Sinamandla's misison is to assist, capacitate and support local organisations to promote self-reliance as a central concept within development networks and practices in local communities. Sinamandla's vision is socially and economically empowered women within households made vulnerable by poverty, the impact of HIV and AIDS, gender inequalities and other societal injustices.
Apr 21, 2014

On Our Own

An SHG in Action
An SHG in Action

This report is written by Chi Nguyen, our In-the-Field Traveler for Southern Africa. Chi will be traveling throughout the nine countries of Southern Africa for six months during the first half of 2014, visiting and assisting our current non-profit organization partners.

Fourteen women in knee-length skirts, white shirts, and blue throwovers gathered together in a rondavel in a homestead three hours outside of Durban, in rural South Africa. They pass a dish around the half-circle they have formed, each of them adding 2 Rand (the equivalent of $0.19 in US currency) to the pot and passing the dish on. Once they have all contributed their dues, they proceed with the meeting, going through the agenda and marking in their personal notebooks as well as the group notebook of Minutes. They discuss and document who has loaned what amount, who has repaid their loans, and who has yet to repay their loans. They go over what each individual has accomplished as well as what progress has been made in current projects. It is a very clear and patterned yet empowering process and model.

Every week, each woman in an SHG contributes a certain amount (the starting rate usually being R2.00), thereby creating a pot of money that any woman in the group can loan from. The interest rate on a loan is 10%, so the pot is always growing. Through this, they are able to fund their small businesses, family needs (food, emergencies, burials), home repairs, and more. This model teaches them how to manage money and how to invest. It uses community pressure for accountability, and builds a community between the 15-20 women in the group. Some SHGs have taken the concept of building a strong community to heart, even going insofar as building a rule into their group, stating that if one woman in the group were to have a family member pass away, each fellow SHG member would contribute a certain amount (e.g. 50 Rand) as well as personal services to support their fellow SHG member through her family's difficult time. In addition to providing the women with a place to turn to should they ever need reprieve from or support through from family troubles of any sort (a death in the family, a sick child, or domestic abuse), they've been highly successful in a number of things, including the notable triumph of lobbying the government to build a bridge over a dangerous river that has led to several accidents in the community in the past. 

This river had a history of burdening the entire community of kwaMaphumulo. Many community members crossed this river on a daily basis - women and men to go to work, children to attend school. It flooded for weeks at a time every year, causing children who attempted to cross the river to lose their schoolbooks and women and men to lose their wallets and personal items. In some severe cases, the powerful current of the flooding river had even succeeded in washing out individuals themselves. The women of SHG groups in the area finally decided that enough was enough, and they had to do something about it. They all banded together and with their numbers and persistence, lobbied the government to build a bridge over a river, thereby conquering the obstacles they encountered every year due to the flooding of the river. Today, the kwaMaphumulo bridge stands as a proud example of the possibilties and opportunities behind the SHG model.

Sinamandla's self-sustainable model is truly remarkable, and it was an absolute privilege to be able to witness it firsthand, to see the before and after effects of a loan made from an SHG. We were able to witness the success of two women in building their own houses, thereby improving the lives of their family and their living standards. This is a common occurence in successful SHGs - countless women of SHGs have been able to build their own houses, provide care for vulnerable children, start water projects to benefit the entire community, intiate their own businesses, and accomplish a variety of things that they had never before thought possible. Today, Sinamandla now has almost 13,000 households involved in SHGs, empowering women to take the needs of the community into their own hands with every passing day.

There cannot be enough good things said about the Self-Help Group model, a model that discourages reliance on external forces and encourages self-reliance from Day One. Sinamandla's mission is to place the power in the members of the community, reducing stress through the creation of a supportive community and boosting self-confidence through a sense of ownership... And as I looked at the faces of every woman in the room, I knew this to be true. As Phil said, "The message that it (Sinamandla) sends out to the community is, 'We can do it ourselves.'"

Apr 8, 2014

SHG members sell potatoes to a local supermarket

SHG members receive training on planting seedlings
SHG members receive training on planting seedlings

Zimele Developing Community Self-reliance is a partner of Sinamandla, based in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Zimele has formed 414 SHGs with 5 500 members. There are hundreds of SHG members who are active farmers in Zimele’s Agriculture programme. Zimele provides relevant training and support to the women farmers every month.               

In September 2013, many SHG farmers in Swayimane community purchased quality disease-free seed potatoes which were planted and grew well. Two group members took the initiative to negotiate with a local Spar supermarket for the purchase of their potatoes at the end of January 2014; the Spar supermarket owners readily agreed after viewing a sample of the bagged potatoes. SHG members learnt from Zimele how to wash the potatoes by hand and prepare them for packing. They then packed the potatoes in 10kg bags to be sold at Spar.

In January, Masikhule SHG sold 50 bags (half of their harvest) to Spar at R35 ($3.50) a bag; the other half of the crop was sold locally and used by themselves in their households. They planted 75kg of seed and harvested 1000kg of potatoes, resulting in a significant profit. They encouraged other SHGs from all over Swayimane to also sell their potatoes to Spar supermarket and many did so recently. As a result, Spar supermarket has indicated that they would be interested in purchasing vegetables from these SHGs in future.

Masikhule member harvesting her potatoes for sale
Masikhule member harvesting her potatoes for sale
Feb 25, 2014

SHGs enable access to clean drinking water

Mam' Dladla paid for her own water tap

Thousands of Self-help Group (SHG) members do not have access to clean drinking water in their home before they join their group. Many use a community tap or fetch water from a nearby river. However, once they are a group member, dozens have taken a group loan to enable them to pay to have a water tap put on their property or have bought a water tank. Mam’ Dlaldla and Mam’ Hlophe share their experiences.

Mam’ Dladla, a pensioner, is a member of Masibambisane SHG in Rookdale, outside Bergville, formed by USIZO, a Sinamandla partner in KwaZulu-Natal. She is 80 years old and she cannot stop sharing about how being a member of her group has made a positive impact in her life. One of the major benefits she relates is the comfort and freedom of knowing that she has a source where she can access loans for her urgent needs.

She says: “I am an elderly person living on my own as my children have their own families. This means that even some of the basic household chores are too much for my frail body. One of the tasks I could not perform was fetching water from the communal tap since I did not have a tap in my yard. Therefore, I would always rely on some young men in the community to push a wheelbarrow to fetch water for me. This was at a cost as I had to pay R5 per each 20 litre of water delivered.  

I then decided that the solution to my water challenge would be to have a tap in my yard. This is where my ‘SHG bank’ came in; I took a loan of R1,000 from my group and added R550 from my pension. Through that loan I was able to pay someone to put this tap in my yard. I then repaid my loan to my group. This is such a relief as I can now access clean water myself at any time instead of relying on other people to fetch it for me; and I save as I now longer pay someone. I am really grateful to this programme”

 Mam’ Hlophe of Nkululeko SHG also formed by USIZO in Maswazini Village near Bergville decided to take out a loan from her SHG and purchased a Jojo water tank so that her household could harvest water during the rainy seasons. She says she is grateful to be a member of her SHG which has afforded her the opportunity to bring such a necessity to her home, where she is now in a position to provide clean drinking water that will improve the quality of life for her seven family members.

In 2013 Sinamandla worked in partnership with 12 NGOs who are implementing the SHG Programme in rural local communities in 5 provinces in South Africa. In total, 12 626 SHG members participated in 844 SHGs. By the end of 2013, these SHGs had accrued own income of around R3,2 million from which 59 148 loans amounting to around R12,5 million had been given out to SHG members. Over 80 000 household members are benefitting from having an SHG member in their family.

Many thanks to all our donors, we appreciate your support. Sinamandla continues to work towards reaching its fundraising targets on GlobalGiving so please consider making a new donation in 2014 in order to help Sinamandla promote the SHG project and welcome in thousands more vulnerable women in poor communities to new SHGS in the months ahead.

Please do think of any family member or friends who would be interested in the work of Sinamandla through its Self-help Groups and do forward them this newsletter or our website link. Please also like us on Facebook at

Mam' Hlophe purchased a water tank for her home