Empowering youth and women through Pots of Hope.
Subject: Health education (Study and teaching)
Nonprofit organizations (Services)
Rural women (Social aspects)
Author: Mutumbulwa, Fransina
Pub Date: 08/01/2008
Publication: Name: Sister Namibia Publisher: Sister Namibia Audience: Academic; General Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences; Women's issues/gender studies Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Sister Namibia ISSN: 1026-9126
Issue: Date: August, 2008 Source Volume: 20 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information; 290 Public affairs
Product: Product Code: 8380000 Nonprofit Institutions; 8300000 Social Services & Nonprofit Institutns NAICS Code: 813 Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations; 624 Social Assistance SIC Code: 8300 SOCIAL SERVICES
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Namibia Geographic Code: 6NAMI Namibia
Accession Number: 188293331
Full Text: Alexia /Naris is the self-motivated, kindhearted, caring and inspiring woman behind the Pots of Hope Youth and Women's Empowerment Programme. A trained counsellor, she counsels youth, women and men mostly in the rural areas of Kunene Region, and is passionate about reducing the vulnerability of rural women and youth to HIV and Aids through education, information and awareness as well as income security projects.

What's in a name?

Alexia got the idea for the project in 2004, after attending an "Aids and Me" workshop sponsored by IBIS. After discussions with women and youth on ways to prevent the further spread of HIV and Aids, the foundation for Pots of Hope was laid. Back then the project did not have a name, but was simply an initiative to promote social mobilisation in the constituencies of Opuwo, Sesfontein, Epupa, Kamanjab, Khorixas and Outjo, targetting youth, rural women, orphans and vulnerable children, and female senior citizens.

Alexia talked to her mother, Cecilia /Naris, about the budding project and Cecilia was impressed. She believed strongly in what her daughter was doing and knew that she and other women could make a difference. When Alexia related her mother's enthusiasm for the project to the women of Kamanjab, they too became hopeful. "Your mother is hope," they said. As Cecilia is well known for her pottery, the women decided to name the project Pots of Hope. Little did they know that the name would gain significance as the project grew.

Growing hope

In the early stages, basic HIV and Aids education was the main focus of Pots of Hope. However, underlying causes of the spread of the virus have since surfaced. Alcohol abuse, stigma and discrimination, gender-based violence, and domestic violence are among the many contributing factors. These issues have turned Alexia into a busy woman, travelling from community to community providing the necessary Counselling, information and support around these societal problems.

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As Alexia counselled many of the women, she was touched by their stories. Many suffered violence at the hands of husbands or partners, feeling obligated to stay in these abusive relationships due to financial dependence. That is where her idea to begin income generating projects began. "Pottery is one way through which women in the rural settings can be financially independent," she says.

The mother-daughter team

"My dream is to start a big project to train other people, especially women and children. It's good to share one's craft and skills with other people." These were the words of Cecilia /Naris back in 1997 when Sister Namibia visited her at her house in Katutura to interview the woman who could do "wonders with clay and a potter's wheel." As of 2008 Cecilia's dream has come true as she has joined hands with her daughter, Alexia, to take the Pots of Hope project to another level. She is now an active member of the project and gives inspiration to many.

Cecilia first got involved with pottery in 1978 when she was working at a factory in Windhoek making tents and other camping equipment. Her employer asked her if she was interested in helping his wife, Doreen Hildehagen, to make pottery over the weekends. Though she was at first embarrassed to work with the 'dirty' clay, this quickly passed as pottery become her passion.

Cecilia worked with Doreen as an apprentice for ten years, who taught her all she knew about pottery. Cecilia also studied pottery at the Academy in Windhoek for almost six years. She specialises in earthenware (ceramics) and her work has been exhibited throughout Namibia and abroad.

The rural women and youth Cecilia has now trained to produce pottery sell their stoneware and earthware products in local markets and at trade fairs. They create unique vases, tea sets, milk jugs, mugs, sugar bowls, garden pots, goblets, plates and ornaments. For each piece sold, the artist gets a share and the other share goes to the Pots of Hope Trust Fund for Social Upliftment and Charity Work. The trust fund, which is also financed with Pots of Hope membership fees, is used for various projects to benefit the community. Currently the trust fund is dedicated to paying school fees for four girls, two in the Havana informal settlement in Windhoek and two in Erwee, a village in the Kunene Region. The programme is not only active in the rural areas, but also in the heart of Katutura, where girls and boys gather together after school and on weekends to learn how to make pottery, dance and sing at Cecilia's house.

Ending the stigma and shame

"Pots of Hope is a name that gives hope to many rural women who are willing to make a difference in their own lives," says Alexia. "Although it involves pottery, the primary idea is to educate, and to provide counselling to those in rural settings who do not have access to such resources." The project hopes that people will break away from the tradition of blame, ignorance and shame surrounding HIV. "In a household setting the husband says to his wife 'you are the one with the virus, you are the problem and the one bringing shame in the family,"' says Alexia. "This puts women down, discriminates against them and keeps them in silence. This is where Pots of Hope comes in to inform and to educate people, to break the silence, to challenge the stigma, and to eliminate the shame associated with HIV and Aids which is experienced by most women in the rural setting."

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The artistic pieces created by the Pots of Hope members are available for sale in Windhoek at Omutuni Heritage shop, 24 Garten Street. Contact Ms. E. Ingongo at 081-305-0069 or Alexia /Naris at 081-322-4927 -alexianaris@yahoo.com - to learn more.

Story and photos by Fransina Mutumbulwa
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.