Zambia: Exildah Chinyama

Zambia: Exildah Chinyama

Date: November 9, 2016
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My name is Exildah Chinyama and I live in Solwezi. I am a business woman as well as an employee of a welding company. My business involves buying and reselling fruits of different types. When I have free time off my daily job as a welder, I buy iron bars and angle liners which I use to make window frames, door frames and grill doors.

I came to know about Gender links in the year 2014 after having been linked to them by the Young Women’S Christian Association (YWCA). This was after having experienced marital problems because my husband was abusing me physically, economically and emotionally. I came to the YWCA after having been referred to them by the Police Victim Support Unit (VSU) where I had reported my husband for Gender Based Violence (GBV). It was at this time that the YWCA informed me of the Entrepreneurship workshops by Gender Links Zambia.

I have so far attended four workshops and my most memorable moment was during the first workshop I attended when the facilitator explained to us that one way we could end GBV was to not depend solely on our husband financially. She explained that this was one of the major contributors of GBV prevalence in homes and relationships.

At the end of the phase one workshop I realised that I could do any kind of job that a man could do. At this point, I decided that I would become a professional welder. The reason I chose this particular profession was because there are very few women professionals in this field and this would make me very marketable.

It was not easy in the beginning of my welding course. A lot of men in the same course would laugh at me and discourage me because they thought I would not manage it. Some called me a bitch and accused me of being promiscuous because I was usually among male class mates. Some men would encourage me and urge me to stay focused on what I want to become and just be good at my job because the future for me was brighter than that of most men in that profession.

Just like some male class mates most of my fellow women in the community discouraged me from going ahead with the decision I had made.

It was very difficult as I had to deal with all the negative energy around me at the training and I also had to deal with the trauma that had befallen me due to the abuse I had suffered in my marriage.  I wanted to quit but something in me had changed, something told me not to quit. I knew I had no infant at home to worry about, I was not pregnant so I was confident I could go ahead and follow my dream.

I had no formal education, no job at the time and no one to rely on for money. It was my only shot at life and I knew I had to give it my all so that I could be financially independent and take good care of my children.

I am now a fully-fledged welder and appreciated by my employer because I am a committed and hardworking employee. Thanks to the Gender Links Entrepreneurship workshops I can now divide my time between my business and my job.

I am currently doing my business from home and I hope to soon have a shop of my own in the central business district of Solwezi. Due to the skills we have acquired from the Entrepreneurship workshops, the council has promised to help us get loans to boost our businesses. I am so looking forward to those loans so that I can expand my business.

I now know the law, no one can step on my rights, I am very aware about GBV and the rights of women. I am a more confident person now knowing what I am entitled to as a woman and citizen of this country. Thanks to Gender Links and our Entrepreneurship facilitator Rosemary Kakompe. I am independent, strong willed and outspoken on the wellbeing of women in my community. I am now the community advocate for a GBV free society. I look out for any GBV occurrences’ in the community and I report them to the police and help victims collect medical reports which they use to open cases against perpetrators.

I usually use my situation as an example to other women who feel they cannot exist without their abusive partners/husbands. It’s the same thing I do with my children, I make sure I teach them every day to love and respect each other as boys and girls. They share work equally depending on their ages but I do not segregate duties based on their gender. I teach them how to cook and how to clean the house. I have already started inculcating entrepreneurship ideas into their minds. I teach them how to grow fruits at home, and if they want things like candy, instead I give them each two fruits to sell to passersby and the money they generate is theirs for popcorn or candy or whatever they want to buy. This way they learn the benefits of hard work and that nothing comes out of nothing. I am simply trying to teach them how to earn a living.

I am a committed church member at our local church and I am also a member of the choir. As a choir member I am not really in support of fundraising walks or soliciting for funds from church members whenever there is a financial need. Instead I always propose menial work in exchange for a payment. This is how we ought to lead as elders so that we set an example to the younger generation.