Zimbabwe – Maria Phiri

Date: September 25, 2018
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“Extended an olive branch to survivors of gender based violence.” 

Maria Phiri is a widow who is also a survivor of gender based violence. She vowed to stop playing the victim in 2008 and decided to work with her own hands to better herself. While she was still planning on how she was going to realise her goals, a local councillor approached her and encouraged her to join local women’s clubs. After joining the clubs she became a member of the “rotating credits club.”  

Phiri effectively participated in the rotating credits scheme and after 12 months she managed to raise US $ 600. She used the money to set up a vending business. Unfortunately, she failed to realise the desired results and she has got this to say: “I was selling on illegal vending sites and my business was not protected from risks. I worked hard to develop my business but to no avail because I lacked the qualities needed for one to be a successful business person.” 

She encountered Gender Links in 2014 after struggling with her vending business for five years. GL, under its entrepreneurship programme, taught her how to run a successful business. “I was equipped with useful skills like business management, bookkeeping and market research techniques. Most importantly I was taught to operate a formal business and to operate within the legal framework,” said Phiri. 

 Phiri successfully applied the skills she acquired during the entrepreneurship training and she made a breakthrough into the confines of commercial industry. “I upgraded my business and instead of purchasing stock from South Africa or from other local suppliers, I started manufacturing my own stuff. With time I became a manufacturer of several types of clothing materials.” 

To survive in the face of stiff competition from other well established retailers, Phiri used the pricing and flexibility techniques she learnt during the entrepreneurship training to outcompete others. This has seen her winning tenders to supply local hotels with bed spreads and other materials. 

“Community members started treating me with respect and I used the opportunity to help other women who are survivors of gender based violence,” said Phiri. 

Several widows started to seek help from Phiri on how to start businesses. She shared with them the notes she wrote during the entrepreneurship training and they found the information useful. “I singled out two widows whose situation was very critical and I assisted them to set up their own businesses. The first one ventured into poultry production and the second one set up a hair salon business. Through continuous consultations with me, both women managed to boost their businesses and their situations changed for the better. I was happy to be able to help fellow survivors of gender based violence and I vowed to continue giving back to society through this noble deed,” she said. 

Phiri has plans to apply for a commercial stand and set up a large scale business. She wants to acquire more sewing machines and employ more workers in the near future.