Mother’s courage in the face of a COVID induced economy

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Rose Oli with her products at the Gizo Market.
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BY BEN BILUA

Gizo

SHE withstands the heat, the dust and with her body stretched to the limit, she keeps going to provide for her family.

This is the story of 36-year-old, Rose Oli who fought against the odds in trying to earn money to help her family.

Oli is from Ranongga Island. She had to travel 30km by boat to reach Gizo to sell her fruit and root crops.

Earlier this week, she left behind her 3-year-old child, her husband and came to Gizo to sell bananas, cassava and potatoes at the Gizo Market.

However, luck has not been forthcoming as COVID-19 strained the economy leaving this struggling mother of four to earn only a few dollars per day.

“Life is really hard at the moment, not many customers showed up to buy my products.

“Last time, I earned around SBD$500 to SBD$600 dollars a day and now it took me almost a week to earn these amounts.

“Most of us come from the other Islands around Gizo and we have to spend weeks here before returning home to our families.

“I believe COVID-19 has taken a toll on us poor mothers,” Oli said.

The past few months has been very challenging with most vendors’ earnings falling dramatically. What keeps the 36-year-old going is her children’s education and other family needs.

Giving up is not an option for her and the struggle is far from over.

Other women who also trying to get money by selling root crops and vegetables at Gizo Market

“My family depends on what I’m doing. Money that I earn help us pay school fees, school uniform, community contributions, church contributions and other household needs.

“This business is really tough but I have no choice, I have to sacrifice my life so that my children could get a better life in the future,” Oli said.

She said living rough while at Gizo is a choice, and that she will surely return in the next few weeks and go through the same trail when her family needs money.

Oli and her friends normally slept at the MSG building.

The building has no walling exposing the women to rain and wind, with decreasing temperature during night time.

Disturbance caused by drunkards has also been an issue for the women when trying to get a good rest after an exhausting day at the market.

“At times the tumbling cold really affected us mentally and physically, we want the night to be over so that we can sell our products at the market.

“My worst experience was when I caught pneumonia and was sick.

“Being sick while away from my family was the worst feeling I ever had,” Oli said.

She said, the restless night, low earning and time spent at the market come down to one thing, and that is the amount of money she will take home at the end.

Oli stressed that there are expenses that market vendors have to pay; such as market fees and boat fare to and from Gizo.

From her experience she said the boat fare from her village at Ranongga to Gizo is SBD$180 and space at the market cost $10 per day – meaning she has to spend $260 for transport and around $50 plus for space at the Gizo Market.

“Sometimes we head home with $50.00 after buying some foods and other important stuff here at Gizo.

“This is real many times as I’ve said earlier, our intake during this time of COVID-19 is very bad and the situation is challenging for us to put food on the table so as helping our children,” she said.

Oli lives with her four children and her husband. Three of her children are in school: one in grade five and the other two in grade six.

Financial pressure is mounting on Oli and her husband as their two children are looking forward to go to secondary school where school fees and uniforms will be much higher.

Distance from Ranongga to Gizo

The dolorous trail of COVID-19 or more so its economic impact has taken its toll on Oli but she puts on a happy face and smiles to relive the pressure.

With her eyelids heavy and red, the super woman made it look easier than it is.     

Oli’s story reminds me of my parent. Both my mum and dad are unemployed and over the years they’ve tried their best to give me and my other siblings a better life.

Now, I got a job, provide for myself and my own family. It is my responsible to turn the clock and look after mum and dad.

Life is unfair at times but we must sacrifice ourselves to get out of challenges we face. Our commitments and effort counts.

Beyond these struggles we will soon die and rest forever. This is the beauty of life.


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