Eveline de Klerk
Picking up empty bottles and scrap metal is seen by many as degrading and something that one would not necessarily want to be associated with.
However, for 54-year-old Ouma Gowases, an unemployed resident of the Smarties settlement in Usakos, collecting and selling scrap metal and empty bottles has long provided a roof for her and her two grandchildren.
“It was not easy but I made it. I’m really proud of my achievement, just the fact that I provided a decent home for myself with the assistance of the Shackdwellers Federation of Usakos. At least now I have shelter against the rain and wind, “said Gowases on Friday during a visit by New Era to her home in the Smarties suburb.
Gowases, who now owns a one-bedroom house, told New Era that she came to Usakos many years ago in search of work. “Initially I moved from Windhoek with my parents to Okhombahe, but ended up in Usakos as there were no jobs there,” she said.
Finding decent employment in Usakos was just as hard and without family and accommodation she ended up living in a shack.
“However I was constantly evicted along with other,s as we were occupying land illegally. In the meantime I was working for a German lady three times a week, earning N$30 per day. I also started picking up scrap metal and empty bottles, which I would sell and make as much as N$50,” she said.
Gowases said she later lost her job but continued to collect bottles and scrap metal, whilst doing a bit of ironing in the community to sustain herself.
“Then I heard about the Shackdwellers Federation from a member and decided to join the organisation and started saving from 2013. I saved as little as N$10 [a week], which we used to hand over to the organisation every Sunday during our meetings and I managed to save N$3,300 and qualified for a loan of N$26,000 with 39 others,” Gowases enthused.
She says the organisation was allocated a plot by the council whilst materials were bought by the federation and all members assisted with the construction of the 30 houses on the get land donated by the town council.
Gowases now pays N$260 per month for her house, which she is able to do with the money she makes from selling scrap metal and bottles. They have electricity but share a communal water meter. The water account is then divided between the group members each month.
As for food, she started a small garden over the years and also farms with chickens. “This is how I sustain myself. My food comes from my own yard. I’m happy that I don’t really depend on anyone to provide for me. I do it with the help of my Lord and I encourage all unemployed women not to be discouraged by their situation and to do everything in their power to provide for themselves.”