True to the word that being HIV positive does not mark an end to one’s life but marks a beginning of a changed way of life, Niqita Pieterse has not let her health condition deter her from pursuing her goals and living a normal life.
The young lady, who is based in Durban, South Africa, is living with HIV and has been open about it for over a decade. Pieterse, an HIV activist, recently made headlines because of her tyre furniture business.
The Weight She Carries spoke to Pieterse, who shared her story and how she is spreading positivity among people living with HIV.
“My name is Niqita Pieterse and I am 28 years old. I am a mother of three and I am HIV positive. I live with my partner and my children.
“I have been open about my health for quite a while now. I realized that a lot of people are living in denial and they think that it is impossible to have a negative partner and negative kids. This led me to be open about my status because a lot of people need to be educated about HIV and they should know that things are not the same as before.
“So, what I do now, I help people online so that they live positively. I motivate them and try to combat discrimination. This has given me a lot of exposure and I have a lot of followers who want to learn about the HIV.”
Pieterse is not just an activist but also an entrepreneur. I have noticed that when many women think of starting a business, the first thing that comes to mind is clothes, groceries or cooked food. Pieterse tried her luck with catering, but it didn’t go as well as she expected.
“I was running a catering business; I was cooking food, but it wasn’t really profitable, so I decided to search for a different business online. That is when I came across tyre furniture and I decided to go for it.
“Making furniture from tyres is something that I really enjoy because I love creativity and also because I noticed that not a lot of people were in that type of business where I stay.
“I started my business last year, but then I stopped. There was no real support from my community. It was also difficult because I was using second-hand tools; my glue gun burst and the glue sticks that I use are quite expensive,” she said.
It is easy to fail once and try again, but failing twice is something else. When Pieterse saw that the furniture business was not doing well, she quit and became a stay-at-home mom. She was now fully dependent on her partner. Tired of staying at home, she decided to take another shot, but this time around she invested better, and it is already starting to pay off.
“I decided to use money to make money and saved up to buy new tools. So far, the response is good. The only challenge is that our products are tailor-made, so it may be difficult to find the colours that suit a customer’s need,” she said.
Besides the cost of raw materials, a lot of critics also came along.
“In this business I got a lot of criticism because I am a woman, especially because I work with heavy tools, grinders and dangerous tools. I was told that I shouldn’t waste my time, I would hurt myself soon enough, that the industry is meant for strong men.”
“These days there is nothing like a man’s or woman’s job. I decided to do what I wanted to do and not listen to what they said,” she added.
Though she is not working with anyone else yet, she wants to employ other young women in the future. And she has a word of advice for them.
“It is better to try and fail than to fail to try. A lot of women think that it’s a man’s job to bring food on the table or money into the house. We always feel like a man is superior or stronger, but at the end of the day, we are as strong as the men.
“We just need to be focused on and set goals: this is what I want to do and I want to have. So, if you have goals, don’t let it go; follow your dreams and follow your goals because life is really unpredictable.”
Pieterse is a true inspiration and proof that there are only two ingredients needed for you to start earning a living, creativity and passion. She is making amazing furniture and recycling old tyres. If you open up your mind to something and put your all into it, trust me, you will succeed.