Although Nokwazi Thabethe will admit to harbouring a few nerves on her first day as a facilitator for Project Dignity – the NPO extension of Subz Pants and Pads – after a few moments spent addressing the schoolgirls, she knew she had found her calling.
“I was working in customer care at a contact centre and when I heard about the position as a facilitator for Subz, and I decided to go for it,” said the dynamic uMlazi resident. “I’ve been working with Subz since February and this is my Energade! I love talking about these issues and being out there with the kids.”
Project Dignity has been distributing environmentally-friendly, reusable packs of Subz sanitary pads and accompanying panties to various schools for years. Founded by Sue Barnes, creator of Subz Pants and Pads, the NPO (Project Dignity) also uses the activation as a platform to address the schoolgirls on topics such as menstruation and body changes. Drawing on her extensive experience as a former outreach facilitator at Childline KZN, Nokwazi has really taken to her role as the Zulu facilitator for Subz, engaging with the girls and sharing useful insights.
“I discuss various topics with the girls, explaining to them the changes to expect. I also tell them they shouldn’t be scared, but rather that it’s something to be happy about. Most of these girls are not able to afford sanitary wear and their reaction inspires and motivates me to make a difference all the time. I love being able to share with them, see them laugh and smile and give them hope… that really does it for me!”
Nokwazi’s youthful energy, shared background and ability to communicate with schoolchildren on their level allows her to quickly build a rapport with these young girls, many of whom have nowhere else to turn when it comes to discussing such pertinent topics.
“I share my personal experiences so that they feel comfortable and know that it’s normal to have these changes,” she explained. “I do the talks in English and isiZulu and, sometimes when there are kids from the Eastern Cape, I talk in isiXhosa. I am able to relate using the slang that they use, and it makes them laugh. They think this is cool, she understands, she knows how we talk. So, for me, it makes my job easier to be able to communicate so easily with them.”
Her first activation at a KwaMashu school is still one of her favourite moments: “I was so nervous, but afterwards two girls came and gave me a huge hug and chatted about what I’d said. Suddenly it was like ‘oh wow’. I’ve made a difference. Every time I go to schools, seeing those girls smiling, it’s so great.”
And while teaching the girls is the intention, Nokwazi finds that she learns something new with each activation: “It’s a real learning experience every time I enter these communities. Although I’m talking on the same topic, each environment is different and I learn something from these young women.”
Her job as a mother to her precious two-year-old ‘diva’ has further highlighted, for Nokwazi, the need for facilitators.
“Girls need someone to push them, encourage them, be there for them. Girls need someone they can rely on. I would also like to see more men – particularly young fathers – getting involved, providing a role model for the boys.”
Commenting on Nokwazi’s addition to the Subz team, Sue Barnes said: “Having Nokwazi join us has been truly inspiring. Her energy, enthusiasm and care for the girls is infectious. They say dynamite comes in small packages and that is how we feel about working with Nokwazi. The value that she adds to the educational talks and team is paramount. I just love working with her!”
Project Dignity forms part of the MySchool Vote4Charity contest running from 18 May to 18 June. For every vote, R5 will be donated to Project Dignity and the top three contenders will win a professional promotional video shoot. To vote for Project Dignity, visit www.myschool.co.za/vote4charity
Project Dignity offers companies and individuals with many opportunities to support those in need with reusable Subz Pants and Pads donations. Visit the website www.projectdignity.org.za for more information about the work being done to help uplift and empower South African girls.