By Angela Hadjipateras
Born in Supinho, a small rural village in the Zambezia province of North Central Mozambique, Tusha was one of 5 children. Her father abandoned the family when she was just 3 months old and her mother single-handedly supported her children through school. Like most in the village, Tusha did not complete her secondary school education and got by on the unstable and meagre income raised from selling surplus produce, mostly rice and sweet potatoes, grown on the family plot. When she heard about the arrival of a hotel looking for local recruits, she was intrigued. She learned that Zalala Beach Lodge and Safaris was recruiting staff to work in the kitchen, restaurant, laundry, and accommodation sectors. Interested candidates were invited to attend an interview. Tusha put herself forward to work in the laundry, a job she felt she would be able to learn quickly. When the manager said he wanted her to train as a waitress, she was overcome with panic and asked for time to consider. On her return home, she announced she would decline the offer because she knew nothing about waitressing. However, her mother persuaded her to accept this opportunity, so she did.
The first months were very challenging, but once she overcame her fear, she started to enjoy and take pride in her work. Learning to open a wine bottle was one of her earliest and proudest achievements. In the five years she has worked at the hotel, she has become a mother to three children. Help-at-home and family-friendly staff policies have enabled her to manage work and family life. She is proud of what she has achieved and of her ability to not only provide for her own children, but also for her siblings and her widowed mother.
Tusha’s commitment and professional approach to her work have been rewarded and she has been promoted to head waitress, which involves supervising all the restaurant staff and managing the till. Despite her initial anxiety about taking on such a big responsibility, she has enjoyed the challenge. In addition to a welcomed raise in salary, this promotion has given her increased confidence and self-respect, both at work and in her personal life. She has never had to rely on a man to support her or her kids. She has also been able to help her younger siblings get an education and make improvements to her mother’s home, as well as her own.
Asked about her future aspirations, Tusha replied, “I like my work, but I am open to other types of work too. I am determined to complete my sixth form of education, which will open up new opportunities in other spheres. I am no longer the timid girl I was when I first came here. I have lost my fear and I feel I could handle any job that comes my way!”
Tusha, now 32 years old, has managed to save enough money to buy a computer and is teaching herself new computer skills. While she enjoys working in the tourism industry, particularly being able to interact with people from many different countries and cultures, she realises the future of the hotel is under threat and she wants to build her skills for future opportunities.
Angela has worked on gender equality issues since the early 1990s. In 2007, she launched a community-based tourism initiative – Zalala Beach Lodge – in the north of Mozambique aimed at supporting local livelihoods.
She has recently set up a Foundation with a strong focus on supporting girls