Rural businesswoman inspires success in others
Rags-to-riches story of rural women
8 March 2008
March 8, 2008 – “At some time, African women need to write their stories. The first of those stories will be Ma Qwabe’s,” said MC Sibongile Mkhabela at the event to mark International Women’s Day held today at the Presidential Guesthouse in Pretoria as she introduced businesswoman and community leader Agnes Qwabe.
Qwabe was voted as Community Builder of the Year in 2005, and has been recognised by the World Health Organisation as a “health philanthropist”. She worked with community members in Mathabatha Village in Limpopo Province to build a successful community bakery – and then a bank. Although the community members were illiterate, she started her speech today by praising them as “people with substance, whose advice made me who I am today”. The group was able to source funding for the bakery building from nearby platinum mines, and for equipment from the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.
“It has turned out to be a business that is owned by 23 women – just give us some applause, please!” said Qwabe proudly.
The bakery supplies bread to the community, to the schools in the area, and helps to support orphaned and vulnerable children. “It is a business I wish every woman could own – because we all need bread,” said Qwabe.
On the back of the bakery’s success, the group of women has also now started the Mathabatha Village Bank, which employs out-of-school youths who receive training from the Department of Trade and Industry. “As rural women, we might be far from town, but we can make life better for our children, our families and even our community,” said Qwabe. “The bank is sustainable and has a long life … Please come and open your accounts at Mathabatha Village Bank!”
The group has also branched into upholstery and juice making. “All these income-generating projects are owned by women,” beamed Qwabe.
See the related gallery on the International Women’s Day event held in Pretoria, South Africa.