Kruger was three years old when she and her brother were fostered. At the age of 13 her family were forced to relocate from District Six to Hanover Park. Four years later, while in Grade 10 at the age of 17 she fell pregnant and dropped out of school. Disgraced at their pregnant daughter, Kruger’s foster mother threw her out of their house. Kruger moved in with an aunt. To provide for her new born baby, she started working as a till packer at the local supermarket and then became a cashier. At 20 Kruger got married and had three more children but her husband exploited her financially to fund his drug habit while subjecting her to constant verbal abuse and infidelity.
“At times I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I felt alone and angry with the world. There was a time when I believed the words my husband said to me were true. I kept asking myself, ‘What is wrong with you Fahiema? Why are you are always defensive and angry?’ My life was a hell,” recalls Kruger.
She was an emotional wreck and lost her spark and confidence which meant she could not care for her children who were also traumatised and angry.
“Women must know that they need not settle for abusive relationships, they are valuable and should be valued,” said Ghairunisa Johnstone, Mustadafin Foundation Director. “At Mustadafin Foundation we empower women with self-confidence so that they can say no to abuse, be it physical or emotional.”
After 25 years of an abusive marriage, Kruger divorced her husband. Her life turned around when she got involved with Mustadafin Foundation as a volunteer cook. Three years later she became a full time cook at the non-profit’s Delft Centre which provides hot meals for disadvantaged members of the community.
Despite her own financial struggles, Kruger felt at home within the Mustadafin community. There she participated in practical training workshops on parenting, beautification of womanhood, crowd control, fire prevention and First Aid. Kruger regained her confidence and saw potential for a bright future. She dreamt of doing more than just cooking food at the Foundation and started studying Education. Kruger moved to work at the Foundation’s Khayelitsha Centre where she met her current husband. “Mustadafin Foundation uplifted me when I was down from my first marriage and carried me through those years of struggling,” reflects Kruger. Last year she took on the new role as Principal of the Early Childhood Development Centre in Khayelitsha and also keeps herself busy with Level 5 Education Studies.
“Being the only non-Xhosa person in Khayelitsha made me feel out of place at first,” says Kruger, referring to the communication challenges she experienced when moving from Delft. However, Kruger recognises the privileged position she holds of living across two distinct cultures. “It is a gold mine for me because I have a lot of opportunities to inspire the people. I’m community oriented with people in Delft and now also in Khayelitsha, but I’m more stable here in Khayelitsha. I’m here to stay. This is my second home,” concludes a very happy Kruger.
“Fahiema is one woman with a rousing story. Her life was on a downward spiral when I met her in 2000 but it has literally turned around and is a shining example to others of what is possible. There are many more women who need the same support Fahiema received so that they can also tell their own stories,” concludes Johnstone.
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