Martha (50)

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‘Windows of opportunity will open if you take initiative’  


‘My name is Martha, I’m 50 years old and a mother of four. I don’t have much education, I dropped out of school early. For some time, I stayed with my aunt. She promised my parents that she would send me to a vocational college, because I wanted to become a tailor. My aunt kept her promise, but it didn’t last long. Again, I dropped out. I never completed my education and my dreams were shattered.


I got married young, basically I was still a girl. I didn’t have much life experience and neither did my husband. He had always lived with his parents and didn’t have a stable job, so we had to start from scratch. At the beginning of our marriage, I took care of the household and expected my husband to provide for us and for our children. 


Life was not easy. Money was tight, my husband could hardly put two meals on the table. Some days, it was only one meal. Our first child was born, then the second came along and now we have four children – two sons and two daughters. I could not sit back and do nothing. Waking up every morning with no food in the house and letting my children go hungry, that was not an option. It was time for me to take action.


Some women in my community told me about an organisation that helps people in rural areas. This organisation teaches people a trade, how to find work and how to grow their business. Initially, my husband didn’t want me to work outside our home or to have more freedom. He sometimes even abused me, because he felt I didn’t fulfil my responsibilities as a wife and a mother. But my husband was out of a job, so I had no choice. 


I didn’t get much rest during that time. I often felt weak and tired. It was hard, working and taking care of the children at the same time. When I received the first loan from the foundation, I decided to start farming. After all, food is always in demand and I can easily produce and sell it. My husband started to feel differently when I brought in my first crop: 20 bags of corn and 10 bags of beans. He was positively surprised and that’s when he started to support me. 


Sometime later, my husband joined a self-help co-operative for men in our community. When my husband and I started to work together, the results of our work became better and more rewarding. I also participated in a workshop on entrepreneurship. With all the knowledge that I acquired during this workshop, I was able to start a small shop in my living room. We currently own a cow and some poultry. On an average day, we sell at least ten litres of milk and three to four crates of eggs. 


I learned that if you sit and wait, your life will pass you by. But if you take action and take initiative, learn new skills – windows of opportunity will open.’ 

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