My challenge

I am a 27-year-old Spanish woman with a 9-year-old daughter.

I am a Romani woman (gitana), which is why I married very young, before turning 17. I gave birth to my daughter when I was 18. Over the years I was married to my daughter’s father, I stopped studying and had no job. As according to my then husband, my duty as a wife was taking care of the house and looking after my family.

Before getting married, I had decent grades in school and I enjoyed reading, but at home I was made fun of because I asked for books to read.

My main challenges

• Young daughter
• Lack of education and work experience
• Lack of resources and support

My path

When I was 23, after 7 years of marriage, I decided to get divorced, as I could not stand my ex-husband’s jealousy and the way he treated me. When I did it, my whole family turned their back on me and I was threatened. But in order to live a peaceful life, I moved to another city where I knew a friend who offered to help.

In that city, I was able to move forward as I could working as a cleaner (with no social security registration, as expected) in private houses, where I suffered discrimination because of my ethnicity. I cleaned during the mornings while my daughter was in school and I helped her as best as I could with her homework in the afternoon.

After a year, I came to the conclusion that I needed some changes if I wanted to be able to afford something more than a tiny 1-bedroom apartment. My goal was having a full-time job where I received social security and a salary that would allow my daughter to have a better life.

My success

When I went to register myself as a job-seeker, the career counsellor working there told me about a foundation created to help Spanish Romani people. There they gave me advice about the kind of financial aids that I had the right to receive as the head of a single-parent family and which steps to follow in order to change my job.

Thanks to their help, I decided to put my knowledge about cooking into practice (knowledge that I got from my mum as I grew up) and got my food handler certificate. From then on, I began working as a kitchen assistant in a school canteen where I am working nowadays.

To be able to balance my work and family life, my daughter goes to “aula matinal” (before school care) from 7:30 to 9:00 in the morning, then to class at 9:00. After her classes end, she eats in the school canteen from 14:00 to 16:00, which is the time the after-school activities begin. From Monday to Thursday, they finish at 18:00, but the service doesn’t include Fridays. There they do different activities with children from her school and she gets help with her homework.

My financial independence has improved our quality of life.