Things started to change for me when I joined this VSLA with other women. We were taught how to manage such an association and how we could use the loans to invest in our small businesses. This also encouraged me to request another loan of BIF 15,000 (USD 9) from the VSLA. With the loan I started to trade corn and avocadoes. This went quite well and it didn’t take long before I could also start trading charcoal. Thanks to this business, I was able to save money which I later on used to open a small restaurant. This turned out quite difficult though, as I now had many activities going on and I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship or management.
I therefore feel so blessed that I am now able to participate in an entrepreneurship training program. I have learned about market research, how to promote my products, and how to develop a business plan. I noticed that in the past I was often losing out because of bad planning and because I didn’t have a clear vision for the future. Other things that are helping me move forward in my business are that I now know I should treat customers better. Before I showed some weird behavior, colleagues were even afraid of me and sometimes I even insulted customers! Also, I did not keep my place of business clean and I also didn’t think of dressing myself properly. Now I put on a beautiful African style dress and every day I make sure that my workplace is clean.
Now that I know how to calculate profit I also know better which activities are worth investing and which aren’t. I also make sure my business is formal and legal, so I am not anymore exposed to state sanctions against tradespeople who work illegally.
Besides the restaurant I tried investing in raising chickens. I bought 30 chickens, but my husband was against this farming activity. He killed all these chickens because he did not see the advantage of that investment. My husband was often hostile to my activities and sometimes he abused me. But the trainers and also the other women from the association continued to support me and I always moved forward despite the behaviour of my husband.
Because of the profits I was making from other activities, I saw an opportunity in trade of coal and brick. Because I got so busy with the brick-making company I now run the restaurant together with my neighbor woman. We share the benefits at the end of each week and I am glad I could support her as she lived in poverty too.
Despite the difficult times, I stayed with my husband as he started to change his behaviour and attitude. This change happened because of the meetings provided by CARE for couples. The themes of the meetings are gender and the role of husbands towards the women that participate in the entrepreneurship program. My husband now even asks CARE to organize the same meeting for other men. He himself also thinks he can still learn more to improve his behaviour for the benefit of his family. Until today, my husband has not beaten me again.