'Together we survive'

Khanyisile Nkosi

Khanyisile Nkosi

Forty six years ago Kebaoetse Nyembezi, a young businesswoman from Soweto watched helplessly as communities struggled to survive after the passing of the Group Areas Act.

Nyembezi watched as families were torn apart and how life became a daily struggle because of the forced removals from habitual surroundings to a barren land.

Then an owner of a supermarket in Dube, Nyembezi soon became a shoulder to lean on for most of the women who frequented her shop.

She heard stories of how women battled to keep the fires burning while their husbands were in the cities looking for work.

It was these challenges that prompted Nyembezi to form the African Housewives League of South Africa, a non-government organisation aimed at mobilising women to take charge of their lives and improve the quality of their lives.

Busi Mthimkulu, recording secretary of the league, said: "She realised that most women needed to be empowered in order to change their lives for the better. She organised gatherings where women advised and supported each other on survival issues. She even encouraged women to look their best for their husbands when they returned home from the cities."

As the league grew, the focus shifted from domestic empowerment to community and financial development.

The league boasts about 7000 members from all over the country with more than 65percent coming from rural areas.

Among the initiatives taken by the league was the establishment of education centres and gardening projects in rural areas. These have created job opportunities for the locals.

The league has also aligned itself with investment companies that are focusing on economic empowerment of women.

The league is preparing for its yearly conference to be held in Durban from tomorrow until Sunday.