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.
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.