Swaziland: Dumsile Mathabela

Date: October 4, 2018
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If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again. You can dust yourself off and try again as often as you need to

“In my first encounter with Gender Links (GL) I could not talk straight, all I did was cry. If Thandokuhle Dlamini, GL media officer can recall, my self-esteem was low and the tears kept rolling. But today my situation has not changed much economically as my business flopped. However, through GL entrepreneurship training and sharing with other women I have learnt to keep fighting and hold my head up high.”

Dumsile Mathabela is a gender based violence survivor who has taken life into her own hands and is exercising agency. “My extended family had been troubling me for a long time and I had had enough of their abuse and influence over my husband. So one day I decided to go and buy some salts and pretend that it was “muti” or traditional medicine. I was tired of the family stealing my eggs from my poultry business and so I walked around the compound with the pretend “muti” diluted in water in a visible container. I walked and chanted that whoever touched my eggs, chickens or crops without permission would have their hands stuck to the actual item until such time as I got back. It is very funny when I think about it, but they left me with no choice but to take matters into my own hands and so that is how my in-laws stopped the abuse and since then my husband has been a good man who is a caring father and loving husband”.

Mrs Mathabela’s first encounter with Gender Links was very emotional, the GL team visited her home and took footage for the entrepreneurship competitions in 2013 after she joined the programme in 2012. At the time she was a shell of whom she is today. Her husband was still abusive, her daughter had been diagnosed HIV positive and her son was going to a vocational school for the disabled. Life in many ways was not pleasant, the challenges were enormous and her motivation was very marginal. Dumsile Mathebela deserves to be a driver of change because she has come up against adversity and has managed to encourage other women even through her own situation is not that stable. Indeed her family has overcome the violence her husband inflicted on them. They are not as yet economically successful, finances continue to be a challenge. However, Mathebela is determined to make life work and says as long as she has hands and energy, she will work hard and farm.

“I had vegetables, but cows got in and ate everything. Now I am growing herbs and vegetables from the failed chicken business. The main challenge of the business of farming is waiting for rain as the family members do not want to pay for water. They say I use too much water and so I am now trying to get my own water tank. There are no council projects for water tank assistance. I plan to get a tank and collect water during summer holidays. I have identified a larger piece of land to grow vegetables and herbs. I had to sell everything related to the chicken business as I was not making a profit. After attending the phase 2 and 3 training of the entrepreneurship programme, I realised I was not managing the cash flow properly.”

“The programme has helped me to move out of an abusive marriage by standing up to my husband and the family members who were inciting abuse between us. I did lots of praying and have managed to win my husband’s love over and he has seen that I am a hard working woman who is committed to the marriage. This marriage is my second. My son, who is now 19, bears the scars from his father’s abuse and vividly remembers that his father was once abusive. However, with the effort to make a living and assist in raising the family, my husband is no longer a difficult man. I ran the business that I entered into the GL competition for 10 months and I entered and did not win. However I know where I messed up, all I need to restart that business is capital. The trays and the structure for the business are all still in place. My son, who is disabled from the abuse, assists me with the chicken business as he has vocational training and has not managed to finish conventional mainstream schooling. My second challenge is the animals that eat the crops when one has planted. However, fencing will assist in keeping the animals away. What I can do by myself is to get some good wood from the forest and get my son’s assistance with the business.”

Mrs Mathabela’s friend (who has asked to remain anonymous) and is currently in an abusive marriage, says she has seen the change in her friend’s life. The friend, whom we shall call “Rose,” has seen how the entrepreneurship training has equipped Dumsile Mathabela to be a positive farmer even when business is not profitable. Dumsile has also extended her business to growing natural herbs that different customers purchase for basic ailments. Rose’s husband was in the house when we did the interview and so we could not asked her many questions. However, she did agree to being videoed and photographed and using her testimony of the transition in friend’s life. Since she started growing the herbal plants her family know they can get treatment.

She says: “I do not have tangible proof that there is change in my life, but inside I feel it, I do not know how to explain but there is change in my life”. Dumsile accredits her change to the continued work of the GL Swaziland manager, Ncane Maziya, who continues to call women to join the training. “It is very encouraging to have an organisation that continues to look for you even when your business has not succeeded in the expected ways”. When Mrs Mathabela got the call to attend the follow up assessment she felt very encouraged, as if there is a second chance to do things better. She has committed to doing better in her farming and chicken poultry business and she has learnt to keep evidence, to budget and watch over her profit margins and spending.

Dumsile Mathabela is hopeful for the future and intends to start her business afresh and make the most of the knowledge she has gained. Future plans include selling more regularly at the local market where she has a stand to sell her crops and other produce. She intends to enter the 2016 entrepreneurship category at the GL SADC Protocol summits. Her plans are to sell and make money and start up her dream business as a farmer and vendor.