By Duduzile Ruzive
Sukoluhle Ndlovu (43), who lives in Mzilikazi Township in Bulawayo metropolitan province in Zimbabwe says she spent twelve years of her married life depending on her husband for all her basic needs and the needs of her children. She says her condition was not pleasing until when she decided to start her own business.
“My husband was not earning a lot of money and most of the time I struggled to buy basic items such as sanitary wear. The situation was even worse for my daughter because she had no knowledge of other alternative methods of menstrual health management besides buying commercially produced sanitary wear,” says Sukoluhle.
Sukoluhle says she observed that other women in her community were engaged in various projects to supplement family income. She says such initiatives are crucial especially at this time when the country’s economy is going through a rough time.
“When I started my business I only had US$5 which I had received from my niece. I decided to join other women who survive on vending in the streets of Bulawayo. My business includes selling sweets, freezits, boiled eggs and other small things,” says Sukoluhle.
Sukoluhle says her work schedule start at around 0900- 0945hrs when she has done household chores and prepared breakfast for her husband.
“My project requires me to start my day very early so I can go to the main market to stock up for the day. These inputs costs an average of US$10 every single day. After buying the commodities, I re-sell from my street stall. On average I earn about $7.00 per day.
Despite the difficult working environment where she has to deal with law enforcement agents, Sukoluhle says her business is growing from strength to strength.
“I operate on a space that is not allowed by the municipal authorities. They used to come here to confiscate my wares but now I have found a way of dealing with them and they no longer bother me.
While Sukoluhle says her business is doing well, she says she still has to contend with patriarchy. She says she has to attend to her husband’s needs in the morning and evening. This include cooking for him, cleaning the house and preparing his clothes.
“From the time we got married, my husband set some rules that I and the children have to observe. One of the rules is that everyone should be at home lot later than 16:30. This is the busy time at my workplace but I have no option but to go home,” says Sukoluhle.
Sukoluhle says being able to earn income has helped to reduce tension between her and her husband. She says women who depend on their husbands for their daily needs are vulnerable to Gender Based Violence (GBV)
“Kukekwabanzima empilweni yami sigijinyiswa endlini lomtwana ukuthi why ngingaphekanga okufunwa ngusamtwana yena engatshiyanga imali — It was difficult to be always running for my life with my daughter for reasons such as not having cooked what my husband wants when he had not left money for that type of food,” says Sukoluhle.
Jayne Nyamundanda (61) is the leader of Shirikadzi Dzepamusoro (uplifted widows), a community based organisation in Nguboyenja suburb in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Jayne says women who are not economically active face financial, physical and emotional abuse from their spouses.
“After noting the acute challenges facing women in their marriages, we started a programme where we train women and girls in various income generating projects such as making detergents like, dish washing liquids, thick bleach, floor polish and petroleum jells,” says Jayne.
Jayne adds that the difficult economic environment in the country makes women more vulnerable to abuse and that economically empowering women would reduce the incidences of abuse.
“I am happy that as an organisation, we are making progress in strengthening the capacity of women to be economically active. Women who have undergone training here are making progress and some are now able to generate enough income to support their families,” says Jayne.