My journey from the streets to being an entrepreneur
In the wake of mistreatment by her stepmother, Habida fled their home for the streets, ending abruptly her reunion with her father. But life on the streets is a never-ending struggle. In her favour, a chance encounter with an old schoolmate drastically altered her future.
When Habiba ran away from home, her next stop was the unfinished building she used to stay in before finding her father. Here, her old friends warmly welcomed her. The building had no windows, doors or roof, but it was more homely than her father’s house. The kids sold empty boxes and bottles they picked up from the streets and garbage, for food. Occasionally, they would sell scrap metal. They resold anything they found dumped up and in reasonable shape. In the evening, they would travel to the ghetto where they would meet up with other street and ghetto kids and indulge in marijuana smoking. Having stayed among boys on the streets for a long time, she adopted their character and mannerisms. This is also where she first learned to use drugs.
The ghetto gathered street kids and school-going kids from well-off families who wanted fun. Habiba’s old schoolmate, Ali, belonged to the latter. He was a quiet boy at school with no friends and was two grades above her. They had never interacted before. She was surprised to see him there but over time, they became the closest of friends due to their shared past. After telling him about her ordeal, he invited her to his home.
Initially, he would sneak her into the unused room in the boys’ quarters without his parents’ knowledge and steal food for her to eat. She stayed there for some weeks without anyone’s knowledge. Over time, he gained the confidence to tell them he needed to invite a friend over who needed shelter. Meanwhile, he used his savings to get her a new school uniform. She left her old one at home and he promised to take her back to school.
When it was time to return to school, Ali finally showed her to his parents. He told them she was a homeless poor girl who only needed shelter. He convinced his parents to let her stay. He told them that the school was willing to give her a scholarship, but all she needed was a nearby place to reside. With Habiba’s boy-like appearance, Ali’s parents were comfortable that their son was just trying to help a friend. Little did they know that he wanted to sacrifice his education for hers.
Whenever he was given money to take to school for his tuition fee, he gave it to her since she was more interested in school than he was. They would leave home together in the morning, both dressed for school. However, on the way, he would head to the ghetto while she went to school. He was a rich kid who was more interested in the ghetto life of living with no rules. His parents were too busy to notice what was happening.
When she finished her secondary level, Habiba got pregnant with him so they started living as a couple. They had two sons which now required them to move out of his parent’s home and stand on their own as parents. They rented a small house in the next town where Habiba was a stay-at-home mother since they couldn’t afford a babysitter, while Ali walked to work every morning to hustle for his family. Until now, Habiba never knew what her husband was doing. However, she knew for sure that he was doing his duty to take care of his family.
But being a school drop-out, all he could do were non-graduate jobs. This made it extremely difficult for him to earn enough to maintain the quality of life he wanted for his family. He could have easily turned to his parents for help but he needed to prove to them that he was responsible enough. He also knew that they would want to connect him to a good job and ask him to submit his academic documents which would expose him. So, he had no choice but to adjust his financial situation. He decided to come to Dubai because people earn better salaries.
Habiba remained with the kids as their father left for greener pastures. However, he didn’t immediately secure a job in Dubai. This made it difficult for Habiba who hoped things would get better when Ali travelled. When she was about to run out of money for the boys, she got a brilliant business idea that would help her. She used the remaining money to purchase cheap designer clothes downtown. She would wash and iron them to improve their appearance, then vend them at university students’ hostels. On her first day, she sold most of the merchandise, making a full profit on each one. This enabled her to earn money to care for her children. Her only challenge was that she had to do all this with her youngest son on her back. The older one walked beside her, often tired. But she had nowhere to take the kids. So, she kept doing it as she waited for her husband who left for Dubai to get a job and relieve the pressure off her.
In the final chapter, we shall explore her journey abroad and how she overcame the challenges she encountered.