Another Graduation, Women in Pretoria Doing it for Themselves
04 August 2015

(Top Left) The Loyola Skills Development Centre graduates; jubilant, singing and dancing before their graduation ceremony. (Top Right) Designer Simon Maleka, sharing his business skills with the graduates. (Bottom Left) Honour student, Esther, receiving her certificate from Business Manager, Tereda Van Heerden. (Bottom Right) The proud Loyola Skills Development Centre graduating class.
Wearing one of these beautiful dresses, one of the students, Marian, delivering a speech at the graduation ceremony, best summed up the difference the programme makes: “When I came here, I did not know how to use a computer, or know how to make a beautiful dress like this. Now after three months I can.”

Pretoria, 4 August 2015 – National Women’s Day is celebrated on the 9th August every year in South Africa. It is meant to commemorate the hard-won struggle for gender equality in South Africa. It is the day on which we remember 20 000 woman marching to Union Buildings in Pretoria, to confront the then repressive apartheid government of 1956. These women marched to show their defiance and displeasure with draconian pass laws, in the face violent reprisals.


It was not easy for them, some had babies strapped to their backs, others had their husbands, partners and sons in custody and they all faced the real possibility of arrest. But, they made a stand, they stood up for their rights to be treated as equals, as human beings. 


Refugee and asylum seeker women face challenges of their own each day, they too need to assert their rights as equals. They face a society that is not always welcoming, at times violent through xenophobia, some have male partners that abuse them, some are economically dependent on these very same abusive partners and others have themselves, children and extended family to support singly.


Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) takes an active role in empowering women, giving these women an opportunity to learn new skills and to apply these skills in business. In some instances these skills that are passed on, break the cycle of violence; in that women have an opportunity to support themselves independently; but in all instances it gives the women who are beneficiaries of the livelihoods’ programme an opportunity to earn a range of skills. All the graduates of the programme are provided with business skills’ training, are given start-up material to start their businesses and the programme is extended to local South African women as well, hence fostering social cohesion. 


The Loyola Skills Development Centre, based in Pretoria, held a graduation ceremony recently. The graduates from the programme were trained in baking, sewing and computer skills. The course runs for three months and as the Business Manager for both Arrupe Women’s Centre in Johannesburg, Yeoville, and Loyola Skills Development Centre, Tereda Van Heerden, explains, it entails a theoretic as well as an essential practical element to it. 


The practical part of the training visibly yielded results as the students had made themselves a variety of beautifully designed and colourful outfits for the graduation ceremony. Wearing one of these beautiful dresses, one of the students, Marian, delivering a speech at the graduation ceremony, best summed up the difference the programme makes: “When I came here, I did not know how to use a computer, or know how to make a beautiful dress like this. Now after three months I can.”


Apart from the brief business training the graduates receive at the end of the programme, they were graced with the wise words of a designer in the business. Simon Maleka, a designer who started his business on a modest R 100.00 (less than US $10), and now has orders worth tens of thousands of rand and is now a major success. His tips were practical, and to the point: “Being a designer, this is a difficult industry. To succeed, you need love and passion for what you do. Respect time, when meeting a client be there 15 minutes earlier, so that you can prepare yourself. One of the things not to be taken for granted is hard work. Keep on working hard.”


Nothing but optimism shines in their eyes and each one of the graduates is ready to start her business and create a new life for herself and her dependents. This is true empowerment, and this story is the best way to welcome the 2015, National Women’s Month! 



Our previous story on how JRS South Africa is pushing forward with the empowerment of women.



Press Contact Information
Gushwell F. Brooks
gushwell.brooks@jrs.net
+27 11 618 3404