Botswana: Shally Gontho

Date: September 25, 2018
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“I want to teach women about abuse and doing business” ~Shally Gontho.

I remember when I first met Gender Links in 2013 at Lobatse my home village. When we parted ways every day we would get money for taxi fares and I was surprised to see the amount of change I had left over; I was very happy. I remember thinking about the food and feeling excited. Another memorable time was when we were at Ave Maria. We snuck out to attend a party and then when I was tired, I got lost trying to get back to Ave Maria. When I eventually found my way back, I was too afraid to tell anyone that I was lost. Today when I think about that night I cannot help but laugh by myself.

Gender Links has treated us well when they call us. There are times when I am sitting at home feeling very hungry and find myself thinking about the food at Oasis Motel. There are also times when I do not have bath soap at home and I remember the free bars we would get at hotels which Gender Links would take us to.

I have learnt how to remove myself from abusive environments and to know my rights as a woman. I also learned about business, how to provide for myself and also to join programmes and government schemes that can help me provide for my family. I learnt the need for a business plan, registration of a business and also having a booklet reflecting my bank account.

I went on to learn the right way to use money, saving the money and sharing my knowledge with other women; including programmes to eradicate poverty and talking about the abuse we have suffered. With this effort I believe I can be considered a driver of change. The most helpful people to me have been Changu, Keletso and Gomolemo along with Mrs K. Ntsabane. These ladies helped me out of abuse, they helped me start my own business and to love people. I have also been helped greatly by social workers within Lobatse, councillors and members of my church as well as my family.

Currently, I am living without any abuse and have started my own business; a hair salon in Lobatse. Things have changed because I was not lazy in attending the Gender Links workshops and I listened to their advice which has put me at ease. Gender Links has helped me greatly and genuinely. It has helped me live a better life which has impressed the community and my family. The business has improved the situation at home and everyone is happy.

The change in my life has brought love and respect between me and the people around me. We help one another with necessities such as money, food and clothing. They are pleased with how I interact with them; my older sister, significant other and my child. There is happiness and love. With this change people have seen how serious I have been and they even approach me for advice. They wish to start their own businesses and remove themselves from abusive relationships. They also want to live happy lives filled with love and I am continuing to help them in any way that I can.

When I started my business, I came across various challenges; I did not put any money into the bank, water would shut off frequently, customers owing me money, electricity outages and thieves harassing the facility. Since going through the Gender Links trainings I have made changes; I save money in the bank, I have bought a Jojo tank to store water, I have a generator, solar panel and a battery, I do not do hair on credit (I make sure all my customers pay upfront) and I have a security person who watches over the building.

In future I will have increased my stock to improve my business so that I can be much better off than before financially. I aspire to be a role model for other women to follow. I want to teach women about abuse and doing business. I also wish to build houses for the less fortunate and disabled people along with paying for their education and clothing. I want to help people just as I was helped.