Zimbabwe – Ester Musindo

Date: September 20, 2018
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“From a survivor of gender based violence (GBV) to an employer”

Esther Musindo was born in 1972 as the only female child in a family that adored male children. She grew up in a family where there was no peace because her mother was despised for the “offence” of failing to give birth to male children.

“I prefer calling myself Gamuchirai* (to accept a gift with your hands) as I was always fighting for acceptance within the family circles.” Her situation worsened when her father married another wife who gave birth to a male child. She was stopped from going to school. Leaving school in grade seven negatively impacted on her and the foundation of her life crumbled into rubble.

Gamuchirai* said: “I tried to fight for my right to education but my father refused to listen to my plea as he was convinced that it was of no use to educate female children. My father decided to prioritise the needs of my half-brother at the expense of my life. My mother failed to rescue me as she lacked the financial muscle and my father’s decision as the head of the family was final.”

The situation pushed her into early marriage as she thought that marriage was the only solution to her problems. In 1991 she married a Mozambican man and her father, supported by her stepmother, refused to approve the marriage. The situation led to the breakdown of the marriage arrangement. She later gave birth to twins in that same year and the burden of taking care of the children was left squarely upon her shoulders. She later entered into another marriage and things did not work out well.

Taking care of the two children was a challenging undertaking for Gamuchirai* as she could not get a decent job due to her lack of education. It was difficult to raise the capital to start a business, but she remained courageous and worked very hard to pay school fees for the children.

She vividly recalled the day she came across a radio programme featuring Msasa Project. The programme was packaged to encourage women to work with their own hands to empower themselves and this left a deep impression on her. She later met Zimbabwe Women Lawyers

Association at a capacity building workshop and her self-esteem was revived. The information she obtained during the workshop encouraged her to start her own business.

She generated money from selling freezits and doing manual jobs in her community. With the money she raised, she managed to start a poultry production project. “I was lacking adequate knowledge on how to run a successful project, but the courage to try new things kept me going,” she said.

While she was still struggling with her project she encountered Gender Links and enrolled in the emerging entrepreneurship programme. She was equipped with important business skills that were essential to operate a successful business and empower herself as a survivor of gender based violence.

The skills she attained during the entrepreneurship training helped her to realise that chicken products were in short supply in her area. She also identified potential customers like schools, restaurants and police stations. She successfully boosted her business and it started operating effectively.

Gamuchirai* quickly became a successful business woman and she created a good relationship with the local banks. “The banks encouraged me to apply for a loan to further develop my business but I decided to do it at the right time,” she stated.

“Economic empowerment contributed positively to my personal life. My deteriorating health status was restored. I was now able to afford basic needs and pay school fees for my children without any hassles. I managed to create employment for the community members because I need help with slaughtering, cooking and delivering chicken products to the market. Local food outlets are benefiting from my project because their existence is rooted in my business,” said Gamuchirai*.

The District Administrator for Zvimba noticed the good work that was being done by Gamuchirai* and she allocated her a 300 hectare farm. She is now a proud owner of land and she has got plans to construct fowl runs to increase capacity. She also has plans to diversify through establishing a horticultural business. She plans to build a wholesale outlet in town to

ensure that she secures a base from which to market her products. Gamuchirai* is optimistic that she will create more employment opportunities for the community.