Brendon Andrews of Namakwa Ontwikkeling unpacks the programmes of the organisation and highlights the goal of growing women leadership
Based in Okiep, a mining town in the Nothern Cape Province of South Africa that operated in the 80s and 90s, Namakwa Ontwikkeling (NAMKO) started by working with Catholic churches in the area. Now 28 years later, NAMKO is a community outreach foundation that runs various programmes which empower the community.
Sadly, the NAMKO recently lost one of its founding directors to COVID-19. Quinta Titus was a strong pillar in the organisation who grew from working with young people to holding the pivotal role overseeing programmes, those which empowered women closest to her heart.
Responding to challenges
Brendon Andrews initially joined the Youth Programme and has been with the organisation for 24 years. In that time, they have seen many challenges, almost closing at one point due to a lack of funding. At that point, many of the members and Board members resigned, leaving only three people to continue: Gladys, Quinta and Ronnie van Wyk, the current director of Namakwa Ontwikkeling.
The organisation engaged with a Swiss company called Fastenopfer, who provided funding for a savings programme, to help the community become money wise. After the payouts from the mine closure, community members were spending money recklessly, and Namakwa implemented a programme to implement a savings model, adopted from India. This enabled learning about saving, debt avoidance, empowerment, life skills, and importantly, educating the community on how to use the Consumer Protection Act. Often in rural areas, where the people are not familiar with terms of hire purchase, they enter into financial arrangements with stores or moneylenders, with no clear understanding of the repayment terms.
Conversing for change
Another programme, Inspired Women, falls under the Gender-based Violence category. A group of over 50 women meets once a quarter to discuss their personal grievances with their husbands and children. Unemployment in the area has driven many children to use drugs, which results in violence and abuse towards the mother, when they are seeking money. With many women afraid to speak out about domestic violence, this programme allows them to share their experiences and draw on those of others. “Quinta always said she was trying to get these women whole again, because they were broken, recalls Brendon Andrews.”
This programme seeks to empower these women to stand up to the abuse. The programme has encouraged the establishment of monthly support meetings among women in their towns and villages.
Solutions for hunger
NANKO’s third programme is Food Sovereignty – implementing learning and assistance in small-scale household gardening, which provides food for the family, and surplus to trade and swap with neighbours and other community members. So much more effective than food parcel handouts, this programme has shown people a long-term solution to alleviating hunger.
The COVID Prevention programme is another newer programme, implemented in 2020. The organisation has been actively raising awareness in communities, as well as providing food hampers, especially in the early days of the pandemic, when many people in the community lost their jobs and were unable to get food. An Australian mining company has recently bought the mines, and plan to reopen some of them, which, if it happens would be a great boost to the local economy.
Planning for a better future
COVID-19 made 2020 a very tough year for the organisation, which saw them having to downsize some of their programmes. Working from home during lockdown minimised resources – they realised they could save money by not operating from their office, aside from meetings. Looking to the future, they plan to change the organisation into a Foundation, with help from the Southern African Trust. With all the programmes being run by strong women, they hope to support and empower these women further, to do more and better work, says Andrews.
“People ask me, you’re a man, why do you fight for women’s rights? What about our men rights? And I say to them, you had many years of rights, where the women had none – it’s the ladies’ time, I believe it… Women are strong, they are determined.”
Working with other foundations, like the Initiative for Community Advancement, with Jeremy Maarman, the NAMKO is gaining important information on how to build a stronger organisation that can do more. Working within the Community Development programme, with the Trust, has also enabled them to move some of the women running programmes into more senior roles – which has empowered them, and changed the organisational structure somewhat.
A recently launched new social grant, the Quinta Titus Gender-based Violence Responds Fund, serves to honour Quinta’s legacy and continue her work. Brendon hopes that the money they raise through events and social media campaigns will be allocated to the community through an application process.
The Southern Africa Trust acknowledges and thanks the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for their support and partnership of this work.