“All i want is for my children to turn out better than me’’
– Mary Okagbare, Food Vendor
Mary Okagbare, popularly known as Mama Esther, is a food seller at Nepa Bush Akangba, Adelabu, Surulere, Lagos. She became the sole breadwinner of her family after her husband got sick and moved down to the village. While struggling hard to provide for her three children and husband, that didn’t stop her from taking in her sibling’s child into her home and take care of him. Even when her shop got demolished by the government, she didn’t give up; she forged on. Today, Mama Esther has succeeded in training two of her children to the university level and they are now graduates; one of her children studied Accountancy, while the other studied Physics. Even though they are yet to be employed, Mama Esther still keeps an optimistic spirit that things will soon be better for her children, and she is still working hard to take care of them.
In this interview with Women of Rubies, Mama Esther talk about how life has been for her as a sole breadwinner, and her prayers for her children.
I started selling rice twenty years ago , two years after I had my last child. I became the breadwinner of my family a year after my marriage in1987 after I had my first child, with the way things were very hard and difficult I realized my husband cannot do it alone, I mean he cannot give our children a better future with the way he changes job almost every month with no good income coming in because he was a driver, So I started hawking plantain which I stopped after I had my second child. Then, I looked for a small space where I started selling Garri, Groundnut, Sugar and Ice-water in nylon. I fully became the sole breadwinner of the family after my husband got sick and had to move down to the village.
It was never easy, there were times I felt so down and tired but then, the good dreams and better future I wanted for my children kept me going. I will say my children motivate me, all I ever wanted was for them to be better than me and have bright future, and I won’t rest until I help them achieve their dreams. May God help me.
It was like the world was crushing down on me, it was as if I was sinking, my heart almost stopped beating, I cried all night to the extent I lost my voice I couldn’t speak for days, my children were so worried and scared thinking they will lost me.
It was also the year my second child got admission into Lagos State University, so because of that I put myself together and went to the company where I was selling right in front of their building, before the demolition took place. I pleaded with them and God used two security men, they gave me a space at the back inside the company it was like a bush I don’t really know how to describe the place but I cleared the bush and put a canopy and started managing the place till now.
On giving up
Oh yes, I felt like giving up on several occasions. I knew my children depend on me and I know God is counting on me to take care of them, so I forge on. Like I said earlier, the place I was given to manage was so difficult to describe and hard for customers to notice. I lost most of my old customers and so it was so hard for me to sell even a Derica cup of rice a day because the place was so inside and no new customers were coming in. It was really hard and I really felt like giving up because I seriously needed money for my son’s school fee but the Grace and Mercy of God saw me through.
Being a mother of graduates
I give God all the glory; I am so happy and thankful to Him. My main prayer for them right now, is for them to get good jobs. I am sad because they are still unemployed but I won’t stop working hard to provide for their needs until they get jobs. I won’t stop crying and praying to God to provide jobs for them because they are wonderful children.
I’m also praying for them to be happy and to have bright future. I don’t want them to go through difficulties and hardships in life anymore so I’m earnestly praying to God to make them comfortable so they don’t suffer anymore.
There have been lots of challenges but the grace and mercy of God has been there for me.
There was a time that I was seriously sick for two years and I had to be taken to my village for special care but to the Glory and Mercy of God, I am still alive today.
I Am A Woman Of Rubies
Believing in myself as a woman and a mother,that I have to be strong, hardworking, resourceful, tolerant, patient, reliable and confident, makes me a woman of Rubies.
Words of advice for mothers and women
My advice to women and mothers out there is to believe in their selves. Move closer to God, work hard and don’t ever give up. God blessed you with your children because he trusts you to take care of them. Take care of them because it is your responsibility, and not because you are expecting rewards from them. Thank you Women of Rubies for wanting to hear my story. May God help you to continue the good work.