“We are not just phenomenal; we are phewomenal,” said Sibabaliwe Zwide (right), creating her own word to describe the woman-power and success of the six-woman team who form the executive of the SWEEP chapter at Nelson Mandela University.

Zwide said Karen Snyman, Specialist Student Entrepreneurship at Nelson Mandela University and Deputy Chairperson of the Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education’s (EDHE’s) Community of Practice for Student Entrepreneurship, had referred to them as trailblazers because they are the first SWEEP chapter to be established in South Africa.

But Zwide felt their group represented even more. “It’s a sisterhood like no other. SWEEP, for me, has been a dream come true. These ladies have inspired me since the day I’ve met them. And I let everyone know. That’s why I’m the recruitment officer. My job is to make sure that the members are aware of what they are joining and the benefits,” she said.

SWEEP is the Student Women Economic Empowerment Programme, a new initiative of EDHE’s, which, in the context of gender-based violence and the under-representation of student women in entrepreneurship, aims to serve the special purpose of equipping student women for entrepreneurial activity.

The Nelson Mandela University SWEEP executive presented virtually at the launch of EDHE Student Entrepreneurship Week (#SEW 2022) at the University of Venda last Friday, each wearing the same scarf that clearly identified the membership of their chapter.

Starting a SWEET chapter is simple

Chairperson Atlehang Nkotha (left), who is studying a MCom in Business Management, said she would like to encourage every female student to be part of SWEEP. “If you have a desire to start a SWEEP student chapter at your campus, go for it.”

Monalisa Mapapu, co-chairperson of the chapter, said it was quite simple to start a chapter. Frances Zowa, personal assistant at EDHE, and who is contactable on frances@usaf.ac.za, could provide all the guidelines and procedures. Those interested could also contact Ms Strydom at Nelson Mandela University for guidance.

Financing a SWEEP chapter

Nkotha said their one aim for the year has been to make students on campus aware of SWEEP. They had done this by hosting several events, “which did require a bit of funds”.

Whané Constable, Treasurer, explained that the SRC at Nelson Mandela had given them a grant at the beginning of the year, which they used for events, even though it did not cover everything. So, SWEEP charged a membership fee of R50. They also plan to charge a “small token” of either R50 or R100 for forthcoming events.

SWEEP events should be linked to its goals

Felicia Khumalo (right), the chapter’s Events Officer, said in this, their first year in existence, “we did not want to overcrowd our schedule for the year because we are entrepreneurs and students at the same time”, she said.

They had kickstarted the year with a “very productive” team building for their executive members because they had not known each other when they had started working together. She said those on the executive had served for a year and “it is important when you establish your own chapter, to make use of the team-building event to bring new executives on board, so that they can work properly in achieving their goals”.

The team building was followed by an online recruitment event which doubled as an awareness creator.

Another online event had celebrated female student entrepreneurs with the aim of inspiring and empowering their members with these success stories. “And that was awesome,” said Khumalo.

Targeting next year’s students

They have begun this semester with a sanitary towels drive. These would be donated to a local high school the week after SEW 2022, using that opportunity to talk to the Grade 12 females about SWEEP and what a student chapter does, “with the hope and the goal of recruiting them while they’re still in high school. When they come to the institution, they will be ready to be part of us”, said Khumalo.

She said belonging to a society such as SWEEP provided endless opportunities. “You need to make use of networking events like the EDHE Lekgotla and the event we’re having right now, to talk to people,” she said.

She said she and the chapter’s PRO, Olwethu Nxumalo, had been privileged to attend a recent breakfast at Nelson Mandela University’s Business School. Dr Elizabeth Haywood, Welsh academic and businesswoman, had been the guest speaker and had spoken on The XX Factor: Women Leaders in Business. Dr Haywood had said something Nxumalo wished to share with SEW’s participants: the importance of making women aware of what is happening around them, “so that they will want to be part of the change that we are trying to achieve”.

The advantages of being a member of SWEEP

Nkotha said being a SWEEP member had been very rewarding. “We’ve learned so much and we’ve seen growth as a team and in what we’ve learned. We now have practical skills that are transferable. We are having an experience of a lifetime as SWEEP members. So, if you are out there and you want to be part of SWEEP on a national level, or want to start your student chapter, we’re here for you. Reach out to us. We really want to help you to make your student chapter flourish,” she said.

Gillian Anstey is a contract writer for Universities South Africa

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