The Ndebele Foundation

Monday, 17 September, 2007 - 07:40

A Project in Transition The Ndebele Foundation, a nonprofit community-based organisation that trains Ndebele women and young girls to create and sell craftwork and manage their finances, is inviting e

A Project in Transition

The Ndebele Foundation, a nonprofit community-based organisation that trains Ndebele women and young girls to create and sell craftwork and manage their finances, is inviting established NGOs with experience in similar projects to partner in the management of the project. 

The project was founded in 1999 by Margaret Courtney-Clarke, a renowned Namibian photojournalist who became famous for documenting Ndebele women painting traditional artworks onto the walls of their homes. The project trains women to create beadwork, hand-printed fabrics, pottery, paintings as well as crafts made from recycling glass, tins, plastic, wire and materials found locally.

“Our strategic focus is to make an impact on the community by producing unique and highly sought-after products that could be distributed locally and internationally for a considerable profit,” explains Courtney-Clarke. 

A Project on the Rocks
Like most community-based organisations (CBOs), the Ndebele Foundation operates on a meager annual budget of R12, 000, and as a result, it can only employ two full-time staff members who are paid through donor funds.

Courtney-Clarke highlights the lack of funds and the shortage of full-time staff members as affecting the overall reach of the Foundation. She states that, “The project requires at least four full-time staff members in order to function more effectively.”

 The Foundation employs part-time facilitators to run workshops aimed at assisting women and children to broaden their artistic skills and meet current commercial demands for craftwork. But Courtney-Clarke realises that part-time staff members can only do so much.

She firmly believes that the project’s strategic focus can only be realised if production and distribution processes are improved with the presence of a full-time manager and workshop facilitators.

Courtney-Clarke holds the view that unless capable management is identified to manage the Foundation, the project will not grow beyond its current scope. 

Strategy for the future 
To overcome these challenges, Courtney-Clarke, who is intending to retire and move back to Namibia, is inviting NGOs to express interest in this project. 

Estelle Coetzee, one of the volunteers at the Foundation, argues that the preferred NGO will help to inject new ideas into the project. With the right NGO partnership assisting in management matters, Coetzee anticipates that the project will be able to sustain itself outside of donor funding. “My fear is that a part-time involvement will not do justice to the Ndebele community or the Foundation”, she explains.

However, she cautions that such an arrangement should not hinder the surrounding community’s sense of ownership.

- Pictures courtesy of Margaret Courtney-Clarke.

- Butjwana Seokoma, Information Services Coordinator, SANGONeT.

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