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Zimele Developing CommunityZimele

Creating financial independence:

Zimele Developing Community Self-Reliance is a non-profit organization based in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, that brings sustainable and lasting change to communities through our social development and women’s empowerment projects in remote, impoverished areas since Zimele’s inception in early 2007. Zimele is a Zulu word and means “people stand on their own feet” and the project has proved successful, achieving lasting change and transforming the lives of the poor. Zimele acts as a facilitator, leading women towards belief in their personal ability to work their way out of poverty; thus reducing poverty, injustice and building democratic values.

The organization understands that it is a long process to bring lasting social change in poor communities; and has therefore adopted a holistic approach that focuses on the social needs of the community as well as economic opportunities by implementing skills and entrepreneurship development programs. The program has mobilized more than 8000 women in 726 savings/self help groups; and to ensure that it is long lasting, we have built the capacity of the women to implement their own social projects within their communities. As a result, the women have started 31 Pre-Schools, 1 Computer School, 2 Libraries, 3 Orphaned Care Programs and 2 Home Based Care Programs. The organization continues to mentor the women while on their journey of self-discovery in leadership skills, management skills, children’s rights, women’s rights, etc. For details and stories, please visit

On an economic level, the organization has achieved great results. Being a member of a savings group gives the women access to micro finance and this money is often used as seed funding for the business activities. The Zimele self-reliance program encourages women to start micro businesses and builds their skills to achieve this. Firstly the organization builds the skill of the women in the area of their business, for example farming, craft, baking, etc. This is followed by a mentoring program as learning is not a once off event but a slow continuous process. Once the technical skills of the women improve, the organization’s focus shifts to business skills followed by marketing skills with a strong emphasis on practical experiential learning where we assist the women to attend trade shows and source market opportunities outside their local rural, and often isolated, communities. As a result of this endeavor, the organization is currently working with 155 crafters, 800 farmers, 2 cultural guesthouses and a variety of other small businesses.

Where we operate:

Mam Gwala, is a rural Zulu woman who is among the poorest of the poor people in South Africa; mostly surviving on government grants to buy basic household needs. She is part of the statistic of 61.2% of rural households that are without electricity, and 57% still use wood for cooking food. Only 35.2% of these households have a tap within their dwelling, and 52.3% have no flushing or chemical toilet. As are many others, she is illiterate. The 2011 census found that 21.8% of all personas aged 15 years and older in KwaZulu-Natal are functionally illiterate, with no schooling at all or highest levels of education less than Grade 7. In addition, 23.2% of African female persons of 15 years and older are functionally illiterate, the highest proportion of all population groups in South Africa.

Many are single mothers, or the man of the household works in a city far away, sending money home when he can. Often there is no money for school uniforms, stationery or books. Food is limited, with research indicating that in poverty-stricken areas, over 90% of households are ‘food insecure’. Clothing is handed down, shoes are a luxury.

But Mam Gwala joined the Zimele Community program in 2010 and as a Zimele woman has been assisted through training to make the most of the skills and resources that she has. She saves a few coins every month and shares this with her neighbors in a communal savings pot with members of her Self Help Group. Together they use these funds to help each other start up basic mini-enterprises. Mam Gwala and other Zimele women have access to money in their pocket and food on the table for the family. She is proud, ambitious and self-fulfilled. She works with others to start pre-schools, feeding schemes and other care programs for the orphaned and the ill. Mam Gwala and many of these rural women are caring for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS (it is estimated that 1.5 million people in KZN are living with HIV-AIDS and TB-related diseases).

A Zimele woman has hope restored and becomes an agent of change for herself, her family, and her community.

The wider community impact:

When the group reaches a sound financial footing, they then focus their attention on the needs of the rest of the community and become powerful agents of positive change. Through the Zimele programme, these women are empowered to begin transforming their families and the wider community. We see these previously discouraged and marginalised women beginning to reach financial security and independence, with their households no longer existing solely on government grants. Individuals and communities are increasingly gaining the skills and experience needed for their micro enterprises, boosting local economies and thereby encouraging their communities to flourish.

Social projects begin to develop as these women recognize the struggles close to how and begin to understand they can do something about it! For example the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) projects; home-based care projects, crèches, computer schools and libraries being started.

What is required?

Zimele Community seeks a long term partnership with Companies and donors on our community development programme that addresses issues beyond short term projects. This programme is a long term initiative that builds prosperity, pride and proactive community members.

Benefit to the Zimele women – The Zimele programme is in its simplest terms an entrepreneurial job skills and business creation project. Once trained, these women will share their skills and provide assistance to other women in the community. This training not only introduces knowledge that is not available locally; it also creates permanent training material and skills that can be used for the education of future beneficiaries and shared with others. It creates the prospect of hope for future generations where once there was only a vision of aid dependency. The women have requested us to continue this work as they experience the impact, which has proven its success since 2007.

Benefit to donors – Zimele Community is accredited in terms of South Africa’s Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment or B-BBEE legislation. South African companies will gain BEE Social Investment scoring as well as tax benefits as we are registered as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) and Non Profit Organisation (NPO), in addition to having BEE Certification for donors to score CSI (Corporate Social Investment) points.

Why should Zimele Community receive support?

We have a proven history of successful operations since 2007. The results of the empowerment and capacity development programme can be quantified and verified. We have an established resource base of trained, motivated and highly competent personnel. Zimele Community prides itself in our established relations within KZN’s poorest rural communities and has been accepted and adopted to daily life. This journey together is trusted by Zimele beneficiaries and wider communities. It is a self-sustaining operation with donors across the world and an ability to be self funding…but it needs more to achieve more!

During the past 8 years, great transformation has been achieved through the Zimele programme and we hope that you will see fit to assist us with continuing the vital financial education, skills development and the upliftment towards economic and social self-sufficiency of these communities.


18 Claybourne Street Pietermaritzburg

Rosetta Stander

033 342 7787

082 5614729

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