This Women’s Month we’d like to honour the amazing work and dedication of the women of The Love Trust. We spoke to Charmaine Gola, Director of Fundraising, and Mabel Sikhakhane, Acting Principal at Nokuphila Primary School. We asked them about the women at the heart of The Love Trust that make sure the organisation keeps running smoothly no matter the storms they face, how they are empowering other women in the communities and what more can be done to help women in these communities.
Women of The Love Trust – Be it, says Gola, through ensuring they get the best education or nutrition or the psycho-social support through our social worker, The Love Trust recognises the role that women in society play in supporting the future generation of well-rounded children. Our purpose is centred around giving children hope and the right foundation to have a future free of poverty and a more equal society. The many women at The Love Trust wake up every day to work in support of this vision.
For Sikhakhane, the women of The Love Trust go to extremes for their learners, the families of their learners and therefore the communities at large. She gave an example of a single mother of one of their learners who was building her shack on her own and was busy plastering the floors. The teachers came together and donated groceries and blankets – all out of their own pockets. That’s what we do for families, explains Sikhakhane. We are also community workers: we look out for gender-based violence (GBV) and other forms of family abuse, substance abuse, and then we take action as teachers. All reported cases are followed up through our social worker.. We create an atmosphere where children can learn in a good way.
Empowering women through The Love Trust – Not only does The Love Trust offer parent workshops to develop and empower themselves in their parenting roles, says Sikhakhane, but they also have workshops on how to help their children learn (for example how to use the eLearning tools on an iPad and how to learn through playing with Lego).
Gola highlights the Nokuphila Teacher Training Academy that provides resources and practical curriculum support to the 149 early childhood development (ECD) students currently studying at our academy and our affiliated teacher training centres in Gauteng, KZN, Western Cape, Mpumalanga and Free State. The development of young children forms the most critical foundation for further development into childhood and adulthood.
Many women who come through our doors, she continues, identify the importance of ECD services, and that the field must be served by qualified practitioners. Some of them have established their own centres in the communities they live in which extends the education footprint.
What can be done to help – For Gola, the lack of women’s economic empowerment in impoverished communities means that the path towards poverty eradication continues to be delayed. When you are dealing with bread-and-butter issues it is not about whether to cook or eat out today but rather do you have anything to eat today or will you have tomorrow. The issues you tackle are more about access to basic services, such as clean running water or sanitation; affluent communities do not have these issues to worry about.
By comparison, their more affluent counterparts, as basic needs are met, they have less to worry about, they can be productive in other areas of their lives without worrying about how to provide for their children’s education, nutrition (during the day) and overall well-being.
We need to start by making our women feel safe to move around, both in their communities and elsewhere. We need to facilitate equal access to the economy, through access to technology, educational opportunities and employment amongst other things.
Sikhakhane echoes this by illustrating how crucial access to training and education is among the families of their learners. She and her fellow teachers often encourage the family member who enrolls their children in pre-school to go and further their education through ABET, which is free and offers up to matric, even if it just means they’ll learn to read.
We want to give women an opportunity to start small businesses, she continues, but they also need employment skills training, along with psychological support on a continuous basis.
In closing Gola points out that civil society organisations continue to be the voice of the voiceless in our communities, but women need to know and feel that they are not alone in the daily struggles they face. We have to continue to make sure that the necessary tools and support for women are provided or packaged according to their needs and in a language they understand.