SA: Margaret Matlala

Date: September 25, 2018
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“It does not matter what happened in your life as long you overcome and allow better new things to happen in your life.”

I first met Gender Links when I went to the “I story” workshop at Khuseleka place of safety, we were from the Matlala TVEP and I was not aware of the pain in me, until I started talking and writing my “I” story. We were crying in that workshop but we had support from Khuseleka social workers and they counselled us. I thought that was enough because I left feeling much better that day and I thought Gender Links did me good for giving me the opportunity to talk about my problems. Little did I know that it was the beginning of the new me.

I was then invited for the second time at Khuseleka for another workshop and I thought we were going to talk about our problems again and I thought this time I am ready, no crying I am stronger and I will be the one comforting other participants but I was disappointed because I did not get the chance to do that instead something better was installed for us.  

Growing up in the rural areas and be reminded everyday of your life that you are a woman and there are somethings that you cannot do and cannot achieve because you are a woman. That day we were taught that the only thing I cannot do as a woman is to have beards and have sperms. I was taught I was important and I am able to do anything a man can do. 

I experience gender based violence and I accepted that there was nothing I could do about it, I was married and that is what marriage is all about. You are told when you get married that marriage is tough and you have to stand everything that happens everything that happens in it. The one thing they tell you well is don not even think about going back at your parents’ home when thing get though. So you stay in that marriage waiting to die. When we attended the first workshop and I realised my value and because I am a hard working woman a light was lid insight of me. When we started talking about starting our own business I already had something in mind but I think I needed somebody to tell me I can do it. I build my house with my hand starting by making my own bricks and I finished, I could start my business. 

I have never touched a computer in my life when Susan and Juliana came to us with computers and I was scared to even touch it but when they left I did a business card by myself I was so proud. I told my children that I am able to work on the computer, I just wish gender links could teach us every day how to use a computer. But that week I felt like a new person. I even felt confident to ask people about business plans and asking assistance in doing my business plan. 

We were approaching 16 days of activism as the local police station was organising the activity we approached the organisers and we participated in that activity by doing a play to make  awareness for other women about gender base violence and the importance of speaking out and never thinking you are alone. I took a part in the play and I was proud. We did not just end there we negotiated with the police station to use their yard that was not in use for a vegetable garden so that we can be able to feed people who are living with HIV/AIDS through the vegetables we will grow on the garden. We were given the place as I am talking to you we are growing beautiful vegetables, we feed our families and members of the community and I work there every day. 

My passion was to grow chicken and selling them, we were trained to make market research and advertise our businesses I started by building a small place for my chicks and to keep them warm. I then started my business and my children are helping me to sell grown chicken. In the main road where I stay there is a sign my business with my name to show people where chicken are sold. When I pass there I am proud of myself because I thought I was a  nobody but people pass the board and see my name and know where chicken is sold. It is hard work but I will not change anything. 

For the first time I went out of my house with a bag not going to a family funeral or to take care of a sick family member I came to the summits. 

Even my husband did not believe seeing me going out of the house with a bag, going to Johannesburg for business and I was scared that I needed to present my business in front of strangers. I was very proud and nothing was going to stop me I felt like a winner by just coming to Johannesburg. Sleeping in a hotel where I did not have to make my bed, me, Mamatlala somebody needed to pinch me to believe it.