By Khutso Uoane
After witnessing the abuse and divorce of one of her friends, business champion Chriszelda Jooste Swartz, and a group of other women, decided to start Phenomenal Women. Instead of just consoling their friend, this group of women created a space where women who share similar experiences can come together and talk about them – and in talking about them, find ways of coping and healing. Their mission is to fight gender-based violence (GBV), by raising awareness about it, and by providing women and children with training and programmes in business and entrepreneurship.
During Covid-19 they planned a breakfast that united women and provided the support they needed. But it does not end there. Chrizelda and her partners also came up with the idea of introducing an agricultural programme and a weekly feeding programme that provides food for the community. Their project is located in Kliptown Joshco flats, in Kliptown, where they grow vegetables which they donate to underprivileged families. They also offer agricultural education to women who are victims of abuse.
“We realise that food insecurity and malnutrition are a very serious problem. We are fighting it by building community gardens, and providing support through our network of farmers I remember one Friday when we started giving food to families, someone standing at the corner where we stopped screamed “pagga”, everyone was indoors because it was cold. A few minutes later, the street was filled with kids holding hands and walking in lines, and adults, to receive warm meals. This was a very emotional moment for the team as we realised that our work brought a difference in the lives of others.” said Chriszelda Jooste Swartz
The team strongly believes that community development plays a big role in human development and nation-building. Chriszelda said “Community development teaches people to think about the places they live in and their surroundings, it also teaches them how to protect their neighbourhoods. Communities contribute to the social, political, cultural and economic development of their countries. It brings people together.”
Like any other organisation, the team has their own share of challenges. Chriszelda said “We don’t have space where we can work from because our space was vandalised during the looting. Also, we don’t have a permanent sponsor and we are not funded by government or any private company. We rely on fundraising initiatives that don’t always bring in the amount needed to get by.”
Despite the challenges, the future is looking bright for Phenomenal Women. For starters, Chriszelda and her partners have been nominated and given an award for being influential women in their organisation. She told us that “I have been nominated by BM productions for being one of South Africa’s top influential women 2022 and what I’m proud of is that since we started Phenomenal Women in our community, many other leaders have now come on board to support and improve our surroundings. We hope this will open opportunities to bring sponsors that will align with us, ensuring our vision and mission is complete.”
Phenomenal Women is here to enrich people’s lives. It is here to help people see life in a different perspective through giving and being kind- and it inspires others to do the same.
Khutso is studying PR and Communication Management at UJ. She hopes to use her talents to make a difference to people around Southern Africa. You can reach her on Khutso.email@example.com.