Swaziland: Saved from the economic violence of widowhood

Swaziland: Saved from the economic violence of widowhood

Date: November 18, 2015
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Manzini, Swaziland, 19 November, 2015: When I lost my husband, I did not only lose him but I lost all my hopes and dreams. I lost my sense of belonging, my freedom and stability. The sad part of it is that my husband’s family blamed me for his death.

They said I passed the HIV virus to him because of my unfaithfulness. They punished me by taking everything and leaving me in poverty at the hour of my greatest need. I had the burden to look after my children with no means of support. My plight started when my late husband was confined in bed. His family decided to move him to his parental place and I was forced to follow him to look after him. His condition worsened a week after his arrival there because they started giving him traditional medicine. He later succumbed to death.

After the funeral my mother in-law took all his personal documents intending to get hold of his savings and policies and she later expelled me and my children from her homestead. She managed to get the cash but the house we used to live in was saved by the intervention of the “Widows Association” Litsemba Lebafelokati.

Otherwise I would been out in the cold with my children because of my in-laws greed. Fortunately for me, my husband had registered the estate in my name and I was left with the flat which I leased out and managed to get support for the children. My in-laws neglected us and when I went to ask for support for the children I was told to return the estate to the family trust. Through perseverance and hard work I took care of my children alone, fortunately one of them has finished school.

I started saving the little I got from the rent and started making traditional wear “imvunulo“. I collected women’s attire bit by bit until I was able to hire it out to other people. Through the help of Inkhundla Development Centre, I got training on making traditional regalia. I market my ware through wearing it or posting my pictures on WhatsApp and Facebook.

Before Gender Links training I was a volunteer at the local care point and had worked at the Nazarene Health Centre as a counselor. I encourage healthy living through doing backyard gardens by planting in old tyres. I saw the need for healthy living because as a counselor I also encourage people to take care of their health and know their HIV status.I was then called to attend the Gender Links workshop aimed at empowering survivors of gender based violence. Participating at that workshop changed my life, I learnt new marketing strategies.

I now make my regalia more appealing and I am ready to learn new skills every day. I now wear the regalia (imvunulo) to every function and I get customers from this. I was lucky to be chosen to attend the 2015 National Summit where I also won an award for my business and got a customer. My elder daughter loves cultural wear such that she encourages her peers to wear the regalia (imvunulo) and bring in customers.

I have taught a few women in my community to make the traditional wear and plant vegetables next to their houses. I am also involved in bottle recycling, where we collect used bottles, clean them and sell them to the Ngwenya Glass factory. I have also taught them record keeping skills and how to use every resource out of there to make a living.

(Thabsile Mavimbela is a participant in the GL Empowering Women, Ending Violence programme in Swaziland. This article is part of a special Gender Links News Service Series for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day).

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