Women Skills Development Project: Information Sharing Session

Between November 2011 and April 2012, Africa Unite implemented a 6-months rights awareness and community dialogue programme for refugee, migrant and South African women. The findings of this intervention shows that in South Africa, refugee and migrant women continue to be subjected to unfair discrimination, often as a result of xenophobic beliefs, attitudes and actions. Prevailing gendered power relations, compounded by xenophobia, present refugee and migrant women with even fewer opportunities than their male-counterparts to find gainful employment in South Africa. Despite the fact that many of them come to the country with experience and skills in small businesses, dressmaking, catering or bead-work, their opportunities for entering into and establishing themselves within the small business sector are severely restricted. In this respect, the situation of refugee and migrant women is strikingly similar to the position of South African women in poor communities. In addition to the social expectation that they remain the primary caregivers in the family, many women are further hampered by their lack of access to business forums or small business loans. While some have ventured into setting up women’s self-help groups, most lack the skills and knowledge about building sustainable businesses.

Based on these findings, Africa Unite has put in place a series of skills-development workshops to break through women’s economic isolation and enable them to become self-reliant.

To kick start this project, Africa Unite, on 02 November 2012, conducted an initial Information-Sharing Workshop for 36 local, refugee and migrant women who had participated in the previous project activities. The purpose of the workshop was to obtain buy-in, support and long-term commitment from the women to form groups around specific skills areas (e.g. beadwork, sewing, or other skills areas) that will enable a.) skills and information sharing; b.) the social integration of local, refugee and migrant women; and c.) facilitate income-generation that will lead to financial self-reliance.

The woman were very excited and could not wait to start the project.

There were, however, several challenges. Some of the local women cannot speak or understand English, which is going to be very difficult in translating business training sessions in local languages. In addition, how do the local women, refugees and migrant women work (partner up to start small businesses) together when they can not speak to each other without a translator? Another challenge is punctuality. The women have responsibilities and children they have to make sure are taken care of before they can come for the sessions. Sessions never start on time.

Despite these challenges, the women expressed their commitment to the programme by signing the commitment letters and declaring that they would come early and would not miss any sessions.

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The first capacity development workshop will be on the 15th of November.

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