A day in the life of an unemployed mom: 'This has broken me mentally’

Balungile Qwesha. Picture: Twitter

Balungile Qwesha. Picture: Twitter

Published Jun 9, 2022


Behind the country's alarming unemployment statistics (34.5 percent), are millions of people who have to wake up every day and wonder where their next meals will come from.

Balungile Qwesha, 38, who is from the Eastern Cape, is one of those who face this devastating reality.

The mother of two holds a Higher Certificate in Banking, and is currently studying towards a Bachelor of Administration in Human Settlements Management from UNISA, with aid from NSFAS.

She spent nine years working as a product/service advisor in one of South Africa’s biggest banks, then went on to work in housing delivery. She became unemployed at the beginning of 2019.

"I lived in Gauteng with my kids at the time and I could not afford to pay my rent. I could not just pack up and leave because my son was in Matric.

“So, I got a roommate to split the fee. Eventually, I had no choice but to leave my son behind and go back home with my daughter who was 11," says Qwesha.

Her son was left with some family members in the province. After he matriculated, he went back to join Qwesha in the Eastern Cape.

The family now lives in a small RDP house.

A typical day in Qwesha’s life is uneventful and involves her waking up to assist and walk her 13-year-old daughter to school.

“Recently there was a child who was raped in the area. She was assaulted by an e-hailing driver who stalked her when she was coming from school, so I have to chaperone my kid for her safety” she explains.

After she returns to the house, she cleans and starts to work on her assignments. Qwesha then waits for her daughter to come home, and prepares supper.

The hardest part about unemployment, she says, is the rejection.

“That sense of rejection goes deeper than just not finding a job. When I experience it, I tend to take it personally, internalise it, and start questioning myself and my abilities.”

She adds that it has made her doubt herself, even though she used to be a confident woman, and that the amount of rejection she gets is too much to handle, and is now affecting her children.

Qwesha relies on her partner to provide the money to buy food and toiletries for herself and her children.

“I get depressed some days. My kids have to now tip-toe around my moods. They do all they can to not add to my stress when they should just be children.

“I just want them to have normal lives like other kids, and not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

Qwesha only has one semester left in her studies and is hopeful that her qualification may open doors for her. However, she also fears that she will just add to the pool of unemployed graduates.