What the Gems can do, we can also do: Older female athletes totally crushing it in Cowdray Park

The Chronicle

Rejoyce Sibanda, Chronicle Reporter

WARMLY welcoming Chronicle with song, ululation and a practised dance, the vibrant women showered us with love and huge smiles. One could feel the joy the women had in having one of the country’s biggest newspapers at their stoep.

These are the women from Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park suburb in Esigodweni under the association First Step Women in Sports Club.

It was started in 2019 and it has 150 members.

The association is led by a 57-year-old woman, Ms Florence Tsoka, who is very passionate about empowering women and teaching them to be independent.

As the association’s name entails, the women are in full force into sports despite being in their late 40s and 50s.

One can’t help but chuckle because of the way one of the elderly women demonstrated how well she can play netball. For someone of her age, she had way too much energy. 

Not only are the women in First Step Women in Sports Club into physical sports, they are productive in other aspects of life. 

In an interview with Chronicle, Ms Tsoka said she has put her all into uplifting the women from her suburb through various projects such as craftwork, gardening, beauty treatments, detergent making, sewing, poultry, farming, feminine guidance and counselling and sports among many other things.

She said that such projects are to make sure that women in Cowdray Park do not lack anything productive to do with their lives and not be totally dependent on their husbands, relatives or children.

“I created the association as a way of uniting and helping women recognise their skills and abilities and putting them to work. The aim is to assist the women with their problems in every possible way. The association is divided into various groups where each group has its own project that it is working on. This is an easy method for women to discover the areas that they are strong in and then make the most out of it,” said Ms Tsoka.

She said all the women are unemployed and come from different backgrounds, some are divorced, single mothers, widows, some have no places to stay, struggle to get food for a day and others live with disabilities. 

She said the association also creates an open platform where the women speak out and share their problems and they assist each other by all the means available.

“Most of the products done by women are from recycled materials. For example, during the clean-up campaigns that we always do every month, we pick up every possible thing that can be recycled to something nice, be it plastic bottles and lids, metal cans and cement bags. The projects that the women partake in are therapy that relieves them from all the stress, anxiety and depression. Another way of gaining such relief is through sport. Every woman partakes in sport every Wednesday and this helps them keep fit and healthy,” said Ms Tsoka.

She has helped mothers under her association acquire birth certificates for their children, educated them about their rights, to speak up and not settle for any domestic abuse. 

Ms Tsoka added that women appreciate and are grateful for all the work that she has put in helping them and more are joining after getting wind of her works.

Women under the association expressed their sincere gratitude on how it has helped them. 

Mrs Nokuthula Ndlovu (45) said she has benefitted a lot from the projects and that she is also getting to learn more about other skills as well.

“I am leading the catering group of the association. Those women that joined in without any knowledge of cooking have been well taught most of the cooking skills and they are now the best. There are some women that have been shunned away from marriages because of not knowing how to cook and so as part of the association’s work, this has been prevented from happening. 

“Some marriages are even becoming stronger because of these cooking skills that the women have grasped and mastered. We use the traditional baking stove known as the ‘Ngoda oven’ for all the bread and buns since electricity is a problem in our suburb. Some of the bread is sold at a very affordable price to the local people,” said Mrs Ndlovu.

She said the challenge she has is that the stove is too small and has only two baking trays for buns and bread which cannot cope with demand.

Mrs Ndlovu put it out that the association is able to cater for events such as weddings, parties and funerals because of the various specialising groups available.

Ms Winnie Mafukidze (40) said the association has enabled her to find purpose in life. 

“I have learnt that even the little things that people do not find value in, can add value somewhere in your life. For example, during clean-up campaigns, the plastic bottle lids that are thrown away are picked up, washed and graded according to colours and then sold to the industry manufacturers. Even if the income from selling such is little, it assists me somehow in life and I fully appreciate it since I am not employed,” said Ms Mafukidze.

She said not being able to do something as a woman in life is laziness as there are a lot of things one can do. She said even men give more respect and appreciation to a woman who is doing something in life and trying to make ends meet. 

Ms Tsoka said the association is not doing so well like it is supposed to because of various challenges.

“The association is trying to do more for itself and the community but the challenges that it faces for the projects to be done properly are water shortages, lack of an established place where members can carry out all the activities, the capital and also resources for the projects. 

“There are also women under the association with disabilities who also have children with disabilities that need assistance. The association has no capital to cater for most projects and assist its members where maximum help is needed. As the association thus, we are appealing to the Government and the public at large for assistance in all the ways possible,” she said. — @ReeSibanda

Article Source: The Chronicle

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