Phelokazi Khohlela stays in Khayelitsha township in Cape Town with her husband and their four children. She has been a Big Issue vendor for just over a year and started selling the street paper help provide for her family – and she’s out there doing it every day. The 41-year-old explains why she needs all the support she can get.
My husband works in maintenance for a company based in Cape Town. He has a permanent job, but I thought that I would also work to help him support our family. My husband once told me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I think that it was the best thing he could have said to me, because it is true.
Everything is so expensive these days that women can’t afford to stay home anymore; we need to be out there helping our partners.
Before joining The Big Issue, I worked as a domestic worker for two days a week. I stopped working to go back to school and finish Grade 12 but, as they say, life happened. I had a baby and had to take care of my child. Any parent will tell you that new babies don’t come cheap. I had no choice but to alleviate the financial pressure placed on my husband.
“Selling the magazine isn’t easy. The first couple of weeks were the hardest, but the people out there make it worthwhile.”
I like making all sorts of things. I’d like to work in a factory making clothing because I like to sew. I would also like to work in an office. I know those two career goals seem so different, but I’ve completed a two-month office admin course and wouldn’t mind trying it out and experimenting. I am a hard worker and I know that I can do anything I put my mind to.
I’m the kind of person who likes to keep busy. But I like that I am a homebody too. I am family-orientated.
Selling the magazine isn’t easy. I thought it would be a piece of cake because the older vendors make it seem so natural. They’re always smiling and happy, but when I first started, I struggled. Standing all day is hard on my feet and being upbeat when you’re tired is not easy. The first couple of weeks were the hardest, but the people out there make it worthwhile.
The fact that I am supporting my family motivates me to get up and sell the magazine. The support from my loyal customers helps a great deal, too. It makes me smile to see that people care. There are so many good people out there – you just have to be open to see their kindness.