Sophia Nthejane-Thaba Tseka Urban Council COE

Sophia Nthejane-Thaba Tseka Urban Council COE

Date: June 30, 2015
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The politician’s first encounter with Gender Links was memorable in many ways; this is where she learned to differentiate between sex and gender; however, she met challenges where men could not understand issues of gender, saying these are strategies from women to topple men and they will not listen to her. Later, in small groups they started listening to her.

The politician is currently the member of the Thaba-Tseka Urban council in the Thaba-Tseka district. Before being elected into office, Nthejane was very active in politics, and a member of a women’s group which was making artefacts with recycled materials. They collected plastic, and have asked some members of the community to give them plastic from their homes for the project. They started doing this work for charity but later they started selling the products to earn a living and cater for members’ children’s school fees. After Nthejane became part of the council, she also took part in the COE workshops held for the council by Gender Links. This is where she learned that what she believed to be women’s work before can also be done by men.

Following this realization, Nthejane started mobilising men from the village to join the craft group. From the start, men were reluctant to join because they said making mats is the work of the women. She, however, persuaded them, and showed them that the project generates income so men can also benefit from the income generated and be able to cater for their children’s school fees like women who are the members of the group. Finally, she won them over, and the group has grown bigger; more men are interested due to benefits accrued. She gives credit to Gender Links, because she became empowered from the workshops to be able to persuade men to join the group. She said that every time she attend a workshop, she felt empowered, and engages more in community work so that one day other women will realise their potential in governance and community development.

Nthejane said it has been difficult to understand what was meant by gender, and as a result there were too many conflicting interpretations. This created tensions between men and women. Men thought gender was an issue for women who want to go out of control; but from the workshops she learned what is meant.

She has been empowered to talk freely about gender issues, and clarify for some fellow community members, especially men, on gender issues and how best women can be empowered to improve the governance and economic development issues of any country. However, it has not been an easy road to travel. Men were still hanging on to the past and customs that teated women as minors and did not given them any chance to take part in governance issues. There was also a fear that one day women would take over and rule men.

The politician was politically active, but she could not address a group of people in a community gathering. Since she has been involved with Gender Links, she is able to facilitate public gatherings, and help the community to make the right decisions. She is able to influence decisions, either during the council or in community meetings. She said Gender Links has helped to her to grow strong as a woman.

She is able to help the community develop collective needs into community action plans. She will always commend Gender Links for good work they have done, to eye open the councillors about gender issues. The regular follow-up workshops have also played an important role to build and instill knowledge and also councillors developed ownership of the plans developed as a result of the workshop.

All Gender Links staff have been very helpful in many ways. They were able to come to the level as councillors with different literacy levels. They made things very easy to understand; concepts and more practical work also helped a lot. A lot has been learned as a result; in-depth knowledge of conflict resolution, because councillors deal mostly with community conflicts, especially on land. She also learned how to press the computer for the first time. She also learned that men and women have to plan together, because sharing ideas improves efficiency and effectiveness. She gained confidence to be part of the decision making and be actively involved.

More and more community members see the politician as a leader, and a strong woman. They always come to her with community issues, and want her to lead them in community projects. She plans to work hard to influence changes in behaviour of men, and the norms and culture that considered women minors. She strives to be a champion of change, and empower more women to take part in governance.

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