Zinbabwe: *Sandra Chitete

Zinbabwe: *Sandra Chitete

Date: May 17, 2016
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I was no longer having any feelings towards my former boyfriend Dube* but he remained in my life until I heard about Gender Links (GL). I got a chance to speak to someone and for the first time in my life and I felt a great relief. Speaking out made me feel better and I managed to pour out all the bitterness that had piled up over the years in the hands of my ex-boyfriend. Through the Gender Links entrepreneurship programme I came to realise that I do not have to rely on a man or anyone for survival. It dawned on me that I was good on my own and had the potential to do anything in life provided I come up with a good business venture. I was taught on how to prepare a detailed business plan and be able to borrow money from banks or other financial institutions.

The first day I heard about Gender Links was on the 7th of October 2013. On the first day of the training we wrote down our personal stories. These stories were about our gender based violence experiences and how it affected our lives.

On their second visit they introduced phase one of the training. I learnt all forms of gender based violence during the training. The training helped me not to look down upon myself. It made me to realise that no matter what happened in my past I should not allow it to pull me down. I attended all three phases of the training were I learnt how to come up with a detailed business plan.

Gender Links helped me to know ways to reduce gender based violence. When I started my cake baking project I began to earn my own money. My boyfriend could not continue abusing me because I became independent. I was educated not to rely on someone but to be self dependent.

Before the training I was not doing anything to earn money. Gender Links was an eye opener and I now bake cakes and it proved to be a lucrative business. Starting an income generating project boosted my self-image. I now see myself as an important person in my community. The sexual and physical violence I faced before ended the day I started earning my own income. I had to end the relationship because I was now able to take care of myself. As of now violence is now history.

I faced violence when parents passed away and I had to stay with my grandmother who struggled to send me to school. Dube* came as a cessation to all my problems by making sure I had everything I needed at school or at home. At the time I felt so special and loved until he began to persuade me to have sex with me. He finally got his way and he usually forced me to have sex with him without my consent. This went on for some time but I could not tell anyone as I was depending on him for everything. I was afraid that I will get stranded if he stopped providing for me. I was not ready to go back to the squalor that I was previously living in. The situation got so bad that he would even beat me if I refused to have sex with him, I had become his possession yet I did nothing to stop it.

In April this year, my business plan was selected as an entry for the Gender Justice and Local Government Summit to compete with other entries from nine contestants under the entrepreneurship category. For the first time in my life I made a presentation and it was scary at first but I gained confidence as I progressed. Even though I did not make it to be a winner or a runner up I learnt a lot of things. It was also a good learning curve to share important information with other participants. After the summit I went straight into cake making and I feel indebted to GL.  I am glad that I am doing something for myself at such a tender age as I also acknowledge the fact that Rome was not built in one day.

Right now I live with my brother who is very supportive of my new business initiative. Eventually, I was able to leave Dube* who still cannot believe that I was capable of living without him. It feels good to be independent because I have noted that even people around me are now starting to respect and acknowledge the work that I am doing. I shared with my friends the knowledge imparted to me by GL even though the starting capital tends to pause as a great challenge for most aspiring entrepreneurs.

The power I was given by Gender Links to take full responsibility of my life gave me the power to claim my rights. All people close to me can now see a great change in my life. I used to be very isolated and extremely quiet but now I interact with others. Even my lifestyle has changed a bit because I can now afford most of the essentials needed in life.

The change helped other people close to me, for instance my friends, church mates and some relatives. They admired how my life changed and all I could tell them was that “do your own project no matter how small.” My current boyfriend has no room to abuse me because I can do anything on my own. GL gave me back the power that I had lost a long time ago.

My bigger dream is to open a bakery in Chegutu once I get enough money to put everything into place. I will start by acquiring the equipment from the little money I am currently earning. One thing I am certain of is that once people get to know me and my products, my business will flourish because many customers I have baked for have always appreciated. Cake making is a passion for me and I enjoy doing it. In the future I hope to train others to make cakes because it is not so difficult and anyone is capable of doing it. By the year 2030 I believe I would have achieved all my plans. I am looking forward to creating employment opportunities to the community. I will employ people who are facing gender based violence. This will go a long way in empowering them to be able to stand for their rights.