Domestic abuse survivor starts own business
Three years ago, 33-year-old Nicola Smith escaped the snares of a serial abuser who she said had her in a chokehold for 11 years.
Smith told THE WEEKEND STAR that her exodus from turmoil was prompted when a gun was brought into play, and her life flashed before her eyes. She said enough was enough.
"It was the scariest moment of my life. I didn't sleep that night, but the [following] morning I got up, and decided that I just had to break free, and I am so happy that the Lord intervened, and said 'This is enough!' " said Smith.
"I was in my abusive relationship for far too long. You know, when you meet your first love, certain things are not pronounced to you; you are blinded by love. I might not have got out on time, but I'm happy I got out," she said.
Smith was among a cohort of 20 domestic violence survivors who graduated from a Women's Economic Empowerment Programme, under the European Union (EU)/United Nations (UN) Spotlight Initiative in Clarendon. The five-month programme, valued at approximately US$113,000, culminated on Thursday, with a closing ceremony at the Wembley Centre of Excellence in Hayes. Smith lauded the programme and the camaraderie among her fellow participants, adding that she felt comfortable having been given a platform to share space with women who had similar stories.
"I found a lovely group of queens. We became sisters. There was nobody there to judge or bash you. It was a good experience, " Smith said.
Under the Spotlight Initiative, survivors were also assisted with business grants to propel their entrepreneurial skills and boost their financial independence. Smith explained that she endured the abuse because she was financially dependent on her abuser and felt embarrassed to move back into her family home.
"I was so ashamed and afraid to go back home, because I had left home for so long, and to know I was going back home with nothing but a child and bag and pan," she said.
Smith is now the owner of Glam with Glitter and Fabric, an online store specialising in handmade gifts and decor items, ranging from cushions to cups, with motivational words engraved, to other personalised keepsakes. Smith, who is also a hairdresser, said she had long harboured dreams of starting her business, but with no motivation and capital, her dreams were just ideas.
"But because I came to the programme and was helped financially, I could invest and enhance my business and get the products I need to kick-start things," an enthused Smith said.
When quizzed on advice she would give to other domestic violence victims, Smith said, "It begins with a step," adding that victims who are parents should use their children as motivation to escape the wrath of abusers and abusive homes.
"I know it's not as easy as some persons would let it seem that 'Yes, you can get up and just move'. No! You must have the mindset and the drive, and a lot of times we don't have the support system to help us out of the situation. But with dedication and prayer, it is always something you can get out of," said Smith.