Coming out of my shell and taking the lead

“I have gained from the self defense class because now I no longer panic whenever I need to go some places but I make sure I don’t put myself into a compromising situation, and now I am emotionally and physically stable thanks to 1in9 for all the good you have done for me and my life is different. Since I have worked with you, I see progress, good future and hope going forward.”

Dineo Tsoabi has been part of the campaign’s programs for the past two years, has attended workshops, protests, art as advocacy sessions and other partner organisation’s events. When she first joined our programmes, she was shy and would keep to herself and not engage in plenary unless selected. In these two years, she has come out of her shell, leading group presentations and really engaging with all the processes fully; “I have improved in working groups without depending on others’ views. Since I have been attending sessions in Pol Ed I have more confidence and hope in myself, also I have learnt that I am my own person not to depend on other people’s wings, I am a very shy and sensitive person but I am able to manage the two.”

She is one of two sisters and her sister is comfortable speaking in public and takes the lead when needed but in the time that Dineo has been with the campaign, we have seen her come out of her sister’s shadow and lead on her own. For the campaign this is the kind of outcomes we thrive for, to give women the space to express themselves, learn and share and in the process, grow and take up leadership in their own lives. She is definitely a driver of change because of the growth and change she has gone through herself. She has also demonstrated that being quiet doesn’t mean you do not know anything and that knowledge and access to information is one of the biggest confidence boosters and leadership tool.

Dineo’s organisation works with women farmers and equips women with sewing, food security, and understanding the importance of herbs, indigenous plant knowledge and preserving our environment. They do a lot of work in the eco-feminist space working against climate change and pushing the government to make environmental conscious decisions and challenging big extractive corporations. She has always shown commitment, arriving on time, completing tasks, and fully engaging with processes of the project. Her willingness to learn new things and push herself out of comfort zone is one of her strengths.

“I have also learnt that if I cannot stand up for myself no one else will. I need to be a leader from within first. I have learnt more on Gender Based Violence campaigns and how to arrange community workshops and be able to present in front of others. I have learnt that I need to always be aware of my surroundings especially the community around me and their needs, and what to do if I notice something. I have also learnt how to balance work, my project, myself and my community.”

She highlights how the feminist political education (Pol Ed) has given her more knowledge about the LGBTQI+ community and helped her understand more about them and herself. She has also learned how to use the art tools from our art for liberation sessions to express herself, make better posters and banners. “1in9 has helped me know who I really am, my strengths, stretching from my comfort zone, I am now confident and can bravely face my fears. As for my family it has made huge difference. I can now face my fears and be able to attend things on my own without hiding behind others.”

“I have gained more knowledge on how to facilitate workshops, learnt more about GBV, and that people have different believes, needs, choices and we are all human beings with different capacities and capabilities.”

Dineo says a lot has changed in her community because women are starting to stand up for themselves and creating collectives to fight for what is best for them. They are asking more questions about things they don’t understand and have requested for more workshops and trainings and are eager to participate in community activities. Through Serapeng sa Basadi/Ditlhare, she has been able to contribute to the skills development of the women in her area. By using the networks that they have been building with other organisations and donors; they have managed to source funds to do trainings in their community, which is a peri-urban area that government seems to have forgotten about.

Their community also falls under the notorious Emfuleni municipality, which was shut down in 2021 due to corruption and mismanagement of funds. Due to her activism and her organisation, many community members look up to them for guidance when it comes to issues they face including service delivery issues.

Her organisation has been trying to source funding for their renewable energy solution that uses natural products to create electricity, but due to lack of funding because they do not have the relevant organisational structures, they are unable to build it. The group is very innovative and having them in our program is an honour as they also share their skills with the organisation and the other participants.

She has also built relationships with other stakeholders in her area, like the councillor who attended one of the dialogues we hosted in Waterdal and committee leaders in her area. This means that the work she does has support in the area and the community trusts her and her organisation and are open to activities that we bring to them.

“My future plans are to increase my knowledge and be a successful woman also as a business woman, assisting more and sustaining the community. Being a good parent to both my children and seeing Serapeng reach its goals and objectives, still working in partnership with 1in9 Campaign going forward.”

Dineo says that feminist political education is a powerful, good and fruitful tool that all South Africans and the world should be exposed to. “The world will be a better place with its existence. The words used to describe feminist political education do not even come close to expressing how important it is and the changes it brings.”