Finding support and building leadership skills with Women’s Platform
Three women, each from a different country, met when they joined Scalabrini’s Women’s Platform. Pascale, Silvia and Zabibu each walked through the Scalabrini doors for different reasons and each went on to become peer facilitators with Women’s Platform – bringing their own unique insights and talents to the platform. As they move on to new ventures, they reflect on their years of service and contributions to the Women’s Platform.
Searching for support networks
Pascale, Zabibu and Silvia have experienced first-hand the promise and limitations of integrating into South Africa.
Pascale felt defeated after losing her business and being retrenched from her job. Searching for a lifeline, Pascale was referred by an acquaintance to join Women’s Platform.
Before joining Women’s Platform, Zabibu was a stay-at-home mom. She seldomly interacted with other women and her only family in South Africa was her husband. Although Zabibu loves being a mother, she craved the company of others.
Silvia felt a deep sense of loneliness after she fell pregnant with her second child and left her job as a housekeeper. She yearned for the kind of support structure she experienced back home in Zimbabwe. This led her to the Women’s Platform.
Although these three women came from different backgrounds, they shared a desire to build networks of support.
Honing in on leadership skills
Pascale describes her time with Women’s Platform as ‘transformative’. “I joined at a time in my life when I was broken in so many ways… The Women’s Platform course increased the desire in me to find new goals”. While doing the course, she searched for a way that would allow her to make good use of her skills. Pascale is a natural leader, chosen for her excellent delegation skills and can-do-attitude. Soon, she became the Personal Development facilitator.
Since becoming the Personal Development facilitator, Pascale has held space for other people to discover their strengths and weaknesses, develop their communication skills, and learn effective strategies for managing conflict. Pascale has developed her own interpersonal skills in the process too. “It was a mutual learning experience,” she says.
Pascale notes that although the Women’s Platform consists of women from various backgrounds and diverse nationalities, she could relate to the women by focusing on finding common ground. “The struggles are different but I think as women we have a lot of the same struggles; it doesn’t matter the background.” For Pascale, the best thing about being a Personal Development facilitator is witnessing the positive growth from learners who put in the work at the WP.
Pascale now runs an organic hair product business. She is also a student at Uplearn, studying towards her bachelor’s degree.
The struggles are different but I think as women we have a lot of the same struggles; it doesn’t matter the background.
Driven by her desire to meet other women and gain a marketable skill, Zabibu joined the Sector skills Craft training at the Women Platform. She says that being at the Women’s Platform improved her self-confidence, “I am much more confident now than I was back then”. Zabibu says sewing or beading a product from start to finish can be tremendously rewarding. Soon, Zabibu went on to become the Craft facilitator.
The Craft Sector training offers both sewing and beading. While facilitating the beading class, she started furthering her learning by doing different sewing classes on the side. She then received a grant, from Scalabrini, to purchase a sewing machine and gained the courage to turn her hobby into a business. She then became the facilitator for the sewing course.
Zabibu has been teaching and mentoring women at Scalabrini for three years. She loves sharing her skills and through the years has learned the importance of adapting one’s teaching methods to suit the needs and circumstances of every learner. Zabibu explains that sometimes the biggest challenge is when learners struggle to grasp the skills. She realised that most times, it is because the learner was struggling with personal issues. In response, Women’s Platform introduced emotional support groups to help women who have experienced emotional trauma, to effectively manage and cope with their emotions.
Zabibu is moving back to her home country in Burundi, where she plans on venturing out into the nails and beauty industry. “I have started learning how to apply make-up for other people,” says Zabibu. She is optimistic about what the future holds.
Being in the service of others
Silvia, who has been with Women’s Platform since 2019- explains that Women’s Platform provided her with a greater sense of direction, where she learned the importance of planning and structure. ‘’I was a person without goals or direction, I was just doing everything randomly.” Silvia was admired for her tenacity and willingness to help out her peers. “I was proactive,” says Silvia. She became the Personal Development Facilitator, alongside Pascale.
Silvia believes that leading by example is key to being a good mentor. “I want other women to learn from me”. Silvia created a space for women to learn, connect and be heard. She states that although Personal Development is a safe space where women can offload their struggles, it is important to note that as a facilitator giving advice to mentees should be done with caution and careful consideration. Silvia notes that the key to facilitating the Personal Development course is to make learners feel heard and affirmed.
Aside from facilitating Personal Development, she started a home bakery business. This gave her the flexibility of being there for her baby while still earning money. Although after facilitating the PD class, she discovered her true purpose lies in being in the service of others. This is what drives her.
Silvia recently moved back to Zimbabwe, where she plans to share the knowledge and skills that she gained at Scalabrini, to empower women from her hometown.
Their time as facilitators has come to an end – each woman leaves with a developed skillset, confidence and a supportive network. We are so proud of Silvia, Zabibu and Pascal. Their hard work, dedication and civic-mindedness is unrivalled. We are glad we got to experience this journey with them, and are excited to see what they will do next.