Diane Washe knows what it means to overcome obstacles. At the age 29, she lost her husband and became a single parent. The day before her husband died she lost her job. Through this experience she birthed her accessories business, Shaina (shona), which directly translates to shine, a word that she uses to encourage anyone to shine their light. Based in Johannesburg, the final year Communication Science student and a personal assistant in an Advertising Agency, Diana shares her story on how she’s found her strength to rise again.
In July 2014 my husband, Esau passed away. He died at 34, someone who had his life in order, now I was left alone to pick up all the pieces and raise our kids as a single parent. That incident happened on a Saturday and the day before my boss had just told me she was not going to renew my contract. So in a space of two days I had suffered major losses in my life. To say I was shattered is an understatement, up until this day I do not know why it happened. From the day we buried him, I became a zombie, I would spend days without bathing, and my movements would be to the kitchen and bathroom then back to bed. I didn’t bother to open the curtains in my bedroom, all I did was sleep, cry and eat. Three months later I gave birth to a healthy boy. As if the problems I already had in my life were not enough, my newborn son, barely two months old, had an extreme case of severe eczema. We made a lot of trips to different doctor’s and it’s on one of those trips that when I was diagnosed with depression.
I was put on anti-depressants for a month and that was my wake up call. I told myself that I cannot rely on pills for my happiness. My business was born out of depression. Since I was jobless, my counselor advised me to look for a sport that I can engage in so I can be able to leave the house and the children. But I didn’t want to meet people as I always felt people were seeing me as “that widow”. I’ve always been an avid magazine reader, so after going through some of my back copies I came across a shoe covered in African print, I went on YouTube saw a video tutorial on how to create something similar. It’s from there that I developed a love for print. I decided to make an Ankara print pumps and posted it on Facebook. I received a lot of positive reviews, so I made the next piece. The rest is history.
I started an fashion brand called Shaina for African inspired accessories, bags, belts, journals. As an accessories junkie, I also have more lines of accessories coming, like beads and mesh jewelry. My accessories are all handmade, with love. I have managed to buy a few machines. I call my business my drug of choice, as it makes me happy. It’s my happy space. I am working on new lines fusing African fabrics and the modern day accessories like pearls. My dream is to open a shop to have a large social following and have my pieces worn on the runway. I want to show women out there that no matter your circumstance you can be anything you want to be. I have seen a lot of women who always blame their situations for their circumstances, on the contrary, one should be able to do what they can with what they have. I dream of one day becoming a power player in the African fashion scene. I want to be an icon for women empowerment. If i did it as a jobless widow & a single mum, then everyone else can do it.
The journey to healing is long but I have learnt to take each day as it comes, if I want to cry that day I cry till kingdom come, if I am happy I decide to be happy. I do have episodes of breaking down, emotionally. Personally I have chosen happiness and to live my life to the fullest. I still miss my husband so much, he was taken at a time when we were flourishing and when we were at the peak of our lives, having everything we had always dreamt of. There have been challenges that come from losing a spouse. From financial, single parenting, emotional rollercoaster, to decision making. With finances I had to do a bit of income generating projects like my business. It is different from a household with two incomes. Single parenting is difficult as you have to be there for your kids all the time If they are sick you have to be up all night and then be at work the whole day the very next day, being the mother and father to the kids, wearing two hats on one head, teaching my sons how to ride a bike, raising them. There are days when you don’t want to talk, you feel like being by yourself, but I have learnt to accommodate others and not rub my bad vibes on them.
Decision making is difficult as to which school I’m taking them to, should we do this or not. I pray and keep calm I try and not make decisions when I am not in my normal state. I have also learnt to ask for help from my friends, if I need time out, I also have an amazing house help. I stay far from my family but they are an amazing support system they travel to come and see me. I have lost some friends and gained some. They are great people, they visit, take me out, send me music and anything that they think might help. The greatest therapy through my journey has been Shaina and my boys. My business keeps me sane because it requires concentration that keeps my mind occupied. Funny enough I decided to wear make-up to stop myself from crying and it has helped, every time I want to cry I tell myself “Make-up is expensive, don’t waste it” or I tell myself, “Don’t mess this up you still have a long day to go”
My strength comes from God and my boys. The vision I have for my children is larger than life, I want to make them proud, I want them to talk about me with pride, I want them to have a normal upbringing although they are growing up in a single parent household. God will never take me from where I was to leave me in the wilderness. He gave me my husband, Esau for a reason and he accomplished his purpose on earth, ran his race, I have the burton now, I will continue my journey till my time comes. My advice to other women going through a similar experience is that we are human we are bound to cry and be hurt. Mourning is like fingerprints it differs from one person to the next. Do not bottle your feelings. Take each day as it comes; do not be too hard on yourself. Accept what has happened and do less questioning, the more you question the more you will stay in the same space as we as humans do not have answers.
Choose to celebrate the life you had with your better half. Find someone to talk to but remember who you talk to, not everyone will help some are just there to hear your story.
To see some of Diana’s work, visit Shania Accessories at