A booming rate of unemployment has crippled the development of Africa for the better part of its millennium years.
Women and youths are the most vulnerable members of the societies especially in marginalised communities and a lot of resources are required to curb this problem.
A Christian valued organisation called Christian Women Entrepreneurs Network of Africa’s (CWENA) strategy of confronting unemployment, has started to bear fruits in empowering hundreds that were previously unskilled.
Established in 2013 by a devoted duo in religious studies lecturer-public speaker Dorothy Muthoni Seekoei and entrepreneur Josiane Gagoum Tchoumeni, are finding solutions in women empowerment.
CWENA is not just lecturing women in class but arming them with practical skills, networks and mentorships in their new businesses.
Seekoei, an experienced lecturer at Johannesburg Bible College indicated in an interview that the need to empower the vulnerable society especially, women has always been there across Africa but they re-defined what empowerment means.
“While lecturing a group of talented women in leadership at Johannesburg Bible College, I realised that the main issue is joblessness. They were not sure what to do next after the studies, I teamed up with Josiane who was also part of that class” she remembers.
“Now it became more developed by providing traininig, networks and mentorship for them to be successful in life. The idea developed from just motivation into practical skills training to break down social barriers,” said Seekoei.
CWENA consist of two groups in unemployed and self-employed women who are being put at one place to network at various platforms like conferences.
After previous successful conferences, the group is set to host their 4th CWENA Business Inspiration Conference on November 11 2016 in Johannesburg for skills exchange and networking.
CWENA co-founder Tchoumeni, saw the need to groom other women as she related to the idea of partnership being from a business background.
“This creation has been amazing being out there to service the people in township communities servicing themselves. We accommodate refugees, crèches, orphanages and the youth, mentor them then link them with those who are already in business” she added.
“I studied journalism in my first graduation but now I have a consortium of businesses”.
“I embraced CWENA’s idea because I was raised in a family that had my mother who was contributing financially to the house hold” she explains. “She was a business woman and contributed a lot to the provision of our family through her income”.
“She initiated us into business, since my childhood. I undertook many business ventures and she was the one modelling us into entrepreneurs. She trained us to understand that women have a lot to give, not only to their families, but to the community as well”.
“In Cameroon women are not seen as breadwinners or considered as potential entrepreneurs” she adds. This is the situation in many countries on the African continent and Tchoumeni believes this has to change for true empowerment of women to be archived.
Gala dinner and inspirational high tea roundtable are some of the highlights at the upcoming conference alongside high level guests and speakers.
“The conference is a platform which we will manage to raise money to sustain our projects through tickets, we always bring something creative to the programme. University of Johannesburg initiated an entrepreneurship program through Professor Benkele that had eight weeks of training for dozens of women. We will be celebrating such women’s excellence in business and honouring those who have been solutions to the challenges,”Seekoei added.
Ofentse Tsipa, who initiated Fifty Shades of Doek will grace the event to be awarded an Excellency Award.
Seekoei background is in contrast with her co-founder as growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, was a struggle.
“Being the last born makes you work harder and I have always been interested in business. After school, instead of going home l would sell earrings as a way of raising pocket money,” she said.
“The idea is to have representation in as many countries in Africa, sharing the same values so that we will have millions of successful women across the continent” she says with a smile.
“We are ready to empower more women, whoever leads the women must have the passion for Christ, we have been approached from Ghana, Zambia, Botswana to partner us,”.
CWENA Conferences looks to expand into the co-founder’s home countries in Kenya and Cameroon where they are a lot of women in need for empowerment.
“Our focus is on getting results beyond theory, we want to grow a crop of woman entrepreneurs who are results driven and as such we will have Dr Thabiseng, who left a corporate environment to run a clinic in Diepsloot.
“We are still working to put all the pieces together as we approach the dates of the conference. There is need for more volunteers that will assist and some of the food at the conference will be prepared by groups that went through our training. We also have available space for exhibitors and would want to see entrepreneurs take this opportunity to gain exposure” she adds.
“Our personalities compliment each other in terms of hardworking and in the differences of our back grounds,” added Tchoumeni.
Despite financial limitations the two determined women are also providing practical skills trainings to the refugee women in Rossentenville, and carter for other shelters such as Bienvenu in which they have training running in the last two months. More than 40 ladies have been trained in baking, manicure and pedicure, draping and event decoration and are expected to complete soon.
Tchoumeni also published a motivational book called Arise Dare To Be More You that encourages people to live a purpose-driven life.