The power within is the strongest one

“Change never happens fast, it takes time, it’s a long journey that needs support and patience.”

I am Nonhlanhla Shandu, a single woman with 3 children and 2 grandchildren. I’m 52 years old and I live at Melmoth at a place called Mfanefile area.

I’ve been part of Justice and Women for a long time: I started as a participant in JAW projects and after that they hire me as volunteer in two projects, the first was about sexual reproductive health and rights, the second was with youth.

I’ve also worked in the Vulamehlo project, although I’m not counting all projects, but these changed my life: Being part of Vulamehlo helped me a lot in terms of thinking, the way I think before makes me feel stuck, because as a woman my culture is limiting me not to act, it forces us to go to extended family where we have to ask men to take part in the ceremonies such lobola issues.

Also for some decisions in the homestead you need to find someone in the extended family, a man, to take the lead, although you paid for everything for those ceremonies. So being part of JAW I changed the way of doing things, I start with myself before I put other people first, I think before I act about what makes me feel happy, asking myself questions and not accepting what other people think about culture. I question culture too if I feel oppressed.

In JAW we learn more about gender so now I am able to make my own decisions. Now I have a tuck shop which I run in Cebisa high school. Here I’m using my skills with youth when I’m having conversations with them. I didn’t realise that I made an impact on them, but this Mother’s day I got messages from them, where they told me that I’m a strong woman, an imbokodo, a good listener, that I’m not judging them, but supporting them.

I know I can’t do this without JAW. It makes me more strong as a woman, I don’t allow my gender to stop me to do anything I want to do, and the types of power I learn from the organization, the power within is the strongest one. In the past I did not support people’s dreams because I didn’t understand how important this was, instead I discouraged them. But now I’m never doing those mistakes again, especially not with my children.

I would like to thank JAW for the opportunities that JAW offers me, they change my life completely: Now I have my own business and it’s demanding more time, so I resign from JAW but I’m happy that I’m taking a step forward.