Thabsile Mavimbela – Swaziland

Date: December 7, 2015
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You are captain of your own ship

“Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” -Marilyn Monroe

“Attending the entrepreneurship training was an eye opener for me. I used to think being a housewife and doing household chores qualified me to be a good wife. I never thought I could multi task and still be there for my family. To me it was normal that males should provide for their families not knowing that one day I would be left without that provider”. The demise of her husband five years back left her vulnerable and confused. She lamented on women’s, particularly widows’, attitude of being entirely dependent on their spouses, saying that when the spouse passes away the family falls apart. They become vulnerable and lack the skills to sustain themselves, let alone use what was left behind by the spouse. She was left with three school going children to cater for. She was young and sickly back then until she went to find out about her status and proved her suspicions correct. She was indeed living with HIV, she accepted her condition and started living positively by doing all they taught her at the clinic. She started the “healthy living project” whereby she planted vegetables next to her house so the family do not lack them in their diet.

Thabsile was a volunteer at the community care point and worked part time as a counsellor at Nazarene Health Centre. Her husband had left her with four rented flats and three children to look after. Before she attended the training she misused the money she got from the flats and would end up approaching her in-laws for help. “After the training I started thinking about what I could do with my life so as to stop the habit of dependency that I had developed”. She started saving some of the money she got from rent and bought material for making ‘tidziya’ part of Swazi women’s traditional regalia. She got her training from a community development project. She then started renting out her regalia to other women at the same time adding on to her stock bit by bit. Currently she can hire out for big events such as the reed dance (umhlanga), traditional weddings and other traditional functions. She has opened a bank account for her business and keeps records.

Her standard of living has improved. She is able to sustain her family’s needs with the income she gets and one of her children has completed school. She has also learnt to separate her business from her personal life. She is now able to assist her in-laws when the need arises. Her main challenges were getting a place where she could display her wares and raising enough capital to add to her wares. Her efforts to secure capital from the rural development fund failed. She then approached the town council for a stall which they allocated her at the satellite bus rank twice a week.

Gender Links’ entrepreneurship training has helped her with record keeping and marketing strategies. She is able to make her traditional regalia more attractive yet competitive and she always wears her traditional regalia to functions. “I was wearing it during the Summit and I got customers”. She also advertises her wares on “whatsapp”. She introduced her customers to using “mobile money” to cut travelling costs and save time. She is now able to surf the internet for new products and ideas on how to improve her business.

Through the training she received from Gender Links and counselling skills that she had, she has taught a group of 40 women on a number of projects, one such was “healthy living” whereby they grow vegetables using old tyres. She also started a bottle recycling project. “Stop Littering” deals with bottle recycling and she has also shared with them her skills in making the traditional regalia. Some of the women in her community have followed in her footsteps and by simple taking her advice their lives has improved. She shares her passion for her culture with her daughter who is now bringing in new ideas and customers. She encourages girls her age to embrace their culture.

Through perseverance and keeping focused on her goal she has been able to come this far. Her standard of living has improved. She is able to sustain her family’s needs with the income that she generates.


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