24 November 2016

Working with families to become self-reliant

Selma, a single mother, has been able to start a small business to provide for her family. Photographer: SOS Archives

Single-parent families tend to be particularly vulnerable to economic hardship. In Namibia, SOS Children’s Villages is working with disadvantaged families, including single mothers, and communities to become self-reliant and build long-term resilience.

Selma Shakiya, 37, is a single mother of six and also cares for a grandchild. She lives in the Uupopo area of Ondangwa, Namibia, where she moved in 2008 to be with her partner. When he died in 2012, Selma was suddenly faced with the threat of being evicted from his family’s land as they were not legally married. Thankfully, his family has allowed her to remain on the land with the children.
 
Selma has no education or formal training. Providing for her family proved very difficult in a town with little economic activity. Her house is a two-room shack of corrugated iron. The family does not have running water or electricity. Selma arranged with her neighbour, who has running water, to buy buckets of water for a monthly fee. She cooks over a fire every day and uses candles for light.
 
In 2013, Selma approached the SOS family strengthening team in Ondangwa for help. Four of the seven children were of school age, and she was not able to do the one thing she promised to do: provide her children with the education she never had. “My hope was to participate in the SOS income-generating programme so that I could provide for my family,” said Selma.

Empowering families and communities

The SOS Children’s Villages social centre in Uupopo offers skills training, income-generating projects and micro-enterprise initiatives to vulnerable families who struggle to cover their most basic needs, such as families headed by a single parent or a grandparent.
 
The goal of this SOS programmes is to support and empower families so that they eventually become self-reliant. In the long run, the programmes aim at helping communities to build the capacities and resources to be able to support vulnerable families without the assistance of organisations such as SOS Children’s Villages.

First steps to self-reliance

Selma soon started with the activities at the social centre and began with financial management training. For many participants, it is the first introduction to basic household budgeting and managing their cash flow.
 
She started a business selling fat cakes – pastries similar to beignets – with a three-month stock supply provided by the SOS programme.
 
“We provide stock for three months to monitor progress and recommend adjustments when projects stumble,” said Helena Nangombe, coordinator of the SOS family strengthening programme in Ondangwa, in northern Namibia.
 
“For us, there were visible indicators early on that Selma was showing a lot of self-reliance in her project,” she adds.
 
Selma has indeed been able to use the support she was given to improve her family’s life. The four oldest of Selma’s children are in school now. “Through the SOS programme, they received school uniforms and the two little ones’ fees were covered at the SOS kindergarten,” said Selma. “I am so proud that they are all doing well.”
 
Read more about our work in Namibia