Phyllis’ life did not turn out the way she imagined it would.
She never expected to get divorced, or be a single mother. She never expected to start her own business or to find the strength within to go up against male competitors. Most of all, she never expected she would experience domestic abuse at the hands of someone she loved.
But for years, that was her reality. Phyllis’ ex-husband often beat her so harshly she wouldn’t leave the house for days because she was so ashamed.
“During my marriage I was abused to such an extent...it was full of torture,” Phyllis says, speaking softly but choosing her words deliberately. “It was so painful I couldn’t do anything. I would stay at home and I couldn’t go anywhere, I didn’t want people to see me.”
When she decided to leave – a move she says is unusual for women in Zimbabwe – she took her young daughter Trona with her and moved back to her family’s homestead. She needed a way to make a living and to put food on the table for her daughter, so she started a cattle business.
At first, she struggled to get men in the livestock business to take her seriously. They would try to overcharge her and dismissed her knowledge. But over time she established her reputation and then she took out a $1,000 Kiva loan funded by 35 lenders from around the world to help her expand.
With the loan she was able to grow from owning 2 cows to buying and selling 3 at a time. She is saving some of her profits and she also helps care for her extended family, for her sisters and their children. Phyllis has long suffered from asthma which was never treated, but now she’s been able to use her own money to see a doctor.
“I’ve changed, I’ve totally transformed,” she says. “I was not business minded but now I’m someone in my community. I was looked down on and I looked down upon myself before...People now can see this family and this homestead is improving from my business.”
Phyllis’ daughter Trona is 7 now, and loves to read and sing. Phyllis has high hopes for her future and for all the young women in her community.
“I want them to get empowered, I want them to grow and be successful in terms of education.”
Phyllis herself has gone back to school in recent years to sit for exams she never had a chance to take in secondary school.
“I would like to keep studying early childhood education,” she says. “I like socializing with young children because I understand them most and how to keep them happy.”
In the meantime she’s continuing to improve her business, and is planning to diversify to raising goats as well since they mature faster and can serve a different market.
Her advice to other young entrepreneurs is to do your research and learn all you can about a business.
“Accept challenges and be willing to take risks,” says Phyllis. It’s something she knows first hand can build a happy life, even if it’s one you never expected.
In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, will you join us in rallying to support the dreams of 10,000 women like Phyllis?