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Friday October 15th was “International Day of Rural Women” — day that various government agencies, community groups, and non-government associations shine a spotlight on issues that adversely impact women in rural areas whilst also celebrating and honouring them for their vital work in their community.    

In spite of facing discriminatory laws and other social “norms” that come with gender inequality, as well as a lack of access and or exposure to technologies and infrastructure that is more readily available in Urban areas — rural women are primarily responsible for their communities’ food security and the existence, strength and growth of their economies. 

In today’s instalment of “A Woman Belongs”, we feature two short informal essays from Nokulunga Hlengiwe Lushaba Madlala and Sindisa Qeqe. These two inspirational superwomen are creatively and diligently working to strengthen their economy and change the narrative by educating, empowering, and supporting the youth in their rural communities.

Nokulunga Hlengiwe Lushaba-Madlala

I am Nokulunga Hlengiwe Lushaba Madlala, a daughter, a mother, a wife, and an artist who is very passionate about the role that art plays in reconnecting communities. What I love about my community is our sense of care especially in a time where care is of utmost importance.   

In 2017, I was at serious spiritual crossroads in my life and was in need of spiritual intervention. My mother took me to a prayer and meditation center in Mpumalanga (Mzinti) where I rededicated my life’s calling to God and after 7 days of meditation, prayer and fasting, I had a dream where I received the word “KwaMdali” with complete mission and vision statements. 

I returned to Johannesburg and a few weeks later I received a call from one of our stakeholders inviting me to work with a community outside Johannesburg, I sensed that this invitation aligned with what I had seen in the dream and thus “KwaMdali” NPC was birthed with myself, Ziyanda Frans, Sonto Gumbi, Johanna Molotsi and our young partners from Bapong, a rural mining village in North West.

KWAMDALI (a place where the creator resides), is a non-profit organisation – a space where creation takes place, where seeds are sown and nurtured to grow. It’s a place where ideas are born and given space to flourish, where dreamers are welcomed and encouraged to dream! We remind young people who are the cornerstone of every community, that they are more than their circumstances and offer them a platform to use their gifts as means to live, worship and build.

In the beginning, we received support from the Department of Arts and Culture and that helped us set the foundation for our work in Bapong. However, Covid-19 financially impacted that support forcing us to rely solely on our own resources. However, this pandemic has reminded us of why we began this journey. At times we can get lost in the goal and forget the why of it all. While money is a necessary and important resource, it will not deter us from trusting God and coming up with creative solutions.  

This season has also reminded us of the importance of rest. We need rest in order to effectively care and cultivate a true sense and spirit of community. Somehow this pandemic has helped me redefine time.

At the moment our organisation is only operational in Bapong, North West Province. However, our vision is to see more spaces like ours develop in other remote rural areas all over Africa and the world. Our hope is that young people all over the globe are given a chance to collectively dream and turn their dreams into sustainable realities in spite of their social standing.

Sindisa Qeqe

My name is Sindisa Qeqe.  I was born and raised in De Aar, Northern Cape. In 2017 I started a non-profit company called Sisterhood Heroines. Our mission is to equip, empower,  and encourage our youth to break the generational poverty cycle by exposing them to different entrepreneurship opportunities. 

We also run two campaigns called, Pad a Girl and Shield a Boy. Pad a Girl is a campaign that raises awareness about women’s sanitary issues while also trying to alleviate the challenges that young women face in the community. Shield a Boy Campaign teaches young boys how to be responsible young men, and we also take care of their hygiene issues.

Running Sisterhood Heroines has been financially challenging because we have not yet been able to secure any major funding. We keep our doors open through catering opportunities and regularly hosting car wash fundraisers. We keep our campaigns running through the generous donation of Sanitary towels, and deodorants from members in our community. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has hindered our work as we have had to reduce the number of our annual activities that we classify as Skills Development. However, we have also been able to think of other ways to serve our community and keep our young people off the streets through Feed a Family, a program that teaches our youth how to grow vegetables that can feed their families and also make them entrepreneurs at the very same time.

Our goal for the next 2 years is to acquire space to open a Youth Recreational Centre where we can expand our development program. We believe that the formal education path is not for everyone nor is it the only road to success, hence our desire to expose and equip youth with various skills.  

Sisterhood Heroines’ pivot to teaching the youth how to grow their own food was the main topic on the agenda for this year’s International Day of Rural Women. 

According to www.un.org, “…women make up more than 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent or more in parts of Africa and Asia.” 

We are thankful for and inspired by Sindisa and the Nokulunga’s hard work and commitment to being the change and holistically educating, empowering, and supporting members of their respective communities.