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Strong, powerful, brilliant!

Young woman entrepreneur standing proudly in front of her panel beating shop

“As you know, this is a male dominated industry. People will discourage you. People will doubt you. But I stay focused and stay the course, no matter what… I stay the course. Women are strong, powerful, brilliant and wonderful.”

When Tsakane Baloyi came home and told her father it was time for him to stop working for someone else, and that it would be better if they started a panel beating shop of their own, he wasn’t sure. She recounts that “he was a bit worried that the business might take time for people to recognise, to know that we can do panel beating, because, you know, people have their own suppliers, their own service providers. And when you’re new in the industry, people don’t really trust you. They don’t really trust that you can do the job”. But Tsakane wasn’t deterred.

She had been a participant on the My Journey Programme, a comprehensive and integrated approach to preventing HIV and AIDS in South Africa, with a component designed to strengthen economic capacity and opportunities for young people. The initiative gave her the opportunity to develop and act on her instincts to start something of her own and to tackle her circumstances.

“I decided that, you know what, I want to be my own boss. I want to employ other people. I want to help fight against poverty. So now, even though I’m not employing a lot of people, I am able to put bread on other people’s table.”

At the end of the economic strengthening and livelihoods intervention (called GLO or Grow Learn Own), participants were given three options. They could either further their studies, get a job placement or go the entrepreneurial route with some financial support to start their own business. Choosing the last option, Tsakane was able to effectively marry up her newly acquired financial skills, energy, and focus with her father’s panel beating skills. Up to that point he had taught her a lot of what she knew about panel beating. She now gave back to him a sense of possibility and administration knowledge. As she says, “I taught him about technology and marketing strategies. He’s a bit old school you know. But in terms of admin in the business, we need to file things properly, and have clients paying, and have a bank account.” Together they now have a growing panel beating shop in the heart of a community desperate for economic growth and opportunities for youth.

Young people, particularly adolescent girls and young women, are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS in South Africa. Most new HIV infections occur among young adults and adolescents, with HIV prevalence among young women over three times greater than that of men their age. The impact of the programme on the lives of Tsakane, her father and those around them, is testament to the effectiveness of an integrated and comprehensive approach. The My Journey Programme, funded by the Global Fund and implemented by NACOSA, aims to increase retention in school, decrease HIV incidence, decrease teenage pregnancy, decrease gender-based violence and increase economic opportunities for young people.

Tsakane Baloyi and her dad

The story of Tsakane and her father is full of lessons and insights. As an entrepreneur she offers compelling advice: “It is very important to be precise about what you want to do and to focus on one thing at a time. There are times when there are no clients at all, and people come to you and say – there is a company that is hiring, why don’t you apply? But I stay focused on what I want to do. I’m an entrepreneur. I need to focus on growing my business, and that’s it.” But possibly the most compelling insight in this context, is the reality that the potential to change the circumstances of so many people in South Africa lies within ourselves, within the vast human potential that is struggling with poverty, poor health and the lack of opportunity. We need to build the systems and processes that will provide the nudge and support to release this capacity that will ultimately be the change we want to see.

In the end, Tsakane’s father trusted her with both his and her potential, breathing new life into their circumstances, and the little bit of strategic and structural support provided by NACOSA is helping them to realize their dreams.

Read the learning from the project that Tsakane was part of: Grow Learn Own Evaluation

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