National Women’s Day in South Africa

National Women’s Day in South Africa

Feature image: Palms Participant Carmel Lawry with Lydia at HFCC South Africa.

Carmel Lawry returned to Holy Family Care Centre (HFCC) South Africa, at the end of 2020 to offer organisational and administrative support as well as mentoring for the Outreach Program. She has been connected with HFCC since 2011 in various roles. Carmel shares Lydia’s story below.

On 9th August South Africa commemorates the day in 1956 when 20,000 women of colour marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest amendments to the Apartheid laws. The Pass Laws Act required people of colour to carry an identification document or ‘pass’ on them at all times. This controlled and restricted their freedom of movement under the Apartheid regime and, if unable to present a pass on request, they were refused access to what was known as whites-only areas

National Women’s Day in South Africa is celebrated by drawing attention to many of the important issues that women in South Africa, and across the world, still face: such as gender-based violence, discrimination, unequal pay, harassment at the workplace, access to sanitary products and fair access to education. Palms’ volunteers are committed to an exchange of knowledge and skills to reduce poverty by developing the capacities of local organisations and their people.  Promoting gender equality contributes significantly.  

Let me introduce you to Lydia.  She is a single mother of three who is building a house, room by room in her village.  Lydia has been working for 10 years, as part of Holy Family Care Centre, a residential home for 75 vulnerable/sick/abandoned/neglected children during which time she has been sponsored, and has completed, a Certificate programme in Advanced Office Management.

The personal mastery I see in Lydia is something to be admired. She has taken ownership of her position as the administrative assistant at Holy Family and shows terrific initiative in the role. Her growth in knowledge and skills has given her huge confidence.

Lydia’s example makes it clear that opening women up to learning opportunities and mentorship helps to break the cycle of poverty and gender disparities.  It is very important that every generation of women is encouraged and enabled to take these opportunities.  As one of those engaged by Palms to share my skills with women like Lydia, I am very honoured to have been part of a relationship that makes this possible.

Taking time and patience to first building that relationship opened a continuity of guidance that enabled Lydia to develop her skills.  Essential to it as well I think, was the mutuality of the relationship and learning.  As with any good Palms partnership, Lydia has taught me so much about the culture and how things are done in South Africa, so I am very indebted to her.