GVI Cape Town’s Women’s Empowerment project began in 2015 and our computer classes first started in the township of Nomzamo in 2017. It is imperative to our team that projects develop based on what the community believes will be most beneficial to them.
Many of the women that we work with would like to develop their computer skills so they can gain employment. Therefore, it is important for women to be able to gain a certificate that provides employers with evidence of successful completion of a computer course.
However, we quickly realised that a GVI certificate wouldn’t mean much to most employers. So, we got in touch with an organisation that runs certified, recognised computer courses. And they were generous enough to share their course content with us. This allowed us to build and develop our current computer course, to further cover content that is certified by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
We launched our new course in March 2018 and upon completion, local students now receive a certificate stating the course content is aligned with SAQA. This gives the certificate more weight with employers in South Africa. Since our new course launch date, a phenomenal 115 women have received certificates. We continue to work with between 100 – 230 women each month. To date, our record attendance was 349 lessons delivered in the month of July 2018.
We are continually developing our course lessons as we learn from working with more women. Our first focus has been to simplify the methods and instructions used, as English is not the local students’ first language. Our second focus was on making the skills more relatable for them – PowerPoint is a bizarre concept if you have never seen a presentation before!
Our course now includes 17 lessons that start with the basics, like how to turn a computer on (many of the women have never touched a computer before), to using Microsoft Office.
One of our challenges is that some of the local students are keen to finish the course as quickly as possible so they can earn a certificate with the aim of securing employment as soon as possible. However, this means that the value of the course diminishes slightly, as the local students have rushed the learning process and will be more prone to forgetting the information taught.
To address this challenge and ensure long-term sustainability, we encourage the local students to only sign up for a maximum of two lessons per week. This lengthens the course and allows for retention to be enhanced by revision and one-on-one mentoring with GVI staff.
In the future, we would like to provide more courses, particularly with a focus on internet skills such as learning how to use email or how to use the internet proficiently. Ideally, we’d like to provide more variety in the lessons we provide but one of the challenges in the community is gaining access to affordable internet.
I am continually surprised by the demand for computer lessons despite having operated in the same location for over a year now. This truly shows how sought after computer skills are by the community. When I first started running the computer lessons I would have days when I thought, “how long can I teach the same lessons over and over?” But this was before I got to know the women of Nomzamo.
I am continually inspired by the women that finish their shifts at work and then race to the community centre to fit in a lesson before collecting their children from school. The mothers who are nursing a baby whilst learning how to create spreadsheets. The women who have walked for an hour to come and wait in line for a lesson. The mamas in their 60s who are determined to master new skills no matter how long it may take them. And the ladies copying out instructions word for word to ensure they can go home and memorise every step.
The women of Nomzamo have the drive to succeed but haven’t always had the opportunities and resources available to help them achieve their goals. I hope that through programmes such as these that we will not only help women achieve their own goals but also work together towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4: Quality Education.
Through having access to the computer course, we are supporting women in making progress towards Target 4.4 “substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship”. We also support women towards Indicator 4.4.1, which is increasing the “Proportion of youth and adults with information and communications technology (ICT) skills”.
Many of the women we work with start with a lot of doubt, they don’t think they will be able to learn something that they see as so complicated, and they get frustrated when they struggle to master a new skill such as dragging and highlighting. But then there are these magical moments where a huge smile spreads across a woman’s face and she beams with pride at what she has just achieved.
As well as allowing women to grow in confidence and gain new skills, this course is important in enabling women to have better access to employment and further education. The local government last year launched an initiative to give young people work experience within government roles, such as administration at health clinics.
The positions were highly sought after, however, the candidates for the administrative roles were required to be able to use a computer. It was therefore fantastic to see a group of women excitedly tell us that they had successfully secured administrative positions on the work experience scheme with the help of their computer skills.
It is, of course, amazing when women come back to us and tell us that they have secured a job with the help of their new skills – this is the aim of our programme after all. But for me, it’s even more amazing to see that look of pride on a woman’s face. A feeling that every woman should have the right to.
This story comes from GVI’s Impact and Ethics report. To celebrate 20 years of work in sustainable development, we reflect on and showcase our impactful stories and data. Read the report in full.