Neo Ngakane – Botswana

Neo Ngakane – Botswana

Date: November 28, 2015
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“Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.”

I first encountered Gender Links through Bomme Isago (a shelter for women who have been abused and are living with HIV). Someone from the council informed the shelter that women were called to participate in training. All I could think about was free food and transport, not seeing the significance of it. I recognised that it might be important when they started talking about business plans and being entrepreneurs. I was very happy as I have always wanted to own a business.

After the training, two people were selected to represent their council and I was not selected. A week before the summit I was then informed that the woman who had been selected would not be able to attend so I should take her place. I was very happy and nervous, but I saw it as an opportunity for me to talk about my business. During the presentations I was very nervous but I decided to give it my all because I was motivated by the people who presented before me. It was a very tight competition and I was shocked when I was announced as a runner up in the start-up category. This was the best moment of my life.

Before I attended the training my life was very challenging. I used to pray to God and ask him to take my life as I did not see the need to live. I have learnt a lot because I now have the confidence and courage to ask for help. I am attending a vocational college to learn to sew. This is part of the support that I got from Lobatse Town Council. After training, if I pass, I will be funded to start my own business. Even though I am still training to sew, I also sew to try and make a living. I sew bags, skirts, dresses and hats. The school allows me to do all this in my own time, using their machines. In this way I earn money to support myself.

I have encouraged a lot of people, especially youth, to work hard and improve their lives. I have even encouraged the elders to attend adult literacy classes as it is never too late to receive an education. I have taught people in business like me that patience is the key, even if the business is not doing well. I have also advised women from Ipelegeng that they should never give other people control over their lives and suggested that they should think of running their own businesses. I know I have made an impact on other people’s lives through the “I” story booklet. I appreciated my significance at the launch when we were told that just reading the stories can help other people to heal.

My life has really changed because I am now in a better relationship with a good man who is very supportive. I ended a relationship with my previous partner because he used to beat me as he was the one taking care of me. My current boyfriend is supportive, but I want to support myself financially and not depend on him like I did with my previous boyfriend. The training made me realise that I can do whatever I put my heart to, if I am committed to it.

People from our community admire the change in my life, seeing me after school when I arrive home. They also ask me to sew clothes for them. I feel very important, especially wearing clothes that I know I made myself. The community know I am now in business and I believe God will give me more blessings if I try harder.

I wish Gender Links could publish the stories of our changed lives to show others that through hard work and commitment one can be successful in anything in life and that change is easy. Again if they need help to encourage other people, I am willing to assist anytime. The challenges that I have encountered were that I fell ill and it was hard during the training sessions as I did not have the strength to eat. Sometimes it was very difficult to get money for transport because my family did not support me as they said the training was not important and I was only going there to eat food. I managed to overcome all the challenges as I believed that “with God everything is possible” and I made it through and attended all the phases of the training.

After finishing training I will receive funding and I will start my own business. My intention is to work hard and grow my business so that I can employ more people. I want to be a good example for Gender Links to thank them for the effort they have made to change my life. I am very happy with how my life has changed and I wish Gender Links could continue with the work that they do to improve the life of Batswana women. I also would like to open an non-governmental organisation (NGO) that works towards improving lives by assisting those in need.


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