8Mar, 2018

Empowering women to make a difference

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | March 8th, 2018

As we celebrate International Women’s Day with its theme of #PressforProgress, Tafta is proud of the role we’ve played in mentoring the women of the Illungelo Labadala village in Amaoti, Inanda – helping them to develop a community outreach initiative aimed at protecting its most vulnerable members – elders and children.

“Our association has a history of strong female leadership,” explains  Tafta CEO, Femada Shamam. “Initiatives like the Amaoti Village help strong and motivated women press for progress in their communities. Since 2003 when we began mentoring this project, there have predominantly been women at its helm.

“This is our opportunity to give them the recognition they deserve,” she said, adding that the project will soon be handed back to the Amaoti community to run.

How it began

In 1999, professionally qualified nurse and co-founder of the Ilungelo Labadala project, Mrs Elizabeth Mbongwe, together with her friend and colleague Mrs Victoria Mtshali, approached Tafta to bring attention to the plight of elders in the Amaoti village. Mtshali, who is now deceased, had been given access to a piece of land in the area by a farmer Brooks. Her dream was to build a safe house there for abused elders and children.

“Victoria was affected by how younger generations, especially the grandchildren, were abusing the old gogos for their pension monies,” recalls Mbongwe. The pair approached The British embassy for funding and were granted a loan to build the facility, on condition that they partnered with an established and experienced organisation that would provide mentorship and management.

After concluding a due diligence process, Tafta began working with Mbongwe and Mtshali to build a home for the elderly and destitute children. Mbongwe explains: “It was an extremely rewarding process. We had to meet with the community, draw up plans for what the project would look like and we decided that we would create a kitchen to feed, a frail care facility and another cottage to house destitute children who were either orphaned or abused. It was an exciting time and we were so grateful to Tafta when we saw the dream beginning to materialise.”

In recent years, Mbongwe was called back to the community to assist with the handover of management from Tafta to the elected board members of the newly registered not for profit organisation Illungelo Labadala. “I will guide them for a while but I am old now and it is time for me to rest,” says the 80-year old stalwart who still drives to and from her home in Umlazi to attend committee meetings at Amaoti.

Mrs Theodora Makhanya

Unassuming Makhanya (63) has spent 24 years of her life helping the aged in her community. As far back as she can recall, the mother of three has spent her time volunteering to assist frail elders by caring for their daily needs.

Makhanya, who has only occasionally been paid for her work, has always been driven by the idea that if she could make a difference to the life of just one abused grandmother, she would consider her lifetime’s work fulfilled.

She was given that opportunity through Tafta, to work as a carer and manager of the kitchen at the Illungelo Labadala project. “There were two gogos staying together in the community,” she recalls. “One had an alcohol problem and was severely abusing the second one for her money. I was able to bring the abused gogo to the Tafta care facility and it felt so good to be able to assist in that way.”

Makhanya remains an active member of the Illungelo project, cooking meals for the children and elders daily. “The project has given us the structure to formally assist so many people in this community,” she said.

From teacher to social worker

Qualified educator, Mrs Bukisani Phakati, started at Tafta in 2000 as a Social Auxilliary worker, primarily on the Illungelo Labadala project. “I came to Tafta because I was always passionate about care of the elderly,” she explains. “Although my qualification was in teaching, I was drawn to this position from the start.”

After Tafta identified a need to develop a school after care programme for children who were left alone at home without meals or care, Phakati assumed responsibility for this programme. She started by recruiting children, via the nearby primary school: “There were many instances of child abuse we became aware of as we investigated, and Tafta played a huge role in bringing these issues under the spotlight.”

Phakati cared for 36 children daily – helping to serve them a meal after school and assisting them with homework and other activities. The tireless worker recalled clocking in at Tafta offices daily, then making the drive to Inanda to take care of her charges until around 4pm when she could send them back home to their parents. “It was exhausting, but I remember it being the most fulfilling period of my life. We even put together holiday programmes twice a year and got sponsorships to take the children on trips to the city and other places they had never been before. We also assisted with food parcels for those grannies that were housebound and I also ran a daily Fellowship meeting.”

In 2012, Phakati returned to her teaching career, but is proud to know these programmes still run. “I’m happy to know I made this difference and I do hope the same level of care will remain in the village when the community takes over”.

To learn more about the Illungelo Labadala project, contact Tafta at 031 332 3721 or email info@tafta.org.za

Pictured above are the women who helped turn the dream into reality: from left to right, Mrs Makhanya, Mrs Phakati and Mrs Mbongwe.