Habiba’s Dubai challenge.
Habiba, mother of two boys provided for her family’s needs back in Uganda working as a cloth vender until her husband who had come to Dubai got a job and could take on the responsibility for his family’s upkeep again.
This arrangement worked perfectly for the first year after Ali found a job. He was once again providing for his family and provided the funds Habiba needed to expand her business. Habiba then set up a clothes boutique. Even after the children started school, Habiba and Ali still afforded the extra expenses.
After one year, Ali was reluctantly sending money home towards family upkeep and towards his and Habiba’s savings for future developments. His communications were few and far in between, which left Habiba wondering what was going on. However, her complaints about this to him only pushed him further away.
She decided to stop complaining and was once again the family’s sole provider thanks to profits from the boutique. But as time went by it was not easy, business was slow, and profits less, Habiba had no choice but to use the business capital to provide for the family. Soon she was running out of stock in the boutique.
Off to find Ali and answers in Dubai.
Habiba says seeing her business go under was like watching her own child die! So, she made a tough choice. Using profits from the last stock in her business, she bought an air ticket and got a visa to come to Dubai. She was hoping to shoot two birds with one stone; find her husband and a job in Dubai. She wanted to know what had happened to Ali and why he had abandoned his family.
Leaving the children in the care of her mother, Habiba set off to find answers and hopefully find work in Dubai. With the help of an old friend who had been here for some time, she found a place to live around Union where most Ugandans reside. She then set off to find her husband and a job.
Within a week, Habiba had found Ali; two blocks away from where she lived. When she finally got to see him, he was shocked. He could not believe that she had come to Dubai. Habiba soon found out he had started consuming alcohol again. She could smell it on his breath. She also found out he was sharing a bed with an identified woman. How disappointing! Habiba chose not to ask questions or start a fight, instead, she walked out and within ten minutes was back with her bags. She introduced herself as Ali’s wife and mother of his two children to the woman and the rest of the bed space residents.
She made it clear she would share her husband’s bed from then on and expected the other woman to find another place to stay. Everyone froze as they watched Habiba make the bed with bed sheets she had brought along with her and finally as she threw away every lady-like item she found around her husband’s space. When the woman tried to demand her property be treated with respect, Ali ordered her to stay silent and let Habiba do as she thought best.
Searching for a job.
Habiba had achieved her first goal, so she set out to find a job. She went to walk-in interviews she heard of and dropped off applications randomly to restaurants, shops, and offices in the hope of finding a job. She was ready to accept any job offered. While searching for a job, Habiba also once again took on her wifely duties. She even managed to get Ali to send money back home for the children’s upkeep.
Time went by and Habiba was still unemployed, she decided to set up a local Ugandan food business within their bed space. She would cook and deliver food to people. Habiba was bringing a piece of home to Ugandans in Dubai through food. Her business was thriving and kept her occupied, she was reluctant about finding a mainstream job. But then her visa expired. Luckily for her, she had saved enough money from the business profits which she used to renew her visa. Habiba continued cooking and selling Ugandan food while at the same time trying to find the means to set up a restaurant, legalise her business and get business premises for a Ugandan food restaurant.
Unfortunately, the fact that she had to spend all profits from the business on her visa renewal every three months put her in a rat race. She was left with no savings to set up a business. She decided to go back to job searching. Finding a job would solve her visa problem, while she kept running her food business part-time.
Finally, Habiba got a cleaning job, one of the least paying jobs in Dubai, but she was content. Her main goal was to get an employment visa. However, she needed a second job which left her with no time to run her food business. Upon realization that Habiba had two jobs, her husband was once again reluctant to send money back home for the children’s upkeep. Habiba took on the responsibility, again. By now all Ali cared about was having enough money to indulge in his drinking habits. Habiba was patient with him and blamed herself for his behavior. She would sometimes talk to him in the hope that he would change. But he kept on slipping back into his old habits.
There were also rumors that Ali had rented another place for the other woman and would spend time with her while Habiba was at work. However, Habiba waved them off as idle talk. She stayed with Ali even during the worst moments until she caught him with the other woman. This time, she did not claim her place as a wife, instead she packed her bags and left him for good.
During the time Habiba had tried to get Ali to stop drinking, she had ignored her food vending business, it had become a liability. Shortly after all this, Habiba got a better job at the company where I work. She still dreams of one day reopening her business but this time bigger and better. She hopes to become one of the biggest African investors in Dubai.
I am so glad that I got to meet Habiba. I have learnt a lot from her story, her challenges, and her resilience.