees and this is something that they could not do before working with me. It brings me so much to joy to see that I am changing people’s lives.

I know that I met Gender Links because I was a GBV victim, but now I feel more of a survivor and it is as though I had never experienced such a thing in my life. My husband has been very supportive through the training as he would sometimes accompany me to the training and he told me that he was really happy with the training because he could see that it was helping me. Before I attended the training I hated myself so much because I did not understand why my own husband was doing such things to me and I would even be very moody towards my children. Things are better now because if there is anything that needs to be talked about, we sit down together as a family, talk and make informed decisions. My husband is now working very hard to form a men’s forum where they will discuss issues that affect women and how best men can treat their partners and their families.

On the other hand, I am thinking about extending my business even in to other districts so that I can hire more women to help and I also want to further my studies so that I can learn more about business and be more professional.

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