Source: Swazi Observer
The main objective of WWT is to create a transformative, inspirational and empowering social networking platform for women in Swaziland The initiative showcases women's talents, ideas and markets their businesses.
Women Working Together Initiative (WWT) was established to empower women in Swaziland and create networking platforms for them. It is open to all sectors, these being business, entertainment, etc. The WWT initiative was established in October 2012. It is the brainchild of two Swazi women, Zanele Thabede and Ntombikayise Nyoni.
Both women had worked for many years within the women's movement in Swaziland and in Southern Africa. They made a realisation that women in Swaziland were often meeting in very formal spaces and lacked the opportunity or spaces where they can gather in a more relaxed platform to inspire, learn and support each other as well as use networking as a key to success.
The main objective of WWT is to create a transformative, inspirational and empowering social networking platform for women in Swaziland. The initiative showcases women's talents, ideas and markets their businesses.
It embraces women's diversity and encourages them to find possible linkages and build whatever ideas or endeavours they are passionate about. The initiative hosts themed events targeting women; a guest speaker is identified for each event and addresses key topical issues affecting the feminine gender. At all events five women are awarded free stalls to showcase their work.
All women attending the events are encouraged to bring along their business cards, portfolios or materials that speak about their work. The events are very relaxed and allow for the women to mingle, get to know each other and discuss possible means for collaborations.
The initiative seeks to encourage women to network and find strength in collaboration. Another key operative function of WWT is to dispel the myth that women cannot support each other or even work together. The initiative promotes collaborations amongst women and discourages the idea of seeing each other as competitors. Women who are in the same kind of business or work are encouraged to find ways of collaborating and ensuring that they complement and support each other.
Since their establishment in 2012, they have been able to host a number of social networking events. These include:
In October 2012 the initiative hosted a High Tea where US Ambassador Makila James was the guest speaker and she spoke about the importance of women coming together for positive change .
This was followed by another High Tea at Mdzimba View which was themed 'Lin In Women, Work and the Will to Lead'. The key note address for this event was done by Khabo Dlamini, Woman Farmer of the year 2013. She spoke passionately about priding oneself as a woman in all the work being done and further highlighted some of the challenges faced by women in pursuit of success.
The Initiative also hosted a 'Showcase and Cocktail' where women in business attended the event that was held at Edladleni Restaurant and showcased their businesses. Local songbird Flowee rendered beautiful music.
The initiative worked with Swazi Women based in the UK to raise funds for Hlengiwe who is the youngest breast cancer survivor in Swaziland. The Women in the UK held a small fundraiser where they sold cakes and raised about 200 pounds that was forwarded to the Breast and Cervical Cancer network as a contribution to Hlengiwe's medical fees.
Other events attended include the Sibane Pink dinner to raise awareness on breast cancer and plead for people to raise funds towards Hlengiwe's medical fees.
Through social media the initiative has profiled and showcased many young women's business and talents.
WWT collaborated with Ingcamu Jam Session to host an All Women's jam session where young and upcoming women musicians and poets performed and also had an opportunity to discuss challenges they faced in the industry and how they can overcome them.
The Initiative also sources African Fabric from the DRC to make handbags. This is done with the support of Khulekani Msweli of JeremPaul. The idea of making bags was born after a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and learning about the plight of women who are raped and sexually brutalised by war rebels.
As the initiative grows, some of the proceeds will be sent to an institution called Afia Mama in DRC to help the survivors of sexual violence who need to undergo surgery for womb reconstruction and other needs to start businesses.
2015 has started in a positive way for WWT. On March 16, the initiative hosted an exclusive High Tea for 25 Swazi women. Through the support of the American Embassy the event was graced by Dr Godwen Mikell who is an American anthropologist and feminist writer who has worked with women across African countries on culture and feminism.
This was followed by the official launch of Women Working Together which was held at Willows Lodge in Malkerns. The launch was themed 'Women's Outdoor Affair'. The topic of discussion was 'The Power of Networking'. Guest speakers for the event were local singer and song writer Nomalungelo Dladla as well as South African based business mogul Khulile Mashaba-Mthethwa.
Women to women trade.
"The event we hosted in Malkerns, Willows Lodge recently was our official launch. It was themed 'Women's Outdoor' affair and it was staged outside the beautiful Willows Lodge garden by the lake, last Saturday. The topic of discussion was 'The Power of networking'."
Two guest speakers gave an address at the event and these were business mogul was Khulile Mashaba Mthethwa who works in Mining and Aviation as well as local singer and songwriter Nomalungelo Dladla.
The two women spoke about the importance of making good, influential and important connections with key player in various industries. Dladla shared that she started her music career through personally introducing herself to local musician and producer Muzi. She mentioned that she convinced him that she could sing and that led to the production of her first music album. Mthethwa shared that she is a major shareholder in an aviation company in South Africa; Noma stated that she met a certain shareholder of the same company at a shop but because she is an extrovert and always wants to make an impact on people's lives they ended up having coffee and landing a deal as a company shareholder.
"It is very important for women to attend networking events and also learn and understand the power of networking and creating linkages. We live in a society where as women we focus more on our homes and also in our professional careers.
"We are consistently trying to balance between work and family and we end up neglecting networking and socialising. The reality is that this kind of set up is detrimental to us as women as many major deals are sealed in networking events, links are created in such events and ideas are born in such events.
"As Swazi women we need to embrace networking and showcasing our talents more, we need to get out there and build networks and meet other women who will positively influence us and encourage us to succeed in whatever we may be doing. We need to create support structures that will help us successfully balance the different aspects of our lives which may be carrier, spiritual, social and otherwise."
SCENE is eager to know if the women working together campaign considers themselves as active members of the global phenomenon of feminist activists.
"Feminism is about creating a conducive environment for the existence of women as well as challenging any systems that maybe oppressive to women.
"You can never work on women empowerment without embracing the principles of feminism which include looking out for each other as women and promoting principles and values that protect women.
"As women working together we seek to create a space that will embrace all women and in a very relaxed, constructive and transformative way encourage women to work together, to learn more, to network, to find their passion and to be courageous enough to go out and live their dreams and challenge oppression for the betterment of all women in our society," Kayise responded.
The concept in itself suggests that these women have formulated a programme which seeks to empower women, even creating jobs.
"We decided to register Women Working Together as a company. This was us realising and making a point that to sustain and build a strong women's platform we need to make money and not depend on being funded / given money. We still do request sponsors and funders to assist but we also use creative means of ensuring that the initiative can run itself. For all our events we source products from women as means of empowerment. Not only do we just source from women but we make sure that all the women that contribute to our events are able to market their businesses. Women Working Together is about creating a hub of women's work. We use local women artists to perform at our events, they also get to share their profiles and the people at the event can be able to book them for their own events."
Services like Deco, photography, make-up, cooking-chef, dressing events MCs and branding are all done by women. WWT encourages women to also view the service provision as a marketing opportunity for their services.
"We believe the initiative is indeed contributing to job creation especially for women in Swaziland. We also allow five women to have stalls at our events to showcase their work. We do not charge any additional costs for a stall. The women just buy a ticket and make an indication that they would want to showcase.
"The stalls are awarded on a first come first serve basis. Some of the women who have highly contributed to our events are Nonhlanhla Dlamini, former member of parliament through her decoration company Noni's events, which is situated at Ezulwini, Bongekile Shiba for photography and documentation, Ambience Mobile Spar for makeup, BoNelly's Boutique situated at the Gables for dressing up the MCs, Fundzisile Dlamini of Zubani, Mphumi Mdlalose of Global Events and Gugulethu at the Florist shop.
These are only a few of the women who have been able to showcase their work at our events whilst also contributing to the success of the initiative WWT is an open network; it is in no way closed.
"Not only do we seek to continue providing transformative, inspiring and motivational networking platforms for women in Swaziland but we also seek to create a hub of women's ideas, talents and businesses.
"As we grow we would like to go beyond hosting events but create spaces where women can showcase their work daily and the work be marketed not only in Swaziland but beyond as well. We would like to host many more events that will bring together diverse women and we continue to showcase their work.
"We would like to have ways of linking women with opportunities for their personal and professional growth. Mostly we want to continue embracing diversity, be innovative and have practical means of sustaining our work."