Elizabeth Visagie – South Africa

Elizabeth Visagie – South Africa

Date: December 9, 2015
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Life feels good once again

“My life has been difficult and there have been challenges, but now I know my season of plenty has arrived”

I am still not sure why Juliana and Ntombi of Gender Links (GL) want to do this profile about me; I feel so shy right now, but if I am honest I am also feeling confident and happy with myself. I feel this way because I have had to deal with a lot in my life and it has not been at all easy.

I am not originally from Matzikama; I am from Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo. I came to live here when I was a young woman and I met my husband here. When I met my husband I was a very confident young woman and even though I was not educated I was very smart. We got married and had our children, then shortly after the birth of our second child the problems started. I think that was also the time when I had wanted to go back to school to finish my studies as I had left school early to help my family.

My husband started being abusive, and would hit me and also swear at me. This happened over a very long period. Last year I was at home and my friend Elizabeth Olyn told me about training that was being done by Gender Links. To be honest, I did not want to attend this training, but Ntombi kept coming to my house. She told me about business plans that they were developing. I was not interested because my hopes and dreams of having a business had been killed by my husband.

I am very skilled with my hands. I make baskets for fruit and snacks and I also do flower arrangements. I made flower arrangements for funerals and weddings a long time ago. Then I stopped the business because my husband would take my profits from the business and buy alcohol. I went to phase two of the entrepreneurship training and that is where I met people from Gender Links. The training was not what I was expecting, Juliana was so patient with us and she taught us about agency, self-esteem and to think about regaining our power. I remember going home that day feeling like a changed person. I continued with the training and Juliana helped us to develop business plans.

It was also during this time when I was thinking of starting my business again that I started to feel confident enough to stand up to my husband when he was abusive. He even told me he wanted me to stop attending the GL workshops, but I told him that he had no right to hit me or abuse me. Even my children were very shocked and very happy that I was starting to fight back against my husband. Through the training, I even learnt how to use the computer and also learnt more about the internet. I even joined the WhatsApp group chat that Juliana had set up for us. I was very scared of using my phone for WhatsApp and other things because my husband would get angry. But now I go to the library with my children and they show me things on the internet and I am very surprised.

My friend Elizabeth Olyn was chosen to go to the summit in Johannesburg. She won there and went to Botswana. I was so happy and excited for her, I could tell she was in a happy place. She really inspired me to become a better person and she gave me the strength as a friend to be able to push myself. When she came back from Botswana she told me about her trip and about the summit and the other women that she met there. I was so inspired that I know that very soon I will also be going to compete at the summit. I have started my basket weaving business again and the things that I have been taught by Gender Links have helped me. I never had thought much about keeping a record of my profits and other things because I used the small amount of money that I made to buy food and other things, so I never kept a record of those things but Juliana has taught us that it is very important.

My family, especially my children, have been supportive and our church members also know that we participated in the Gender Links training. My pastor even announced it in church and when Elizabeth Olyn was going to Botswana the church prayed for her to travel safely. My children are proud of me because I have started my business again and also because I have learned to stand up for myself. I still face the challenge of my husband being abusive at times, but these days I stand up to him and tell him it is wrong.

The business has started again and I am also looking at working with local farmers who have been supportive towards local women traders. Matzikama also has a few tourists that come here at times and it is a good opportunity to think about growing my business. On the other hand money to start the business has been a problem. Basket weaving needs special material and special glue and that is expensive and for me raising money to buy those things has been hard but I used some money that I received from one of my children who has a disability. The business is picking up slowly, people from my church and my neighbours are buying the baskets but it is all happening very slowly.

I am not complaining. My life has been difficult and there have been challenges, but now I know my season of plenty has arrived. I am looking forward to my future. I have dreams that in the future the business will take off. I also hope that Gender Links will still be around to help us and other women. I know that when I decided to attend the training my life changed. I have some income and I do something that I am passionate about, but most of all I have found my inner strength and my self-confidence again. Even though I cannot see my future right now, I know that it looks very bright and filled with many good things to come.


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