On Women’s Month, I Think of My Mother, and Many Other Women Like Her

By Busiswa Nyume -Senior Projects Officer

As we celebrate Women’s month, I sadly think about one phenomenal woman: my mother who passed away at a tender age of 56. She raised seven children all ALONE — six girls and one boy. She was a very strong woman.

My mother was the shoulder to cry on for many of us, yet she had no shoulder for herself to cry on. She was someone who never shared her stories of struggles as a black informal business woman running her small business (shebeen and tuck-shop) and having to feed seven children, extended family and family friends. In rural areas of South Africa, everyone in the village is your family member.

Today I ask myself, did someone ever told her and the other hard working rural women around her about women’s economic empowerment programs that government has been referring to ever since? Who else knows about these programs, except those close to the politicians? Are these programs targeting the elite, minority groups, people who can read, write or speak better British English? What about the informal traders and the small scale farmers? Do they just fill in the bakkies and sell on the streets? Are they even considered part of the business community? Who has a right to participate in these business forums? Are these programs not meant to eradicate poverty? Are these programs not meant to include the previously disadvantaged in general, and women in particular in the economic growth of the country?

I now feel the urge to call TV Presenter Somizi Mhlongo to help me say ‘Ooooh shame!’ government you are targeting the wrong audience”.

Having said that, I have a plea that this month may we remember women, not only those in the suburbs and townships of Johannesburg and Cape Town, but those hard working like my mother, who are in the coal face of poverty in the hinterlands of the country. They who were left by their husbands to fend for the children. I am talking about the women who are the bedrock of our family units, who are struggling to put bread on the table to feed their families. Women who are not well-educated, who can’t read English, and who are not aware of such programs that are meant for them, and who, like my mother, may actually die without event accessing them. As we do our work may we reach the darkest corners of South Africa and spread the word and information about women’s economic empowerment programs that government is boasting about. Can we try and do this in the language those women will understand?