Let’s raise a glass to the township moms who fought so hard to raise us

They’re the community role-models who work tirelessly for those in their care.

By Liziwe Ndalana

Women in my community don’t take retirement at 60 years old. They work well into their twilight years because they don’t believe in idleness.

As I age, looking for women who have what I want and demonstrate what it can be like to grow old with wisdom and tenacity, I am grateful that I don’t have to page through a magazine to find such. My mom is that woman.

As long as I can remember, my mom has never depended on a man since my dad died a long time ago. She worked, often in the most arduous jobs which broke her body.

She continued to work until old age could not allow her to work. She raised us and her grandchildren with such tenacity and little complaining. I look up to her as my role model.

When I look around my community, I see many women who are like my mom, who work tirelessly, fending for their families in the absence of men.

These men, often times are not dead, but are unable to take their place as providers in their homes.

Women have no choice but to take the baton and run so their children can get education and be well looked after.

These women are now raising a second generation as their children are out there, working as hard to try and earn a better living for their own children.

Some of these women are out there in the dusty villages, looking after their homes and grandchildren while their children are in the cities, looking for better opportunities.

These women may be uneducated by Western standards, but they are a well of wealth, wisdom, and generosity for those they hold dear.

I know a shebeen queen from my community, Sis’Mary, who has been raising her children all on her own. Her daughter is doing her Masters at Fort Hare University while Sis’Mary looks after her child.

There are so many women like Sis’Mary who have done whatever they could to put food on the table for their children.

My neighbour is another stellar example of these tenacious women. Much like my mom, she got married at a very young age to an older man.

The man died when their children were still in primary school. This woman has worked so hard, building her food takeaway business. Two of her children are completing their NQF Levels at a local college.

This woman not only raised her own children but keeps taking on more children from her relatives to help in raising them.

The township is full of stokvels, which are an innovative way for women to grow money, mainly to help feed their families.

There’s one common trait all these women share, including my mom. They take their lot in life in their stride and they don’t complain.

As long as I’ve known my mom, I don’t remember her complaining, which is why I’m often angry on her behalf towards family members, and at other times, towards God.

Now that I’m older, I understand her lack of complaining as wisdom instead of resignation.

This is what my mother and the women in my community have been doing all their lives. They simply get on with life.

I’m embracing this personality trait now. My struggle as an entrepreneur has dealt me many blows, but I refuse to bow down.

While I still share my frustrations with my friends, I don’t sit around moping. I pay tribute to my mom and these women in my community who are role models for the next generation, maybe without being conscious of it.

As I celebrate my 40th birthday, I reflect on my life and the choices I’ve made.

One major choice was changing careers and becoming an entrepreneur. This remains my proudest moment.

I am better as a human being because I made this choice. And through it all, I continue to learn from my mom, and all the other role-models in my community.

  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

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