I want to share Mary’s (not real name) story.
Mary was a cleaner in my office when I worked at MTN. As far as I knew, the cleaners’ salary was poor. It was a service contracted out to a cleaning company, so the staff were not directly employed by MTN, and were not entitled to benefits like staff bus services, free calls, etc, which direct staff had access to. The cleaners did whatever odd services they could to augment their salaries, some washed cars, ran errands like market runs, buying lunch, etc, for us. They also tried to endear themselves to particular staff so that they became go-to errand people for them. That was how Mary endeared herself to me, and I learnt her personal story.
Mary was no even 30 yet, and she was a widow. She had a beautiful set of twin daughters, and that made me even more drawn to her. I would give money for her daughters’ upkeep from time to time. She lived far away from the office, I couldn’t understand how she made ends meet. Her husband’s family could only give a little financial support. But she did her work cheerfully, and was popular amongst the staff.
One day, Mary came into our office, distraught and crying. She had been asked to leave immediately. Her shoes were torn, and the supervisor had insisted she change them, without even giving her a fair hearing. She asked us to plead with the man on her behalf. I told my boss to also lend his voice to the matter, but all pleas fell on deaf ears. We even begged him in the name of God, but the man claimed he was a moralist, and therefore respected neither Christian nor Muslim traditions. Even I was traumatised, so I could only imagine what Mary was going through. And so she lost her job.
After that, Mary would call me from time to time, and she would come to the office to collect whatever assistance we could offer. A time came when we did not hear from Mary for a period of about 4 months or so. Nobody seemed to be able to reach her, or have any information about her. Then one day, she called me and said she would come to visit. I prepared what I wanted to give for her children. When she came, I was pleasantly surprised, I almost didn’t recognise her. She looked radiant and well. She was a skinny woman, but she had filled out in the right places. There were none of the usual signs of stress and worry on her. And I made sure to mention it to her. Her next words surprised me.
“Ma, I’m fine now o. I’m very ok. I now have enough to take care of me and the children”. She went on to explain how her pastor’s wife had helped her to secure a soft loan of N20,000 from a micro credit agency. She added what she could, and since she lived close to the Seme border, she went across to buy rice and oil, and started selling in bulk. After repaying the loan, she was given more by the bank, and she kept growing her business. She now did supplies from her home, and was thinking of getting a shop. She told me, “When I lost my job, I thought my life was over. But now, I’m so happy now that I was sacked, if not I will still be here thinking this is all I can do. I’m now getting more than 3 times my salary and I’m not stressed, and I have time for my children. I’m so happy, ma”. I almost cried.
No explanation needed!