When women are financially empowered, studies have shown that their status increases so that they can have greater equality with men and greater bargaining power within their families. Consequently, their self-esteem improves too. As a result of a combination of these factors, studies found that incidences of domestic abuse decreased within these communities. Thus, the far-reaching impact that financial empowerment of women in impoverished communities can potentially have is one of the key reasons we have chosen to focus our attention primarily on women.
The rationale behind Phila Mzanzi Women Empowerment is to create employment for women in rural areas. Beneficiaries are divided into groups of 30 who meet weekly and are granted the opportunity to apply their creative skills in all kinds of needle work, pottery and the production of beautifully crafted objects. At the same time, they are encouraged to start their own food gardens, not only for their own consumption, but also to sell. Once the skills of individuals have been identified, they are divided into skills-based groups, to concentrate and co-operate on the production of marketable merchandise. We then schedule market days and exhibitions for them to showcase their finished products to the community.
We also offer support groups for women and girls by offering them the opportunity to discuss social ills that impinge on them directly. They are empowered, equipped and envisioned for a positive, healthy life reducing their vulnerability to rape, gender violence and unplanned pregnancy. Our support groups focus on challenges faced by the girls/women on a daily basis. Beneficiaries regard support groups as safe spaces where they can discuss issues and challenges affecting their daily existence and that of their communities, and many of them report that this is the first time they have shared their problems with anyone. If the beneficiary is willing, we will link her with the relevant service provider in our existing network. We have to acknowledge their readiness to seek help, and only suggest provision when they are ready to do so.