When Jay-Jae Madwe left her hometown of Port Shepstone for better job prospects in Durban two years ago, she never thought she would become homeless. That, however, was the stark reality of life for Madwe after she lost her sales representative job at a mall.
The 30-year-old, who has a public relations and marketing qualification, has since lived a nomadic life, moving from one homeless shelter to another, depending on whether she has the money to pay for accommodation.
However, she was thrown a life-line by the Denis Hurley Centre in Durban after she enlisted for the Street Project.
The project empowers homeless people with entrepreneurship skills to become booksellers to earn a living.
“I heard of the Denis Hurley Street Programme about two years ago from a friend and enlisted. My life has improved since. I now have something to look forward to each day. Living at homeless shelters I have gone through some awful experiences."
Since joining the programme, Madwe said she has been exposed to many good opportunities and met amazing people and enjoys selling books. She said books have a way of bringing people together.
There is a downside to bookselling, though, as Madwe has to sell enough books daily to make the R80 for her shelter fee as well as buy food.
“If I don’t sell enough books I do not get to eat and my baby also doesn’t eat. I try to make ends meet. It feels awful knowing that I’m so dependent on making sales each day. It’s not a good feeling when people stop by other book-sellers first and buy books and don’t buy from me. When people go by I just hope and pray they stop and buy something for R20o r R30,” she said.
Madwe’s goal is to make enough money to get out of the shelter system so she can provide a better life for her unborn child and herself. To achieve this goal she has to get a permanent space from which to sell her books.
At her present location in Durban’s CBD, Madwe claims she and other booksellers are harassed by the municipal police who forcibly stop them from selling their books on the street.
A challenge, says Madwe, is the lack of support for black women.
“It is very disappointing when institutions don’t recognise that it’s an urgency for me to make a living and do not provide the relevant support,” she added.
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