She found victory in a crisis


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Hadijah Ssekulima wasn’t going to give up. Not on herself, and never on her three children. When her husband deserted her, she vowed that her kids wouldn’t suffer the consequences, so the family left all they had in Uganda to start anew in South Africa. As a single Muslim woman, it wasn’t easy to survive. Through multiple setbacks, she’s pushed on, proving her indomitable spirit.

Without qualifications, Ssekulima used her sewing and baking skills to sustain her family. Any extra takings were saved to open her own laundry service to provide a better income for herself and a small community of women. “My laundry business gave my children hope for the future,” Ssekulima says. But two years after opening, her laundromat was broken into. Everything she had, including her machines, was stolen. She had experienced loss before, and knew that this wasn’t the end. “I couldn’t let that let me down. I came too far to give up,” she says. And so Ssekulima started again, gradually replacing the equipment and supplementing her income by making beaded bags. “I kept bouncing back,” she says. “I’m proud to be the woman I am today.” 

In addition to keeping her family afloat, Ssekulima started the Muslim Women Support Services group for people in a similar position to her. She wants to show them, and the rest of the country, what they are capable of. “I didn’t know my strength until I had no choice but to be strong,” she says. Across South Africa, thousands of women are left destitute and forced to make ends meet for themselves and their dependents. But within them is the inner strength to make it happen. And that’s the legacy Ssekulima would like to leave.