- Meet 38-year-old Winfrida Joseph who became a widow in 2011 when her husband died in Mbeya region where he was working as a police officer. He succumbed to diabetes.
Every finishing line is the beginning of a new race. Toiling, going without food, exposing herself to sun looking for greener pasture, was all about her life.
Meet 38-year-old Winfrida Joseph who became a widow in 2011 when her husband died in Mbeya region where he was working as a police officer. He succumbed to diabetes.
It is not easy for anyone particularly illiterate woman to cope with the situation as drastic changes take place like transferring children from private to public schools, changing the meal plans and much more. It happens mostly when the dead was the sole bread winner.
“I was mixed up. Where to start from was my big question. Little knowledge acquired in school was worry number two,” she said.
The mother of four, Rebecca 21, Monica 18, Wilbert 14 and Diana Thomas 9, explains that when the husband was still alive, she managed to travel to many places through his transfers.
This made her know a lot concerning behavioural, economic and the nature of some places.
“My husband worked in Moshi district, Mtwara, Tanga and Mbeya,” she says.
Winfrida says, challenges occur, but proceeding on with life as a single parent, requires a thick skin.
She says she was born in Itilima district, Simiyu region. She never managed to complete her education as she dropped out in Standard Six due to family conflicts.
Her next aim was to practice tailoring or hairdressing in a salon but there was no room for that, they led a difficult life as their mother went back to her maternal home in Tabora region and their father was irresponsible. Being five in number, each child was adopted by paternal relatives.
“I was brought up by my uncle as my parents separated while we were young. Being the firstborn, I saw it as a burden staying with my uncle so I opted for marriage,” she wept.
At the age of 18, she got married to Thomas Vungi who was a newly employed police officer stationed at Mwanza in Kirumba ward, Ilemela. They stayed together for fifteen years until his death.
“My husband was buried in Mbeya as per his wish,” she remembers.
At Mbeya, Winfrida was forced to look for any employment that would help her feed, dress and take her four children to school.
She says she was unable to pay the school fees for her firstborn Rebecca, who was in Form Three in a private school. We used to pay Sh2.2 million per year, affording even a quarter of it, was not easy.
She understood the situation and agreed to join an ordinary public school. Thanks to her hard work she made it to college, later.
Mbeya, has weather with enough rainfall and fertile soil, which enable it to be the largest producer of some food crops.
She therefore made some arrangements with local women who introduced her to maize farming while waiting for her husband’s inheritance procedures.
She says she had planted some maize and got employed at a nearby pub. This made most of her friends abandon her since bars were associated with immorality.
“I did all these to ensure that my children don’t starve. I trusted myself, despite the challenges,” she says. One year after the death of her husband, she was ordered to quit the police quarters as was the procedure.
“Things begun getting out of control, the little I gained from farming was used to take my second daughter (Monica) to hospital as she had developed epilepsy. I never knew about the disease’s origin but the fact is, the young girl started falling down as days went by,” she says.
Her elder daughter Rebecca was a pre-candidate in Form Three while the second child, Monica dropped due to her health status and Wilbert in Standard four.
When she was thrown out of the police quarters in February 2015, and her daughter, Rebecca was the most affected.
“There was now no place to call home. I had to leave everything behind including clothes and utensils because none of my relatives I called seemed to care,” Winfrida.
The church was the only remaining destiny. She went to the KKKT church based just some miles away from where they lived.
She asked for assistance to enable her travel with her children to Mwanza city where her late husband had bought a small piece of land some years back.
The money raised was Sh150,000 which enabled her travel to Mwanza.
“My husband began working as an officer at Mwanza here, he therefore had a piece of land at Igoma, within the city,” she acknowledges.
She says that, the remaining balance she had was used to rent a small room to accommodate them and pay for her sick daughter’s medication.
“It was not easy. Remember I carried nothing from the house at Mbeya. So here I had to look for quicker means to buy clothes for the children and food. I worked in various places including hotels and even doing laundry for people at a small fee,” she narrates.
The moment they bought the small piece of land at Igoma in late 90’s, it was cheap. A 50m by 100m would wa sold for for Sh100, 000/ to Sh 200,000/ depending on the location.
”I had to look for a reliable broker to sell this piece of land on my behalf, because I had already discovered the land’s current value in Mwanza city,” Winfrida.
In the middle of 2016, she managed to sell her late husband’s piece of land at Sh12 Million.
She therefore opened an account and deposited all amount.
“I tried as much as I could to do something that I could call an asset and not a liability,” she states.
She went to the rural part of Kisesa and bought two pieces of land and one back at Buswelu in Ilemela district. They both cost Sh3 million. She used the remaining money to construct her own home at Kisesa, a few kilometres from the city of Mwanza. Apart from that, she has managed to build two guest houses. One at Buswelu and another one at Kisesa a few kilometers from the city of Mwanza. She also sells drinks and has managed to employ a few people to assist her run the business smoothly. She says she learnt about this business while working at a pub in Mbeya.
Rebecca, her firstborn is studying at a public service college in Mbeya while her third born completed primary school and is expecting to join Form One next year.
Since she began this business in April this year, she makes Sh3 to Sh4 million per month.
“Very many people think negatively about this business but that is not the case. Roughly, I gather, Sh 2.8 million per month from the two guest houses,” she says.
However, she says whenever she tries to inquire about the husband’s benefits, she is told that it is not ready. This being the sixth year.
She says when the husband died, she was directed by the late husband’s colleagues to the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (Rita) offices at Mbeya district council to fill some forms of which she did. She was told these would enable her get the benefits but she is still waiting.