Eswatini: A 25 year-old business owner and advocate living with HIV defies the odds to succeed and empower others

Photo shows Majaha Mbuyisa smiling at camera
Caption: Majaha Mbuyisa
Photo: ERin Kennedy | UNRCO

Majaha Mbuyisa, despite obstacles and COVID-19 is working to empower young Emaswati living with HIV through his cleaning business and peer-to-peer facilitation.

Q: Please introduce yourself.

A: My name is Majaha Mbuyisa and I am 25 years old. I stay in Mbabane but my home is in Siteki. I am from a network of young people living with HIV in Eswatini called SNYP Plus. I am also a peer-to-peer facilitator and work for HC4 as an expert client. In the meantime, I am the founder and CEO of "Pristine Cleaning Services."

Q: Tell us about your business.

A: My business was founded in 2018 and operates largely in Mbabane and Manzini. As a young person, I am a passionate entrepreneur. I want to represent young people living with HIV and present my entrepreneurship skills. As an entrepreneur, you must see the problems facing society and find solutions. I looked at the current situation that we are facing and saw a need to provide a cleaning company in Eswatini which provides quality cleaning services, aiming to professionalize, innovate and bring creativity into the cleaning industry in Eswatini.

Q: How has your business operated during the lockdown period?

A: My business has operated so well in the lockdown period. We have brought in huge revenues working with the residential market which consists of home owners. Most people are at home so we received many calls and did a lot of marketing in the residential areas. The commercial aspect has been good too; we are working on big projects as a business with construction companies and working on contracting with landlords.

Q: What challenges did you face starting a business as a young person?

A: I must say that starting a business as a young person comes with many challenges. First is the issue of capacity building; you don’t know where to go and what to do to respond to situations at-hand. I started a business many times, I failed, I went back again, I failed again and again and again, until I had to see and come up with another strategy. If this strategy is not working, I must come up with another strategy. Fortunately, today we have a strategy that is working very well and doing greater things. Now, we are fully registered and operational. Currently, we have six people employed. We are aiming to employ more people, especially young people, as we have seen that they are hit by the unemployment rate and school problems. I am passionate about reducing the rate of unemployment among young people.

Q: How does living with HIV affect your life?

A: I was born with HIV. Today, I am 25 years old and started medication at the age of 12. It has been 13 years of experience in medication so far. It wasn’t easy but as time went on, I got greater capacity. That is why I am advocating for capacity-building. Today I am feeling positive living with HIV as a young person in Swaziland. In terms of how it affects me personally, I think that it affects me positively because I believe that as a young person, I can do all things. My mentor once said to me; "Time is the greatest commodity that I have. In each life lies great responsibility." Now that I have time, I wake up every day to do all things and be better every day. Everything that I can do today, I do.

Q: How has COVID-19 affected you?

A: Personally, COVID-19 has affected me a lot. I now [go to work only once] and am unable to interact [with] people and motivate them. I am passionate about young people living with HIV and want to get each of them on track. With my peer-to-peer facilitation, I created a bond with my peers and am unable to see them. My passion is fading away because of COVID-19. But we are still keeping in touch through calls.

The sad thing about it is that I keep on hearing the problems that my peers are facing at a community level, such as food insecurity, GBV [gender-based violence] and more. I have to deal with their problems when there is no one dealing with mine. I have been affected but I came up with a positive approach to it. With the days I have off due to limited working days, I come up with solutions and do the things I need to do for my business. I have more time to connect with my workers.

Another thing: I started a small agricultural project to provide the things I buy the most in the market in terms of vegetables. So I planted a garden. There is no space for a garden but I put together wood and placed it on top of my fence, put soil inside it and planted vegetables. In the past two months, I have consumed vegetables I planted on my own. I also planted vegetables in soil in the holes of bricks. I’ve been able to harvest for self-consumption and make myself food secure and alleviate the market.

Q: If you had a message for young Emaswati, what would it be?

A: My message to young Emaswati is to tell them to rise up. Now is the high time, whilst we are young, to do all that we need to do. Like Nelson Mandela said; “Be the change that you want to see”. That keeps me going as it holds me accountable for any change that I want to see in my life. If I sleep 8 hours a day, I am sleeping for four months in a year. Coming back to what my mentor said; “Time is the great commodity we have.” Let us be responsible in every change that we want to see from a personal level, to the community, country and world.

Q: If you had a message for the UN, what would it be?

A: I am an advocate for the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] and am pushing every day to see them succeed and implemented, because when I look at the SDGs, I see a better world and future for every one of us as it touches every part of life. When you see SDG 1; no poverty and SDG 2; zero hunger, I am an advocate every day for the [Goals].

What I would say to the UN is to support youth-led initiatives. Outside, there are creative and innovative approaches happening to address social challenges that we are facing. The UN must avail and support these initiatives at a community level and enforce the implementation of the SDGs at the community level, from a grassroots level, so that we can see the positive effects.

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