South Africa: Matzikama

South Africa: Matzikama

Date: April 12, 2016
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ElizabethOlynMatzikama, South Africa, 22 March, 2016: My first encounter with Gender Links was last year in 2014, I was informed by the Municipality that there would be a workshop that would be taking place and it was hosted by the council and facilitated by Gender Links. I was very reluctant to attend this, however I was informed that it would involve business management and skills development.

I attended the first workshop that was hosted by GL it was the I-Stories, it took place in May 2014 when I attended the workshop I was not sure what to expect, however I felt that I owed it to myself to see it through. That workshop was very hard and very painful, it forced me to deal and confront the abuse from my husband which I had been dealing with for a very long time. My husband was not always an abusive person, he used to be very supportive and also was good to my children and I, we have four kids together and we were very close.

I am not even sure how the issue of the abuse started, but I think when we relocated to Matzikama from our previous location he was hoping that things would be better economically. However when we got there the firm that he had been working for started to retrench people, and that is when I think he stared drinking heavily. I am not originally from this part of town, my husband and I met a long time ago he is a Tswana man from Botswana he came to South Africa in the 70’s and we met in Cape Town shortly after that, we were in love and it was all good for a while, but there were signs of his short temper even when I was pregnant with our first child. However I was also very quick to dismiss his behaviour and just thought that the stress of the unborn baby was also adding to issues.

I have always had a passion for business, I used to work in the factories in Cape Town as a seamstress, but I always loved the idea of having my own business and earning a side income. I started baking and making take away food on the weekends, I would sell my food to friends and neighbours but sometimes my husband would bully me and take the profits I would be making, this was very hard for me. As I was also expecting another baby at the time, but I never stopped with my business and would still continue to make my food and takeaways, however the abuse also continued to become more frequent. I continued to have this spirit inside of me to grow my business despite all the issues I was facing with my personal life. I was determined to have my life in order and so amazingly managed to enroll for the ABET classes, I was strongminded about finishing my matric and having that certificate. Unfortunately I never finished school as I had to go and work in the factories from an early age. I got my matric eventually even though it was hard, last year when I finished with the training for the I-Stories I went home and reflected on what has been happening with my life.

The I-Stories session made me think about a few things in my life, I also realised that I had been running away from dealing with the truth for a very long time. The abuse I had suffered all these years from my husband really came up and I had to deal with the pain. The abuse was never physical but it was always very emotional, I was called ugly names and also just made to feel like I am nothing. My self-esteem was also very low, and my husband made me stop working, he told me to stay home and look after the kids. I lost myself, and I started to depend on him for everything, he would get paid every fortnightly but he would not give me money to buy food. I would always have to beg him to give me money, and when he gave me money I would need to stay inside within the budget. If I went over the budget even by R1.00 he would be so upset and he would start shouting at me all the time, things were bad and even at home I was always afraid of what would happen.

There was one even that happened that made me realise that I needed to do something about my life, I remember one year in December just before the Festive Season my husband got paid his bonus. And he never gave me a dime, he drank all the money and went with his friends on a drinking spree, that Xmas there was nothing in the house it was empty no food or new clothes for my children. That is when I decided I would never allow this abuse to happen to me again, I started making food and then selling my baked and cooked food to my neighbours.

The GL training happened in my life at a stage when I needed it the most, when I got home after the I-Stories I started to think about what would be the next steps of my life and my progress, the GL training commenced with the Phase 1 training this is when Juliana taught us how to develop our business plans and also thinking of formalising our businesses. I had never seen myself as a business woman with even thinking of having a business plan, we also developed a personal development plan. This plan showed me that I have the potential to so more with my life. I had never even used a computer before in my whole life, when Juliana helped us with IT training I was nervous at first, but then I became fine after a while and I grew to be confident. I am still far from perfect but now I have a Facebook profile, I also have an email address. My kids were so shocked when they got a friend request from me, it was so nice. My kids told me how proud they are of me even feeling ok using a laptop it was so good to hear them tell me they are proud of me, as their Mom.

The training that I have had with Gender Links showed me a few things, I started to also realise that I did not need to have the approval of my husband all the time, I have started to become more confident in myself. I also realised that my environment at home has changed, my children are proud of the person that I have become. This year I won the Best Existing business at the South Africa National Summit, I ended up attending the regional summit in Botswana. When I attended the summit it was an experience for me that I will never forget. I think it was the platform that showed me how much I was capable of achieving. At the moment I know that my life has been transformed. I am able to stand up for myself even though my business is not at the level that I thought I want it to be at the moment. I do have this desire to grow my business and also make sure that I make my business grow, I just need seed money and capital. I am also doing a few odd jobs picking grapes and fruits on the farms during the October to December season, this money often helps me to also be able to buy groceries for my family and to save money for the Festive Season.

I do not think that I would ever realise in my life that something like this could happen to me, sometimes we think that we as women do not deserve good things. However I have realised that I too deserve to have the best, and also have good things in my life. I do look forward to the next chapter of my life and certainly know that there are great prospects that lie ahead of me. In 2030 I will be an old granny, hopefully by then my business would have grown, and be in good shape. However I am not that worried I just know that whatever the outcome I just want to be in a happy place and also feel better with my life.