‘I had no choice but to take the job, even though I heard stories from other women that worried me. Lifting all the firewood gave them a lot of back pain, but still I started doing the work. What else could I do? One day I left to go to the forest early. After some hours hours, I ran into a forest ranger who forced me to give him money. I didn’t have any. He beat me so badly I could barely move afterwards.’ After the death of her husband, the 48 year old Matuke ended up alone. Without an education and a job she had no other choice than gathering firewood.
Like many women in Ethiopia, Matuke tried to make a living selling branches. It’s an intense, heavy job that barely earned her enough to take care of her eight children. Even after being abused by the forest ranger, she had to continue.
There is a way out
At some point, two Dorcas social workers visited her at home. ‘They asked some questions and were interested to hear about my situation. From that moment on, I felt that there was a way out.’ Matuke joined the project and currently, she is an active self-help group member. She now learns about saving and borrowing money. ‘Every week, I meet with the others so I have a lot more contact with people than I used to. On top of that I take part in various training sessions and these sessions helped me to find out what I’m really good at!’
‘I received a small starting capital to start doing what I really wanted to do: sell vegetables in my area.’ This change is a big surprise for her neighbors. ‘Most people believed I wasn’t going to make it. The expected my to leave my children behind because of all the difficulties. I thank God things didn’t turn out like that.’
Back pain is history
Matuke now works five days a week. She enjoys her job and earns a lot more than she used to. ‘I don’t get beaten up anymore either. The back pain, the sunburns and walking in the rain for hours: all of those things are history. I can feed my children now and even send them to school.’
18 May 2017