When the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government visited KwaDukuza community during Operation Sukuma Sakhe (OSS) Cabinet Day on Wednesday 28 March 2018, the ILembe District Municipality stopped at nothing to ensure that the Premier and all Members of the Executive Council (MECs) visited all project sites with an aim at assessing advanced projects and those that would require intervention.
The Ward 13 Women Initiative Team: (fltr): Ms Nereen Omadata, Ms Shivana Lal and Ms Shakille Gokhul
On the day in question, the MEC for Human Settlements and Public Works, Mr Ravi Pillay, MPL and his delegation, visited Ward 13. Ranges of projects were visited but for the purpose of our story, we highlight one of the projects that attracted much interest of most visitors, the Ward 13 Women Initiative – a Sewing and Knitting initiative. In the year 2016, a group of women from KwaDukuza in Ward 13 identified a need to be skilled in sewing and knitting. The women, led by the project’s proponent, Ms Nereen Omadat, supported by Ms Shakille Gokhul and Ms Shivana Lal, presented their proposal to Mr Rabiwath Singh, the Ward Councillor, who sourced funding for the procurement of 9 sewing machines from the Mayor of KwaDukuza. The women showed interest towards the project. They were eager and enthusiastic to keep the project off the ground.
A knitting and sewing training course was organised by a local professional dressmaker, which after 30 women attended and participated. Thirteen women received their certificates on completion of the sewing training course while the remaining others continued with additional training modules. This was a signal of women who wanted to be self-sufficient, self-employed and fend their families. They were prepared to learn and run the sewing and knitting project within their community. Their plan is to increase the numbers of participants, with at least 40 volunteers per annum.
The challenge in respect of the project is funding and other logistical resources that would sustain the project. The team require a reasonable workspace, support to repair the machineries, more knowledge provisioning on fabric utilisation as well as trade in the industry. It is commendable that the municipality has been and is actively involved in supporting the women but that some issues may not be dealt with in a short time period.
According to MEC Pillay during the community engagement session, it is quite encouraging to note the involvement of women as they strive towards their empowerment. His assertions was that empowering women in the local or national value chain presents a unique opportunity to create business value and strengthen women’s position, rights, and academic wellbeing. The business community has joined the chorus of government and civil society leaders calling for change. More businesses today understand the principles of committing to empower women in the marketplace, workplace, and community. There is a need to translate the ambitious goals and business commitments into practical actions and tangible results.
Yes, access to economic opportunities such as the Women Sewing and Knitting Initiative, increases a woman’s sense of pride, purpose and decision-making power. Initiatives such as these are to be supported, as they recognise the critical role women’s empowerment plays in the Ward and municipality’s economic development. The benefits of creating economic opportunities such as these, for some of the municipality’s poorest women are immense. It is thus evident that when KwaDukuza Municipality invests in programs that provide economic opportunities for women, not only will the Ward or Municipality’s women be better able to meet their own needs but the entire province will benefit with increased productivity and fewer families living in poverty.
Fighting poverty, with a special focus on working with women and girls to bring lasting change to their communities will ensure that the shared goal of the provincial government and civil society in KwaDukuza and surrounding areas remains inclusive, equitable and realise sustainable socioeconomic development. Operation Sukuma Sakhe will remain a lasting solution to avoid poverty and taste the fruits of a developed community. The message is loud and clear. Every sector of the community benefits when women are empowered. Therefore, every sector must do its individual and collective part if there is to be any chance of a sustainable future.
Operation Sukuma Sakhe confirms that the Provincial Government in KwaZulu-Natal recognizes the urgent need to bring about major improvements for women of this province.