When I was just starting out on the business ownership road, Favourite Man found out about an organization that gives women a helping hand.
The Isivande Women's Fund
# is aimed at accelerating women’s economic empowerment by providing more affordable, usable and responsive finance than is presently the case.
# The fund will specifically target black women at the bottom of the economic ladder, high potential survivalists, micro enterprises and co-operatives on a case by case basis, as well as skilled women with feasible business ideas and women currently running their own enterprises.
Well I qualify for a good few of those, so I wrote to them asking for further information and an application pack. I didn't ask for more than that... but after a few months had had no reply. So we called them up.
And I was basically told I'm too "advantaged". In other words, they looked at my name (obviously white), noted that my letter was not full of spelling or gramatical errors (so I'd obviously had an education) and without doing any further research into who I was or what I wanted to do, promptly wrote me off the list.
Here's the thing. I may be a white girl and not "historically disadvantaged". But this has been the New South Africa for 15 years already. Think about it - 15 years ago's disadvantaged kids starting primary school are now either into their 3rd year of college or already in the workplace. They've had 15 years of non-disadvantage. Unless they were the previously-ADvantaged, who have been promptly sidelined for 15 years.
Me, well I finished school only a few years before the New South Africa arrived, having spent most of that in Zimbabwe and completely missed out on the whole Apartheid Years thing. While that was going on, I was running around with best friends of every colour under the sun, the daughter of a pastor who wasn't particularly well paid, and only attending church/private schools because he got a major discount/free schooling as part of his package! When we arrived in South Africa, I worked hard at school and got a Matric Exemption, but then only studied a Diploma (not a degree as I could have), and have ended up working at low-paying jobs ever since. I have struggled to make ends meet all my adult life, facing down a large number of battles as a single mom. Heck - one organization I worked for didn't even allow women to receive the same benefits as men as "head of household", even if they had the same responsibilities and no man in sight!
In short, I'm no more disadvantaged or advantaged than any other 37 year old woman in South Africa today. Yes, some have had worse circumstances to battle and still do (I don't live in a squatter camp or location, though I'm not far from one). But these are women who have exactly the same challenges I do - clothing, feeding and housing their families, trying to make the money stretch to the end of the month, week or even day, trying to balance work, family and everything else tugging on their skirt hems, counting their coins in the Checkers line vs groceries in the basket, and hammering at the door of a still male-dominated society to be allowed to make an impact.
I believe every person deserves a chance - no matter what their skin colour or station in life. It's quite possible the next Bill Gates is sitting in Lwandle down the road, just waiting for an opportunity to take the world by storm. And it's equally possible that the high and mighty in this country don't deserve to be there. There are some who merely water-tread their way through life and acheive substantial sucess, and others who have great ideas but are stuck with no outlet for them. Inequality exists, as idealistic as we want to be about things.
But there you have it. I'm simply not disadvantaged enough to be given a helping hand. Perhaps mine would not be a dramatic enough rags to riches story for the investors. I was just very disappointed at running into this attitude from an organization that stated it wanted to help.
In hindsight though I'm glad they didn't. I'd hate to have them dictating what could and couldn't happen.