In 2019, Jamestown-based NGO, Usiko, launched a programme aimed at empowering a group of 20 dynamic women from the community to take them to reach new heights in their lives – and equip them to become local change agents. The project is funded by the Distell Development Trust and co-facilitated by Usiko and Ranyaka. Amy Levendal heads up Stakeholder Relations and Programmes at Ranyaka and is also one of the lead co-ordinators on this project. This Women’s Month, Amy shares her thoughts about being a woman – and the impact of this programme.

“Am I enough? Am I a good mother? Am I a good partner? Am I being a good friend? Am I doing enough to keep everyone happy?”

As women, we ask ourselves these questions on a daily basis. Often after asking them, we feel less sure of our worth than before. We doubt our capabilities and don’t realise the value we add to everyone’s lives. We get so caught up in the decisions that entangle us and get so intertwined in the activities that fill our day, that we don’t take the time to breathe. To spend time with ourselves and soak in the thoughts that we often suppress to make way for everyone else’s needs and wants.

Empower a woman and you empower a community
The Usiko Women Empowerment Programme is an exciting initiative that consists of regular sessions being held over a one-year period. What differentiates this programme from similar interventions is the personalised approach that has been adopted. To kick off the programme, Amy and Usiko facilitator Christina interviewed each woman individually and Ranyaka hosted a personal DNA mapping session to identify each participant’s specific needs.

For some, a computer course and a driver’s licence unlock the door to employment and a brighter future. For others, more intensive training, counselling and mentorship is required. In addition to joint bi-monthly sessions, each woman is being assisted to achieve her particular goal.

During one of the sessions, the ladies were addressed by Dr Ezenwayi Amaechi PhD, Professor of entrepreneurship from the University of Johnson and Wales in the United States of America, who embarked on a personal and professional journey in 2018, visiting underdeveloped countries and helping as many women as she can with entrepreneurship training.

She assisted these ladies with everything from personalised and individual goal setting, marketing strategies, business plans and more. In addition, her vibrant and dynamic attitude served as a huge motivation to each of the attendees and they were all inspired and ready to tackle the very realistic and achievable goals they had set for themselves.

When doing the DNA mapping exercise with the ladies, many of them also indicated that staying active was a huge problem and the lack of activity often left them feeling more exhausted and sluggish. On 22 July, Olivia Du Plessis from LivFit Fitness Studio in Paarl shared her amazing story of success and also showed the ladies how to stay active at no cost. Thanks to a generous donation from Claudia Lowry from BNI Western Cape, we were also able to purchase a gym mat for each of the ladies which they could take home with them, to continue their fitness journeys at home.

Time out
One of the programme highlights to date has been the USIKO wilderness camp that took place over the weekend of 2 August. This camp was the start of a very special journey with these women: a journey of self-discovery and embracing who they are, what their purpose is and where each of them is heading in life.

Honouring women
During the month of August, we would like to honour the women who keep going, especially amidst tough and adverse conditions. Women who do things without recognition or praise. Women who don’t realise the impact they have on the lives of everyone who gets into contact with them. We want to say, we see you. We see you beyond Women’s month. We see you on all 365 days. We see you in all 525 600 minutes. We see your efforts, your determination, your struggles and your triumphs. We mourn with you, we celebrate with you and we want to walk alongside you on your journey.

Most of all we want to say, don’t stop going. Don’t stop pushing through the storms that nobody else sees. Don’t stop doing what you are doing and never forget the unspoken words: “We love you and we thank you”, because even when we don’t say it, we think it. And even if you don’t hear, always believe it!