Zambia: Catherine Shindowla  

Zambia: Catherine Shindowla  

Date: April 18, 2016
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I was braiding/plaiting someone’s hair when I received a call from one of the officers at Mumbwa District council requesting me to go to La Hacienda Hotel the following day to meet with a certain lady by the name of Faides to be interviewed.  I was so scared because I did not know what that really meant and the whole night I did not sleep. The following day I woke up very early and started preparing myself.  I also received another call from my friend who works at the council but with this second call I became confident to go to La Hacienda Hotel to be interviewed concerning my marriage.  What came into my mind was that may be I will be alone.  When I reached there, I found that we were many.  The lady explained everything and the fear I had disappeared because I also found my friend who had problems similar to mine.  My heart jumped and I said to myself “this is the way we should live.”  I said “thank you Jesus” because I did not expect the generosity and kindness.  At home I did not have anything. I was saved; then I continued with my business of hair plaiting.  I did not have any idea about budgeting every time.  What was in my mind was nothing else apart from complaining concerning my husband and asking myself ‘am I a woman or not?’

In October 2014, I received a call from Lusaka telling me that I was supposed to attend a workshop at Mumbwa District Council to be trained in the empowering of GBV survivors through life and applied entrepreneurship skills.  Then I went there and found two ladies from Lusaka, they welcomed me and I went in.  Inside I found my friends were already there; some were familiar while some were not but they also welcomed me.  We started to introduce each other.  Aunty Rosemary started to explain and gave us a definition of sex, gender and gender roles.  She also told us that at the end of the workshops, we will not only be survivors but entrepreneurs also.

I attended all the three courses and I found something that I did not know.  I really found strange topics because I was being undervalued by my man.  Now I am able to talk to everybody, I have learnt a lot and I have self-esteem.  I have that confidence of doing anything and I am independent.  I can do anything on my own.  Through attending these workshops, I also learnt about the tree of life and began to understand myself; to know where I was and where I am going.  I am also happy that I have learnt about entrepreneurship and I appeal to Gender Links to have more workshops in the district because there are still a lot of people who do not know about GBV.  GL should also research on issues that affect women.  Most of the lessons were very useful to my life.

The most useful topics were biological differences between men and women and how to start a business.  It was really hard for me to start a new life; my thoughts were only that men have ideas and I did not.  But I learnt record keeping, stock taking, book balancing, market research, market gap, location and networking. As well as customer relations or customer care. I learnt a lot on record keeping.  I used to over budget, I could get things on credit and as long as I sell things, I would pay. I did not have good customer relations, I would not bother about anything, was not very polite.  I used to order anything without networking if they won’t buy I would rather pack the things and not market research.  I would not care as long as I had money to buy clothes and look good.  Time keeping also matters a lot.  Before coming to my business I would first pass through my friends place and discuss stories of any issues in our district. If there is something to volunteer in as I had money I used to join many committees and attend any function, weddings, kitchen parties or birthday parties without knowing that I am affecting my business. The time when my business went down, all my friends deserted me, they stopped associating with me.  When I was taught by Aunty Rosemary, I came to realize that I was really gloomy more than the word itself.  I assure you that anybody to come to me this time with her invitation card, I am very much careful.

An added challenge was time management.  I used to come late at work because I was managing myself.  If I found a new market /selling area the first thing that came to my husband’s mind was who is going to allow you, as long as I was his, he would not allow me.  My second challenge was when he saw that I had money then he would stop buying anything at home and all the responsibility of children became mine.  My business could go down because of spending and not knowing how to be disciplined with my money.  My third challenge was the time I missed work recovering from a beating from my husband.

I really want to upgrade my papers by going back to school, because of frustration I have failed several times.  Another business challenge is lack of start-up capital so that I can do what I want.  I assure you no one will disturb me because I am now independent and I have learnt more on entrepreneurship. Some of the challenges I have overcome them because I have the ideas and can teach anybody even on hair.  I have done it before and I work hand in hand with the One Stop Centre.

I am a changed person because all the people are really admiring me on my attitude, the way I explain the experience that I have gone through.  I have gone through difficulties but I have overcome without going in reckless living.   My life has really changed because I am able to choose my real friends whom I can benefit something from.  They also learn from me including my family.

When I meet with a couple that is having difficulties, I advise them and if possible I escort them to the One Stop Centre.  To all the women I would advise them that times are not all the same.  I would also advise them not to depend on their husbands. They should stand firm on their own and should also learn how to become entrepreneurs.  Not all days are Sundays!

I have learnt time keeping, book/record keeping, gender roles and the five pillars of the business. Since I have learnt a lot I now know how to apply for a loan.  For my future plans are to buy my own land or plot, I also want to build and to upgrade my education, know more about the computer and to register my business. In 2030 I want to be somebody. I want to build an orphanage so that the community will benefit from me.

My appeal to GL is that they should put efforts on pumping knowledge into women even to find ways of empowering women in the area so that women can concentrate on their business.  GL should also find ways of teaching the men how to treat their wives because God made man and also a woman as a helper.  They should also allow women to do their business as long as she has the knowledge.  Any man now who is going to attempt to romance me should approach me nicely because I have learnt a lot.

Thank you to GL- be blessed!

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