Zimele Wethu

Zimele Wethu uses Self-Help Groups to empower rural people and especially women in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa to build a better future for themselves and their communities. People living in abject poverty work together in groups where they receive training and then save money and access loans from the savings. They also work as a group to start social initiatives such as home-based care projects, crèches for local children or agricultural activities.

Self-Help Groups (SHGs) give poor people the power to transform lives and support each other. Benefits include food security, improved and sustainable incomes, growth of local businesses, support systems when families are going through a difficult time and breaking the power of illegal loan businesses and the exorbitant interest rates charged for those loans.

Zimele Wethu works in five extremely poor rural communities, where women are the most affected because they continue to suffer male dominance in decision making processes and inequality in accessing assets such as land, well-paying jobs or influential leadership roles. The impact of the AIDS pandemic over the last decade has greatly exacerbated the burden of poverty and the survival of poor rural households often depends on the economic contributions of the women.

Zimele Wethu is led by Audrey Matimelo and the partnership with E3 is helping:

  • Involve 872 women in Self-Help Groups, including training in savings and loans management, planning, communication, conflict resolution and basic business skills.
  • Running Bible Studies and prayer sessions in the groups to encourage spiritual growth.
  • Buy four computers for a SHG-run computer school in Durban, which will enhance young people’s skills in a community where there is no college.
  • Provide tools and equipment to 14 women who are running a block-making business.
  • Fund travel costs for the Programme Manager and the Community Liaison officer who travel to conduct training and Bible studies in the five communities.
  • Grant: £8,300
  • Sustainability loan of £4,000: Zimele Wethu is buying a flat to rent out to students, which will generate an income to help fund its work, once the loan is repaid to E3.

“We are so grateful that you didn’t ‘give us bread’, but ‘taught us how to bake bread’. We are proud of what we have done.” One of the ladies who belongs to the Self-Help Group, which makes blocks to sell. Empowering people through small businesses so they can earn their own income, brings dignity and hope and enables people to escape the cycle of poverty.