Featured Storyteller

CAMEROON: My Business Helped Me Escape Domestic Abuse

Stephanie Mah
Posted August 29, 2018 from Cameroon

Despite challenges and push back from her husband, Stephanie Mah launched her own business and transformed her life.

“When my husband realized we needed both incomes for our family to move forward, he apologized for all his maltreatment.

My story, I believe, is known by many women: I am a victim of male domination and violence. I write with a heavy heart, full of pain and anguish as I recall the domestic violence I went through at the hands of my husband.

I believe everyone was created for a purpose and ambition. Yet, in rural communities like mine, women often marry without fulfilling their dreams of working to support themselves and their families.

When I got married in 2007, I was a hairdresser. By 2009, my husband could not afford the equipment I needed to use for work, so I started cooking food and selling it. But, out of jealousy, my husband asked me to quit hawking food. I refused and tried to help him understand how the little income I made from selling helped us in our home financially, but he refused to listen to me.

At one point, whenever I had a pot on the fire, my husband would pour out the contents. This continued for some time, so we started fighting and he would beat me very badly. For the sake of peace, I stopped selling food. After some time, I began selling credit in a call box which he supported, but after a few weeks, he opposed this work too.

I switched to hawking boiled groundnut, but he did not like that either. I knew that I wanted and needed to work, however. My husband’s income was not enough, and we needed more money.

I wept and grew pale: I didn’t understand the man I married anymore, and I could not imagine that he who was supposed to be by my side comforting me was the same man beating and discouraging me in everything I wanted to do.

Whenever I thought of my problems I felt like screaming so the whole world could hear my pains, but I thought it was of no use because no one would understand me.

For months, I stayed home but we were not in good shape financially. I went out in search of a job again and got hired at a printing firm; he opposed that and called his parents to come and talk to me and ask me to choose between my work and my marriage. In tears, I chose marriage.

Four years passed, and I stayed home without working and our condition remained the same. I could not take it anymore so by the end of the year 2013, I decided to learn a trade behind his back while he was at work. I would sneak away to learn a trade. When he found out, he beat me again. I finally gave up and lost hope.

Then, I had an idea.

There was a type of milk I prepared for my family for breakfast, a milk my mother taught me how to produce. I decided to make it and sell it in my house. I told my husband about this, and to my surprise, he supported it.

After a few months, my small home business contributed to the expenses of the house and my husband was happy about it. It helped that I promised myself I would not stop this project—no matter what.

When my husband realized we needed both incomes for our family to move forward, he apologized for all his maltreatment, and he explained he could not bear other men seeing me while I was hawking.

He gave me some money to buy more soya beans so that I could produce more milk. The demand increased, and I found I could not keep up alone. So, my husband helped me by bringing the milk to shops where it was in demand. His friends began mocking him for working for me, so he stopped, and now helps only sometimes.

One night, I dreamed that I had three cars that had the label of my product plastered on them. When I woke up, I smiled and I told myself that I would become a great entrepreneur. I enrolled in entrepreneur classes and at the end of the training I got a certificate.

Though my business is not big, I sell in many shops and demand is increasing daily. I produce in a local way and it is very challenging as the quantity is little and the demand high. But I am committed to my promise to myself to not give up. I dream of having machines and a team of people working with me.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the #WealthofWomen event and the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 24

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Tamarack Verrall
Sep 04
Sep 04

Dear Stephanie,

What resilience you have! Your husband is very lucky that he did not lose you. By describing what he did to you and why (that he felt other men would look at you, that he had been taught that he as a man had the right to control you through violence) you are opening up this subject and no doubt many will join you with similar stories. Men are still being taught by each other that they have the right to and need to control women. You have managed to change this in your home. I was so relieved to read that he had apologized and stopped. Congrats on your amazing business abilities, and for your determination to live your life freely.

In sisterhood,
Tam

Stephanie Mah
Sep 04
Sep 04

Hi sister Tam,
Thanks so very much for the support, apreceait and encouraging. I believe they're so many women out there with similar stories even more than mine to be head, together we will stand.God with us.thanks.

Ngwa Damaris
Sep 04
Sep 04

This is so great my dear.After the rain always comes the sun Kudus!!!!

Stephanie Mah
Oct 26
Oct 26

Yes my sister you are right

Tumanjong Miranda
Sep 05
Sep 05

Oh my goodness! Stephanie, I'm so proud of you. You are a powerful woman and that's worth applauding. So many women will not stand the violence, but you rose beyond your pain. I can testify your product is so good. What I admire most is the fact that your husband apologized to you. So many men out there will not put lay down their pride for the sake of peace, yet your husband did. Thank for sharing your story.

jlanghus
Sep 05
Sep 05

Hi Stephanie:) Congrats on being a featured storyteller. Great job! So proud of you:-)

Hope you're having a great day!!!

C'est merveilleux d'être en harmonie dans ton foyer, courage et merci d'avoir partager votre histoire.

Adanna
Sep 05
Sep 05

Dear Stephanie,

Congratulations!

Your story is really inspiring and thank you for sharing.

I am glad that despite the domestic violence you went through in the hands of your husband, you still persisted.

Well done sister.

Love,
Adanna

karen_3
Sep 05
Sep 05

What an inspiration you are Stephanie! Long may your success continue. Love and blessings.
Karen

Honesty Smith
Sep 05
Sep 05

Your dream is already yours! :)

Hello, Stephanie,

You are such a brave woman and you have used your power so effectively. What a joy it is that the man who prevented you from achieving your entreprenuerial endeavors humbled himself before you and apologized. I am so inspired!

Congratulations for being a featured storyteller! Kudos for your economic achievement! Thank you for inspiring us with your story.

Hugs!

tunde
Sep 06
Sep 06

This is an encouraging story for some who are facing thesame challenge and about to give up. Thanks for sharing this story.

ARREY - ECHI
Sep 07
Sep 07

Beautiful story sis. I am glad his violence didn't harm you and eventually, you had to turn the narrative around to empower yourself. Many are trapped in abusive relationships with no way out. May this help them seek ways to empower tthemselves.

Congratulations for being a featured story teller.

Françoise Hovivian

Stephanie, you are SO inspiring to me, to us. Lots of hugs.

Leonida Odongo
Sep 17
Sep 17

You are an inspiration.Keep going sister!

Juliet Acom
Sep 18
Sep 18

Dear Stephanie,

Your story inspires me. I know a few sisters who I will share it with because they are going through the same at the hands of their husbands.
You Are an exceptional woman, thank you for standing up to domestic violence and teaching others that it can be overcome.
God bless the work of your hands.

Your story is inspiring. When we do not give up we achieve greatness in due season. You are going far. Keep striving.

Lily Habesha
Sep 20
Sep 20

Dear Stephanie,
What a story!
My mom was forbidden to work by my my father. he said, "A woman's money is not important to support a family."
He didn't allow her to invest or cut and sell wood from the land covered with eucalyptus trees(Hektar) which she inherited from her father.
She was a house wife since i was born, I'm one of her children born in the middle...10 kids.
He spoke to her badly, but she was clever. She taught 8 of her children the Kg education and we started from Grade one.
She saved a lot of money for him, but he calls her all names.

Mothers, women and girls in Africa, suffered a lot in this world.
But, my mom was so happy at the end sawing her children success.

I'm glad you have your own business. Keep walking, and you can have a big company. Don't ever give up whatever people are trying to mock.

My elder sister's friend had a small sweater machine, she produces scarfs and sweters...it is owned by her mom. When she got married to a musician, she moved out. She bought her machine. She rent a shop, and try to promote it better. Always her husband was at her shop after work with his friends. She took a loan and bought more machines. When the demand became high, her husband resigned from a police orchestra and joined her business. They go to shop for materials together, they buy car, they go to meetings together, he went out to look for new clients...
Now, the government gave them one floor from one big building, they have many modern machines, they produce t-shirt, bags, hats, sweters for many schools, they hired around 50 workers.

Tell this story to your husband. I visit their company with two Cameroonian, a guy and WP ambassador in Ethiopia, Stella Mofor.
They accept the idea, and you never know...Who hates to be rich?

Go girl!

Lily,
From Ethiopia

Tarke Edith
Sep 20
Sep 20

Hi steppanny
Congratulation sister for a job well done you have made me to be pruoad of you keep up

AMumbua
Sep 23
Sep 23

You are a very strong woman Stephanie! I hope you achieve your dreams!

Ngala Nadege
Sep 28
Sep 28

Hello Stephanie ,congratulations

Jo Sween
Sep 28
Sep 28

You have so much courage, intelligence and drive! It's really inspiring. Congratulations on building and growing your business through your hard work and persistence. May it continue to grow, be successful and satisfy you!

Yours in solidarity and sisterhood,
Joellen

Evelyn Fonkem
Oct 09
Oct 09

Great piece my dear on how you overcame GBV

Tecenta Achiri
Nov 10
Nov 10

dear sister
I have tasted your products and I know its very good ...courage my dear