“If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
— unknown proverb

When did doing good become a niche? We live in a world where abuse, heartache and poverty are a reality and, for some reason, people turn a blind eye.

Luckily, there are angels in our society — yes, women that believe in the greater good and that want to uplift, upskill and motivate other women to be the best they can be. They are called Mama Afrikas!

We honour every woman that strives to make a difference in our world and that inspires others to do the same. With each helping hand, smile or gesture, you can be the change that society needs.

media update’s Jana van der Westhuizen chatted to professor Elain Vlok, manager of clover Mama Afrika, to see how the mamas of our nation are the heroes in many people's success stories.

Ready? Let's celebrate the women of our nation: 

What key characteristics do you look for when choosing a Mama?

Over 21 years ago, when Clover Mama Afrika started, we knew that we wanted to find individuals who would become self-sustainable. 

So, when we look for new Mamas, our criteria [is] very specific. The ladies we look to help are already doing good work in their communities and want help to elevate themselves and their work. 

In order for someone to qualify as a Clover Mama Afrika, they must have been doing the work at their own centre for three to five years. 

By selecting women who are already hard workers, we know our training and assistance are less likely to go unused. The women should also feel that they want to be empowered in order to succeed as Clover Mama Afrika.

You can’t just tell women what to do. You need to show, guide and teach them.

How do you go about upskilling the women that take part in this initiative?

Clover Mama Afrika hosts various training and upskilling sessions throughout the year that the Mamas attend to fine-tune their [current skillset] and learn new skills. 

These range from: 
  • sewing 
  • baking (biscuit baking, koeksister making, advanced biscuit making, big cakes and decorating and bread) 
  • mosaicing 
  • dressmaking
  • crocheting 
  • quilting 
  • beading 
  • flower arranging 
  • food gardens and egg laying project setups, and
  • welding.
The goal of Clover Mama Afrika is to empower, guide and support South African females who have already made a positive impact within their respective communities. This is in order for them to develop [these] communities further. 

What are some of the most valuable ways that women can empower their local communities and in what ways can your Mamas empower others?

Skills transfer — apart from the phenomenal work, these Mamas care for orphans, school-going children and the elderly. Skill transfer is a gift that the Mamas can share with others in the community. 

The Clover Mama Afrikas impart the knowledge and skills they have been taught to those in their communities as well. 

Clover Mama Afrika is a strong believer in the saying, ‘Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.’  [We] believe that if you teach and upskill individuals, they will use these skills to better themselves as well as those around them. 

How do upskilling local communities help in raising awareness about abuse, crime and poverty?

By upskilling and sharing knowledge, you are allowing someone else to think bigger and outside of the box on their own. Some of the Clover Mama Afrikas take it upon themselves to actively work at making a difference in their communities when it comes to crime and abuse. 

Mama Selistien Moses from Ashbury recently held a very active Victim Empowerment Programme in her community along with police and CPF members in 2022. This was to make a difference in the lives of women and children that were affected. 

Another Clover Mama, Mama Phomolo Raisa from Botshabelo, also went all out with her 'Gender-Based Violence Awareness' Campaign at her Self-Help Community Project in June.

By empowering these women, they too want to make a difference in the lives of those around them.

What types of skills does the initiative teach the community and what products do they sell?

As mentioned above, through the project the Clover Mamas are upskilled in a variety of activities.

Through training and support, they’re able to uplift their lives by generating a regular income and bettering lives for themselves, the children they care for and their communities. These women then need to share their newly-found skills with others. 

The Clover Mama Afrikas sell eggs, bread, cakes, muffins and even vegetables to their community through their hard work, which not only provides income but allows for job creation in the community and for the community to get fresh produce close to home. 

Currently, 57 Mamas form part of the Clover Mama Afrika project, making a difference in 57 different communities. Among all the Clover Mama Afrika’s, there are many centres that are providing to various communities:
  • Sewing — 24 centres
  • Quilting — 13 centres
  • Cooking and baking — 24 centres
  • Bread baking — 22 centres
  • Food gardens — 18 centres
  • Beadwork — nine centres
  • Crocheting / knitting — 12 centres
  • Flower arranging — 12 centres
  • Pottery — one centre
  • Hairdressing — five centres
  • Egg laying / poultry project — five centres
  • Welding — two centres

What are the difficulties that you find women struggle with the most?

Some of the Mamas really struggle with the financial side of things. We need to help explain things to them in a way that makes sense and help upskill them in basic business management in order to best assist them from the beginning. 

How can an organisation go about uplifting society and take part in initiatives that care for the community?

By working hard and giving back. It’s so important to push yourself to learn more and be better every single day. Always challenge yourself and keep growing. Don’t worry about where to find money or a building, for example. Rather, start small, but make sure that you start doing something

Even the smallest act will make the biggest difference in the eyes of someone in need of help. 
How do you go about uplifting and caring for your community? Share your thoughts on how you think that this can be done in the comment section.

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Want to build a better relationship with your local community? Then read our article, Three ways to boost community relations.