Date: April 7, 2016
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Two (2) years ago I was part of a group of women that got the opportunity to change their norms. Gender Links (GL) in partnership with the Mossel Bay Municipality held a workshop that taught me new skills and also taught me how to be financially independent. I realised my worth as a women and the contribution I can make towards my town’s economy.

For 12 years I was in an abusive relationship and this included all kinds of abuse particular financial, emotional and physical abuse. After the GL workshop together with counselling I decided to end my marriage that I tried to save so many times and marriage counselling did not even work. I made the decision to divorce. GL really helped a lot and I am very positive because if I look back two (2) years ago I achieved so much after the workshop.

I am growing so much. I have gained business experience and would like to start my own business. I learnt that I do not have to (weapon/ instrument) for my husband and other’s revenge. I learnt my worth through GL and what I am capable of. GL together with the Municipality has really helped me up until now walked a road with me. The skills I learnt I can really apply to my life, my family, my place of work and my community.

In the short period my business plan was chosen to be presented in Johannesburg at the National Gender Summit hosted by GL. I travelled for the first time in an aeroplane. On Women’s Day I did a speech to other women. Currently I am busy with follow up assessments and I am glad that GL and the Municipality still helps with the development as well as my growth. I am grateful. My life is completely changed, my views, my perspectives and my focus to reach my goals and dreams with the right leadership and advisors. I am blessed and truly thankful.

I started with GL at Phase one (1) until Phase three (3) and Juliana Davids was the facilitator. The most useful part of the training for me was the information about Gender Based Violence (GBV) and this also contributed to my choice to leave my abusive relationship for good. I divorced and am happier because I am discovering a new me, exploring who I am and just being happy and enjoying my self-worth. Before GL my self-esteem was low but this changed for the better and my confidence grew. The business skills were excellent learning areas for me and I found every aspect of the GL training useful and one learns a lot from others experience as well.

My main challenge was overcoming the fear of choice, this meaning no one can predict the future but I made the choice to leave/ divorce but the tools and the skills I have learned will GL will help me cope in the future. I am therefore not afraid anymore, I know my rights.

When I met GL I was already an entrepreneur under the cleaning project of the municipality and I am currently in my third year of working on the project. The training helped me because I have managed to put a savings plan in action starting in November 2015 the money will be used to grow my business. From this you will see that this programme indeed brought change to my life on every level at home and community as well as my workplace. Our council is amazing and I thank God for our alder lady because she is a unique women and I have even been asked to do a presentation for Women’s day.

Assistance from counselling, welfare and advisors like Alma and Juliana when space tightens helped a lot. My husband abused me physically, emotionally and financial and therefore I decided to divorce him. He is still trying to traumatise me from a distance but my resources help me make him stop that as well because whenever I feel threatened or endangered by him I contact the authorities and I also call my family close by whenever I feel unsafe.

The domestic violence at my home affected all my children and left deep scars but I applied for therapy/ counselling through Child Welfare (organisation) and now they are helping me address this problem. I now see that there is a difference in my children’s behaviour and at school they are performing much better than before. My children are now free to be themselves and the atmosphere in my home is warm and friendly. They can communicate freely and it is amazing to see them happy now.

There is definitely a link between economic empowerment and reducing gender violence because I have more financial freedom and I don’t have to ask him for money. Instead he refuses to support his children, but having a job is so great and as soon as my business is up and running it will be even more awesome!

It is heart-warming when people visit me, telling me they admire me and they also realise it was a difficult situation but that they need to make a choice. I think I have the respect of my community and I remember last year December (2014) when he made an attempt on me. All the people in my street stood together throughout the night and it was obvious that if they got their hands on him he would have been badly injured.

People’s perceptions about me have changed and they were surprised when I decided to divorce because the norm is usually to stay for better or worse but I decided that I do not have to stand for the abuse anymore. I know create new knowledge by telling my story when and where appropriate and I have also done women’s day presentations, I am educating my children and relatives about abuse when appropriate and at my workplace share what I have learned.

An important lesson that I learnt is to never lose hope, self-respect toward yourself and that education is power. It will grow and build you as a person and your goals and dreams as well. I am applying this to my lifestyle and home (children and family), friends, etc. My future plans includes building and owning my business and to be empowered and totally independent. By 2030 I would like to be living out all my hearts desires.