Nomsa Mmema – Swaziland

Nomsa Mmema – Swaziland

Date: November 28, 2015
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“I was excited about going to a gender workshop. It was my first time; I could not compose myself with the excitement I felt.”

Nomsa is a 48 year old woman who has never married and has three children. She resides at Hlathikulu with her children. Nomsa lost the father of her children in a tragic accident which happened the day he was fetching her to introduce her to his parents and marry her. Her dreams were shattered the moment she heard of her fiancée’s demise. She was traumatised and even contemplated suicide at one point and also killing her children. She was faced with the realisation that for once she was alone and helpless. She had never been employed before and the only source of income was from her fiancée’s earnings. Before her encounter with Gender Links she used to go around washing nurses’ clothes for a fee, looking after children (day care) and weeding fields.

Nomsa is a farmer, who was not limited by her level of education and she has persevered and made a success of herself. After her encounter with Gender Links (GL) she saw the need for generating income, providing food and avoiding begging from neighbours, so she started a vegetable garden. For her farming is a self-taught skill. She has always grown crops on a small scale so she decided to increase the fields and cultivate more land for growing crops.

She then started planting maize, beans, pumpkins, butternuts, sweet potatoes, peanuts and jugo beans. She began fencing her garden next to her home. She started with seedlings that she got from “World Vision” and she used manure to fertilise the soil. She cultivated the land with a hoe to prepare it for planting. Then with the help of her children she planted the fields. “I have always known men to be involved in farming but I felt I could change people’s beliefs” she said.

“I can and have endured so much hardship, many blows to my head, heart and spirit, but look at me! I am still standing strong and even stronger than before. My children are beautiful, my life is beautiful and the joy radiates from their hearts because I am a survivor!” exclaims Nomsa.

Fortunately for Nomsa, her homestead is situated next to a stream which never runs dry even in winter and she uses that to her advantage. She draws the water from the stream to water her vegetable garden and she also grows mealies which she sells to market vendors. She makes a lot of money by selling vegetables to market vendors who buy in bulk. She said that she no longer made any profit with maize because of the high costs of cultivating it, whereas the selling price is low. She then had an interest in keeping indigenous chicken which she sources all over the country to make sure she gets good breeds. She once went to a workshop at the Rural Development Centre to learn about rearing indigenous chicken and found it easy and manageable.

She had never heard of Gender Links before, let alone the SADC gender protocol, however she was invited to the entrepreneurship workshop thorough Hlatikulu AMICAAL. “I have always been passionate about children and helping the needy” she said. She came to know AMICAAL after the father of her children died and left her to struggle raising her three children alone. Then a friend recommended AMICAAL after learning about her struggle. She joined AMICAAL as a volunteer and got all the help she needed. She works at the home based care centre for free. She is now a caregiver (umnakekeli) who helps to feed orphaned and vulnerable children and helps sick people in her area. She visits them, bathes and feeds them or goes to the nearest clinic to collect medication for them when the need arises. The Hlatikhulu councillor, Sbongile Mazibuko, applauded the caregivers in her community saying that they are doing a great job. They do not receive any payment and yet they work without complaining. “These women are doing an incredible job in our community, I wish caregivers from other areas could follow suit. We are proud to call them our heroes,” she stated. World Vision has also helped by training the caregivers and providing food which they cook for the needy.

Nomsa attended all three phases of the Gender Links training, including the “I” story session. The training has inspired her to explore ideas that she never thought made sense before. She is strong willed and determined to see her business work, with her strong people skills she can sell anything. She spends most of her time nurturing her vegetables. She makes her own organic pesticides and makes her own compost for enriching the soil. She dreams of diverging into growing baby vegetables. She has approached NAMBoard to coach her on how to go about growing the vegetables and how to reach the market. “I have learnt how to use the internet to search for ideas and I have also met inspiring business women and we shared our experiences and ideas on how to grow our businesses during the workshop,” Nomsa explainss.

She has single-handedly raised her children to be strong willed and determined like her, so much so that her last born daughter went to university and has graduated as a teacher. She now commands respect from other women in her community for her kind heartedness and communication skills. People in her community speak highly of her and sometimes seek advice from her.


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