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She left for New York yesterday to share her experiences as a woman from Hlokozi, Ixopo.
Sponsored by the international women’s movement The Grail, the 17-year-old Noluthando will be attending the 56th UN Commission on the Status of Women conference, which is aimed at empowering women from rural areas.
In 2007 she joined the Emthonjeni programme, a Women’s Leadership and Training Programme (WLTP), which works to build the leadership skills and potential of pre-teens and teenagers, unemployed young women in Hlokozi, kwaMashu and the southern Ukhahlamba Drakensberg, and influential young women.
“Emthonjeni changed my life a lot. It made me assertive … WLTP gave me a voice and peace of mind. When you come from a poor family and everyone knows, you feel like you shouldn’t speak out … or are too embarrassed to speak. I have also grown emotionally because of it. I am now aware of the challenges around me, the ways in which women suffer, and how I can help them,” said Noluthando.
Living in a rural area, she said, was a disadvantage most of the time.
“The schools aren’t good enough and they don’t give pupils insight about their options or opportunities.
“When you finish matric you don’t have access to university applications or the resources to take you there.
“Sometimes teachers help, but even going to school can become discouraging. You have to walk for kilometres to go to school and you don’t get time to do homework because you are roped into helping the family, cooking and cleaning.”
Emthonjeni helps women learn how to deal with these issues — to fight poverty, to face gender discrimination, to become self-sufficient and to become a leader.
Noluthando, now in matric, wants to become a teacher.
“I believe that if one person is passionate about something then change can happen.
“My dream is to open a girls’ primary school and share with them what I have learnt from Emthonjeni. I want to start a group and ensure that all women know their rights and how to fight for them.
“WLTP taught me that I don’t have to worry about anything because I can handle it … Every woman should feel the same.”• tharuna.devchand