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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
South African women learn to earn
Shola Olowu
By Shola Olowu
BBC News business reporter in Klerksdorp, South Africa

Under the apartheid regime, women were effectively excluded from playing any meaningful role in the economy, and South Africa's fledgling democracy has yet to give them economic control over their lives.

Sign at the
South African women learn how to participate in the economy
This is partly because poverty remains an oppressor.

But women are at the centre of African culture - as wives and mothers, teachers and carers, they hold communities together.

So now, South African Women are going to learn to earn.

Growing capital

Women Investment Portfolio Holdings (Wiphold) was born in 1994 out of the desire to help empower the country's women.

South African women
Many women are the sole bread winners for their families
"We wanted to create a vehicle that would allow women to participate in the mainstream economy," said co-founder and chief executive Louisa Mojela.

Ms Mojela wanted to encourage the women of South Africa, not only to save but to invest as well and to watch their capital grow

Basic skills

But savings and investments are beyond the reach of South Africa's poorest women.

Women learning to sew
Basic skills such as sewing can help women to start their own firms

So Wiphold has further contributed to female empowerment by sponsoring a number of not for profit organisations.

One such project, the Thusanang, started off as a training centre in the Free State, giving uneducated and unemployed women the chance to learn basic skills like needlework and embroidery.

With Wiphold's financial support over the last 10 years, Thusanang has expanded across the country, helping to directly improve the lives of over 700 women.


Thusanang's approach to empowerment is about giving women the skills that they need to start their own businesses.

In addition to the variety of craft programmes offered, Thusanang also provides basic business and management training.

And it offers support services such as HIV/Aids awareness and counselling to ensure that these initiatives have a better chance of survival.

Elizabeth Monyemore, one of the beneficiaries at Thusanang, has now started her own catering business.

"We learnt how to cook and bake and then we started to sell," she said.

"We created jobs for ourselves because there are no jobs."


South Africa's inability to create jobs is one of the biggest disappointments of the post apartheid era.

South African woman
Women are at the centre of African culture

In some rural areas, unemployment has surged beyond the national rate of 40% and many women are the sole bread winners for their families.

Central to the government's black economic empowerment initiatives is the need to create jobs by fostering a new generation of entrepreneurs.

But Ms Mojela does not believe the government can do it alone.

"More companies need to come forward and support projects like (Thusanang)," she said.

"The government simply doesn't have the resources to bring projects like these to the people."


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