"One bite at a time": Thinking big while starting small
When one asks me about my community, I sometimes have difficulty trying to decide how to summarise my community, Africa is my community and it is a very large community.
I have always had a weakness for roasted and boiled maize. When my grandmother prepared them, I often lost control, scuffing the yummy seeds off the comb hurriedly and greedily, not taking time to properly “uproot” each seed. My grandma patiently chastised. “Take one bite at a time”, she said. “Chew properly and swallow, that way, you will eat more, you will avoid wasting and will have no stomach pains”. I will employ the wise words of my grandmother by choosing to tell the story of a group of girls that I met a few days ago in the rural village of Lushikishini in the small and beautiful country of Swaziland.
I first met them in a clouded hut, a huge flame was blazing in the middle of the hut, and an equally massive pot with white boiling porridge sat comfortable surrounded by the blaze. I was determined not to choke despite the smoke as I listened to one young intelligent woman tell their story. They told their story in siSwati, a language exotic to me, but their fervour was not lost in translation. The language barrier could not put out their blazing passion, and I was challenged.
They have a business plan; starting a poultry farm, but they lack enough capital. However, this does not deter them, they have decided to bake local cake and sell them in the hope of making enough profits to start their poultry farm. Profits are trickling in, and though the pace may seem slow to a greedy and impatient observer, their resilience is a challenge to all entrepreneurs. Every day, they gather together to bake cake the traditional way, since they do not have electric cookers and ovens. They walk out looking for clients, saving every penny they have to invest in their vision.
Their organisation is impressive, yet they do not have fancy degrees and diplomas. They have a chairlady, a secretary and a treasurer. There are rules and regulations to be obeyed; discipline is paramount if they are to succeed. “We only need 1700 South African rands to set up poultry farm with proper structures” they confidently explain. They have so far been able to buy a couple chicken: though they are constantly fighting with the hawks for ownership rights. Nonetheless, as my grandmother wisely advised, these girls are not afraid to start small, working hard towards a grander vision.
Poverty, poor infrastructure, access to education, early pregnancy, HIV/Aids, abuse; young women all over Africa and beyond are moving beyond challenges and taking control of their lives. I view online communities such as PulseWire as that extra necessary tool needed by women of all backgrounds to further boost their empowerment, to tell their stories, to ask for help, to share ideas, to motivate!