When I went to Training for Transformation I knew my role in the community as that of facilitating community sessions. I used the Paulo Freire methodology. I understood the principles and I was working hard to grow my knowledge of this method. At my work they told me I was doing very well. When I was at TFT, I learnt to understand better the theory of the methodology that I have been using. I used to find it challenging to make my analysis with the group go as deep as finding the root causes. I was hoping to get around this challenge. But at TFT the facilitators helped me with insights to dig deeper. When we were placed in teams to practise the methodology I felt like I had new wings to fly in my work. I am now very confident and I can see that I am going to be more effective. All the different segments of my work came together well like planning, delivering the message and reporting well for my work. The team of facilitators affirmed me and pushed me to find the best in me and my talents.
This was also my time to reflect on my gender-stereotypes based on culture and religion. I decided that was going to be my time to transform myself. As a 34 year old married person I was raised to understand that I should never wear jeans in my life, let alone in public. I went to the shop and bought some jeans for my trip to TFT. When I appeared at the airport my colleagues were all surprised, “Wow Zanele you look very beautiful! Why have you been hiding your beauty all these years?…” All these questions came from them and they continued to look at me even while we were pushing our luggage. This was going to be an interesting change and I was going to love it.
Back home I was surprised to find a group of people who told me, ‘We are very proud of you. No one in this community has achieved what you have achieved given your background. No one five years ago would have thought of you as someone who can be studying.’ Another said, ‘You have given me hope that I can be something after all my struggles. No one in this community has suffered like you and managed to rise above it the way you have done. Because of you I have hope for my future. I won’t give up. I will do something to improve my education and my life’. One school principal told me, ‘We have told the children that you have gone to improve your education. They were very happy for you and have told us that they have always known that you are clever and you will be a valuable asset for this community’. Another principal congratulated me for the courage to go and study. Someone from the municipality told me that I was an inspiration for other women and girls in my community. My church leaders and members were very pleased to have me as a ‘never-give-up’ woman. All these encouraging words brought me to tears because I am now sure that I belong to my community and they value my actions and what I stand for. I can now see that I did not go to Training for Transformation for myself and my organisation only. I went there for my people who love me so much and where my umbilical cord has been buried and become the soil of that community. Things will never be the same now with my willingness to share my skills with them.My children loved me in my jeans and I now have the challenge to wear them in my community when I have enough courage.
Zanele Ngcobo, Women Leadership Training Programme, KZN (South Africa)