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When I was 14 years old, my first husband approached my family about marrying me. The truth is I didn’t really like him, but my father had already received some money from him for us to get married, so for me to not accept it would have been very difficult for my family. The day I was to get married, my husband didn’t bring the dowry. I thought the wedding wasn’t going to happen, and I was so excited. But my father said, “I have already given out the invitations; no matter what, we have to make this wedding happen.” The women who came to visit me would all cry because they could see I was crying. I would say, “Is this really my love? This is not the person that I want to marry.”
In the end, I became like a slave, a servant to my husband. If he told me to do something, he would say, “I’ll hit you if you don’t!” A few months later, he said, “I’m going to leave you,” and I said, “Go ahead! Leave!” As soon as he left, I found out I was one month pregnant. I drank whatever I could that people said would cause a miscarriage, but it didn’t happen. When the labor pains started, my father said, “I think my child is going to die giving birth to this baby. I am very disappointed that I allowed my child to be married so early.” But as soon as the baby was born, I loved him. I can’t believe I didn’t want him born, even though he’s my son.
When he was about two years old, I got married again to a loving man. We had three more kids together. When our youngest was little, that’s when the conflict first started. One day, my husband said he needed to go to work. I was taking care of my youngest who was sick with a fever, so I didn’t actually see his face; I just said, “Okay, goodbye.” The whole day went by, and my husband didn’t come back. We found out he had been retained by Freedom Fighters, and he was killed. We didn’t have a grave or anything; we couldn’t find where he had been buried. I wanted to die; I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t go anywhere. We stayed with my father-in-law for three months, but when he died too, I thought, “Now I have no one.”
For about a year, I worked in a palm oil plantation, then for about five years I managed an orchard. I wasn’t able to nurse my youngest daughter because I was working so much. I would harvest, I would plant, I would harvest, I would plant; that was my life. I told a friend, “If this is how the work is, I don’t think I can do it. How can I provide for my children when I’m having to work like a man?” As I tried to find other work, I prayed at night, “Lord, help me to be able to find food for my family.”
If it hadn’t been for Jason, I probably wouldn’t be in this moringa business. I don’t have a formal education, and I don’t have schooling, but I have been working with his family for five years, and I have never felt like I’m unintelligent. That’s something I really appreciate. They treat me with respect, and it gives me a sense of pride. And even though I don’t have education, I am able to work with the moringa, and I’m still motivated to do what I believe I can do.
Here, there are no women that own businesses; we are the only ones. The difficult thing is, for a lot of people, and for a lot of women, it’s not that there are no opportunities; it’s just that they don’t know how to access them. The women here may want to have a business, but they are not sure how to do it. They don’t have someone to help them learn the process. If there was someone who came to teach them and showed them how to do it, they could do it too.
So if we have some resources with moringa, why wouldn’t we help? In our faith, we are taught to help each other. If there are people in need, we need to help them, give them support, and give them energy again. That’s what our faith teaches us.
Even though I had to provide for my four children on my own, all four of them were able to go to school. Two of them have already gone on to college, and one was able to finish high school and get married. I’m working hard so that my youngest that’s still here can go to college. As long as I’m healthy and I can work, I’m going to be working towards their success. I tell them, “Praise God you can go to school. So now you have to be really disciplined in your schooling. If you want to work hard and do well, then do it with all your heart.”
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