BEING Women’s Month, my editor, Sean, asked me to write an opinion piece for this special month of the year. I was reluctant, at first, then I thought, well, why not? After all, I am a member of the fairer sex so it should be quite easy-going.
However, it won’t be about pass laws, or marches, or riots or protesting for one thing or another. It’s not about women who’ve excelled in the boardrooms of giant corporations, or about women who demand and beg for human rights, or about women in fancy government positions - this is concerning women of substance; women who encourage their children, their families and their husbands to be and become exceptional, contributing members of society; women who are courageous and disciplined, within the core of their beings. I know of exactly such a woman and, if I may, this is her story.
This lady’s name is Eunice. I met her just before her 21st birthday. We were living in a caravan in the Hekpoort valley, near Magaliesberg - a most magnificent area. One day, as I was preparing to go to my menial-paying job, in the valley, Eunice arrived at the caravan site. A lovely-looking lady, well-dressed and ever so polite. She introduced herself and asked whether I might have a job for her. I was stunned and taken-aback as there’s absolutely no work to do in a caravan, besides dusting, washing dishes and a bit of ironing, which I was gladly doing, on my own.
We chatted for a while and I asked her where she was from and where she was living. She was born in Polokwane (Pietersburg) and she was living in a cardboard hut (not even tin) next door to the caravan site. Her mother and sisters were still living in Polokwane and she didn’t know her father. She explained she couldn’t stand it any longer as there were a lot of drunkards and noise and she wanted to better herself so that she could move away. I supported her thinking and employed her, on the spot! She started work the next day. When I say work, well, it was the dusting, dishes and ironing. When I got home, the caravan looked like a new sixpence! She was so proud of what she’d done – so was I. I had a spare cell phone and gave it to her so that we could keep in touch.
I visited her cardboard room the next day and tried to find better accommodation for her. There wasn’t any, anywhere.
As the years went by, we moved to Fairlands. Eunice would not leave us. She woke at 4.30am, walked three kilometres to the nearest taxi rank. Caught two taxis and walked a further three kilometres to our home. I said I would find her accommodation and employment so that she didn’t have to travel so far. She would hear none of it and travelled this way for a year – never moaning and ever grateful, just to have a job.
We eventually moved to a suburb in Randburg where there was accommodation for Eunice. I furnished her room, as best I could and supplied whatever she needed, so as to make her as comfortable as possible. She was elated. We had many talks together and I explained to her that she needn’t be a maid for the rest of her life and that there were a myriad opportunities for her.
To cut quite a long story short, she began studying through Unisa, towards a degree in Social Science. I saw her light on in her room at all hours of the morning and night. I had a desk for her to keep her books on and a lamp so she didn’t need to read in the dark. I worked with her through her assignments and helped where I could – but – she was the focused one; she had the determination and the discipline and the courage to move forward. She didn’t ask for, or demand, anything!
She received her degree. She works for a large company, dealing with Aids patients and earns a salary I could only dream of. I visited her two months ago in her beautiful townhouse that she bought. Her car is paid off and she now supports and encourages her sisters and family to better themselves. She visits me now and then, always, with a bouquet and a chocolate and there’ve been a few times where she’s deposited funds into my banking account. This, people, is what I call, a woman of substance and I celebrate her and all women with this courage, perseverance and determination to better their lot-in-life, truthfully, justly and through hard work.