Interview conducted in June 2018
My name is Mary Naicker. I am 48 years old.
I am from Mom taught me that. and have lived here my entire life. My father had two wives and ten children. I’m from his second marriage: he had two girls and two boys with my mom. He remarried after his first wife became very ill from cancer. Life was tough, but my father tried his best to provide for us. He worked odd jobs so that we could have a happy life.
We were on a government grant, and finances were very low, but my parents did everything they could to give us anything we needed. We grew up with love and unity. My dad was a Christian. He made sure we didn't miss church.
I did very well in school and finished matric, but there wasn’t any money to continue. I had to start work once I finished school because my family depended on me for the food.
I started working in a clothing company called Melville Clothing as a dispatch. I then became an examiner and a packer. I worked there for four or five years and then I was retrenched. My family depended on me, so I went to find another job.
I began working at Prestige in the quality department. I worked there for 14 years, examining the quality of prints and embroiders. I was also training to do box stop auditing when I injured my back. I was lifting a heavy box when the injury happened. The injury was so severe that I was bedridden, so I couldn't work. Because I wasn't able to work, I was retrenched. They asked me to leave without even offering me a severance package. My husband also had to leave his work as a cutter in order to care for me. He took me to get treatment and to my physical therapy appointments. It was a very difficult time for our whole family. We were going through so much. I felt isolated. I was struggling with depression. My back physically hurt a great deal. I was broken.
During this time, my sister supported us. We lived with her for about a year. It was tough because I was bedridden and my daughter Claudine was still in school, but we managed.
And my other daughter, the small one,—I need to tell the full story. Her name is Mikayla. When she was seven, my first husband took her away from me. He took her to live with him in Johannesburg. My ex husband was wealthy and could provide for my daughter so I lost custody. I have not seen my daughter since she was seven. Now she’s twenty years old and I still haven’t seen her. Her father passed away as a millionaire from a heart attack. I know that my daughter is currently studying Business Relations in Johannesburg, but I don’t know where. She doesn’t want to see me.
I was going through a depression because of it all: divorcing my first husband, my back injury, being out of work, and thinking about my daughter. I also lost another child. She was born with Down Syndrome and died when she was only six months old.
My strength comes from God.
I’m a Christian. I’ve been through lots of problems, but my strength comes from God. I also pray for people. I encourage people. It’s only God that got me to where I am today. I’ve thought about suicide; about letting go and finishing it, but God has told me to be strong. I had a vision in which God told me “Behold my daughter. Look onto me. I will provide for you.” I might not be wealthy or own my own house, but I have the peace and joy that comes from serving God.
Eventually, I was healthy enough to look for a job again. I still struggled with depression, but I had to support my children. I had to get over it.
I worked for G’s footwear for two or three years. My husband and I moved out of my sister’s place and into a place of our own. I left G's worked for Azailia Clothing Company for about a year. But the conditions were not so good, so I left. Then I worked for Denwait. By that time, I knew so much about quality in the clothing industry, I knew how to do everything.
We were pushed around so much at Denwait. We worked seven days a week, non-stop, with no rest. Sometimes I would work until two in the morning. I couldn't wait to leave.
I started working at TCI two years ago. I work in the outwork department, examining the quality of prints and embroiders done outside of our factory. I check the Nelson Mandela prints. I saw someone wearing the shirt on the news the other day! I felt very proud to know we manufactured that shirt at TCI.
I enjoy it, but I've always wanted to do much more. I love this job, but it's not for me. It's to easy and monotonous. I want a challenge. I want something to get excited about. It also gets itchy.
I have always loved to work with my hands. If you give me any junk, I can create something. I also love to draw and to create. I'm good at it too. Sometimes, I feel like my talent is wasted. I have so much knowledge and passion, but I'm stuck looking and examining all day long. But, this is the job I am asked to do. And it is better than no job at all.
The people at TCI also make it better. We know each other. We care for each other.
Here at TCI, I make R1296 before deductions and R1080 after. Every week, I save R200 and use R100 on bus fare. The bus fare is going up, though. I spend the remaining R700 on all of the food for the house.
I live with my 69 year old mother, my husband, and my sister. My sister came to live with us because her husband abused her. When my sister and mother came to live with us, the landlord increased the rent. We could not longer afford it, so we had to move. My husband works as a cutting room supervisor and my sister works at a bag company. They use their weekly wages for rent. My mother also receives a grant, which she uses for the power.
My daughter Claudine is now 28 years old, works at Pick and Pay in Accounts and is married with a daughter of her own named Payton Kiara.
Outside of work, I used to love reading but I don’t have lot of time anymore. I love to paint and to draw. I love going to church. I’m a people person. If I finish early on Friday, I’ll go sit on bench and meet people from all different walks of life. It seems like people are drawn to me. People are not afraid to share certain things with me. My advice is no matter what problems you face, God loves you. Look onto him. Even if we cannot share our problems with anyone, he will listen. The Gospel is one of love. If we love ourselves, then others will love us too. I share my story with people. I share about how I got through all of my tough times. I tell people to look at their problems and at how big they are, but also to look at us! Look at how strong we are!
Interviewed and transcribed by Lisa Petersen, Lily Koning and Sheridan Wilbur in June 2018