|The Cape Town-based Women’s Hope, Education and Training (WHEAT) Trust promotes and harvests local giving as a way to plow funds into women’s empowerment efforts. The trust’s founders believe that all women — rich or poor, corporate or grassroots — should be encouraged to give what they can to support worthy causes.
For example, WHEAT Trust Coordinator Thope Lekau tells how one previous beneficiary donated R200 ($25) back to the trust to help other women in need. For Lekau, sharing such stories further evokes the spirit of giving.
The WHEAT Trust is one of several funds created in recent years to generate support from South Africans to address women’s issues. Launched in 1998, the WHEAT Trust has two endowment funds.
The older of the two — the Anne Hope Award — offers training and scholarships to individual women who have shown leadership skills in their communities. By mid-2001, the trust had raised R168,000 ($21,000) for this fund.
| The second fund, called WHEAT Community Organization Award, is relatively new and expects to finance education and training for community groups that support women’s development efforts. The trust aims to raise R1 million ($125,000) to create “a sustainable fountain” to support women’s issues.
In 2000, the Mott Foundation made a two-year, $100,000 (R800,000) grant to WHEAT for general operating purposes. The Foundation also made a two-year, $100,000 (R800,000) general operating purposes grant to the Pitseng Women’s Fund in Johannesburg.
The WHEAT Trust has a diverse board of trustees, which includes members with academic, business and community development experience. The trustees have hosted a variety of fundraisers, including a 50th birthday party in honor of WHEAT’s chairperson, Shirley Walters. She said the event was a novel idea that raised R13,000 ($1,625) for the trust.
|“We felt the need to find new ways of mobilizing support for grassroots women’s leadership development,” Walters said. “We knew we needed to find new and creative ways of drawing South Africans into our efforts. We were wanting people to take ordinary occasions in their lives and turn them into occasions to support grassroots women.”
While South Africans are quick to support extended families in poor communities, they wouldn’t readily think of donating to a fund specifically designated to help women, despite statistics that show poor women receive less education and skills training than the general population, Walters said. She hopes to broaden South Africans’ views on giving.
“Philanthropy has taken specific forms historically,” Walters said. “We’re trying to stretch our collective imaginations to lessen dependence on outside funding and mobilize local people to support local projects.”
| While collecting money has not been easy for Pitseng or WHEAT, leaders are upbeat about the future. The WHEAT Trust now has paid staff who devote time to fundraising. Lekau laughs when describing the flurry of letters, requesting meetings and donations, that leave the office. The efforts are bearing fruit; several appointments with potential donors are in the pipeline.
Lekau’s response is quick and confident to those asking what they will receive in return for their donation: “Self-fulfillment in supporting other women who have never had the opportunity of higher education and who plow what they learn back into the community.”