By Abiola Archer
Linden woman Bena Greaves is a fitting example of ‘women only fall if they want to’. Despite being a victim of domestic abuse, she gathered the strength to take up the extraordinary roles and responsibilities of raising her children singlehandedly. The now retired widow and single mother, reminisced on the days she was a victim of physical, mental and psychological abuse but overcome those scars of abuse to be the best mother to her children she could be. Today she is being recognised for displaying extraordinary strength on International Women’s Day. While her husband was alive, she was told her that her place was in the home, but his death gave her that opportunity she always wanted, which was to be empowered financially and to have a social life.
Greaves’ family roots are in Mahaica, East Coast Demerara, where she completed her primary and secondary education then she moved to Black Bush Polder to live with her father and stepmother after her mother had died. She lived there for a while with 15 other siblings after her father remarried and there is where she learnt most of life’s skills.
She described this period of her life as the happiest days. Her father was a farmer, so she spent her days working on the farm, walking bare feet in the mud and eating from nature. “I remember the days of jumping in the trenches, sitting with buckets of mangoes in front of you and just eating and eating until you can’t eat no more. One day we picked 14 rice bags of peppers.”
This young country woman met her husband and migrated to Linden in May 1974, married in December 1975 and gave birth to her two children by the end of 1977. In 1979, she became a widow, which now made her the bread winner for her family. The death of her husband came with a strain to adapt to a new lifestyle. Greaves sold all her husband’s assets to feed her children for a while then walked and looked for employment opportunities until she was burnt. She did not give up her search but hit the jackpot one day when someone from the employment office approached her for an application letter. She eventually started her journey as a working, single mom. Greaves said, “my challenges began then, too little finance, raising the children without that father figure in the home, sending them to school, they not hearing and having to take them to a caregiver daily to get to work.”
Greaves’ persistence made her became the first woman councillor of the Linden Mayor and Town Council (LM&TC). She then worked at the GTM Group of Insurance Companies for 37 years as a Typists Clerk. She started working for $250.00 monthly. For additional income, Greaves planted her own kitchen garden and made embroidery kitchen towels, pillowcases and crochet to make ends meet. She worked until the age of retirement and now finds fulfillment in church activities and planting in her kitchen garden.
Now Greaves lives with her daughter and grandchildren who she provides for with her old age pension, National Insurance Scheme (NIS) benefits and a service pension from the GTM.
For International Women’s Day, the Giving and Encouraging in Meaningful Services (GEM) Organization chose to honour Greaves with a hairstyle, pedicure, make-up and dress for a presentation with hamper and day out.