uMama Wami: Woman of Inspiration

Together, mother and daughter, Zanele and Nomzamo Mhlongo, are a formidable team that uplifts their community through creative arts and teaching.
MRP Foundation’s Schools Programme has positively impacted the lives of a mother and daughter in KwaDukuza, and they are actively involved in uplifting the youth

A rainbow of hope…Zanele Mhlongo and her daughter Nomzamo, through their passion for teaching and uplifting the youth have initiated Sbani Sethu Youth Organisation to assist the youth in their community in KwaDukuza with homework, as well as art, dance and drama. Image by MRP Foundation / Pierre Tostee


  • This Women’s Month we are celebrating women who are making a difference in their communities

  • MRP Foundation’s Schools Programme has positively impacted the lives of a mother and daughter in KwaDukuza, and they are actively involved in uplifting the youth

Mother-daughter duo, Zanele and Nomzamo Mhlongo, have put on their creative thinking caps, coming together to help the youth in their community of KwaDukuza to overcome challenges they may face with homework.  For Zanele, women’s empowerment is part of her everyday life and she believes that, “Women who are successful should uplift other women and motivate them to fight for what they believe in! Mothers should teach their young ladies the importance of dreaming and working hard”.

An inspirational woman and fountain of wisdom, Zanele, who was a stay-at-home mom until 2011, was the first parent to volunteer to assist learners with reading challenges at Nyakana Combined Primary School in KwaDukuza, KwaZulu-Natal, one of the first five schools on the MRP Foundation Schools Programme. Less than a year later, Zanele’s passion was piqued once again when she assisted the creative arts teachers who are part of the MRP Foundation Schools Programme with music, dance, drama and art.

“I am really passionate about all the things they were teaching so I volunteered on Saturdays to help the learners, especially with dance,” she laughs fondly. Zanele remembers that her daughter’s school won the competition for their excellent dance performance, shortly after which, Creative Madness, MRP Foundation’s implementation partner for the Creative Arts component of the Schools Programme, employed her as a creative arts facilitator for the Schools Programme, working in all five of its schools in that area.

Through this, Zanele discovered that some teachers found it difficult to teach creative art to learners as, “Teachers didn’t know how to go about helping learners perform. I was there to help them, so that learners could improve on their result and gain more confidence.”

Inspired by her mother’s zest for life and her passion for uplifting youth, Zanele’s daughter, Nomzamo, chose to follow in her mother’s footsteps and study teaching. “Everyone that knows me, knows that my mom is my best friend. My mom is a very strong woman, she’s so passionate about helping people. At times when things get really hard and I feel like giving up, my mom is my strength and I push until I succeed,” praises Nomzamo.

“Seeing my mother work with teachers, the community and the youth was amazing. I wanted to be part of that, I wanted to play that role and I wanted to be someone who would change someone’s life,” says Nomzamo.

Nozamo was part of one of the first schools on the MRP Foundation’s Schools Programme. Usually a very shy person, she explains how, “At school, my happiest place was when I was put in a position where I could express myself through, drawing, writing, dancing or even performing. This is where MRP Foundation played a huge part in developing my self-confidence.”

She discovered that there were many learners like her, who through the programme, made lifelong friends and gained confidence. “The programme made us realise the things we could do, and therefore we gained a lot of confidence and ended up doing really well in our school subjects.”

Nomzamo says that teachers not only make an impact on so many young lives, but they also play the role of parents to many youngsters. Her hope is that, “One day if I can make a child feel so loved in school, especially a child who is coming from a broken home, then I would have done my part in this world and I will forever feel honoured that I changed someone’s life.”

Nomzamo says that her mother’s love for children is a beacon of light in her community. “I have come across many children who are orphans and they don’t feel so alone because they see my mom as their own mother. It makes me so proud to have a mother like her.” She highlights that the most important traits Zanele has taught her are humility, respect and helping those in need.

Zanele’s advice to her daughter is, “If you put your heart and soul into something, one day you will wake up to realise you have achieved all your dreams!” According to Zanele, “Nomzamo is a dreamer, and I hope she never stops dreaming and trying to help other people.”

Inspired by the MRP Foundation, the mother-daughter duo have been working tirelessly on a youth upliftment project in their private capacity. Sbani Sethu (Our Light) Youth Organisation, supported by Creative Madness, the implementation partner for the Creative Arts Component of the MRP Foundation’s Schools Programme, offers moral support to the youth, helps learners with their homework, and teaches them art, dance and drama.

“We discovered that many children live alone and they don’t have people who can help them with homework at home. Some have parents who are always working so that’s why they don’t perform well in school,” says Nomzamo. She says that ever since this organisation started, many children have joined and there has been great improvement in their school work.

The pair’s aspiration is “Ten years from now we would love to see this organisation succeeding and spreading out to other rural areas, producing good results. That is our main aim!”

Women play a pivotal role in establishing gender equality, including leading to a reduction in poverty.* Do you know any women who are empowered, uplifting their communities, or you believe is on the path to achieving their potential? We would love to hear their stories.

*United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 

MRP Foundation’s Schools Programme has positively impacted the lives of a mother and daughter in KwaDukuza, and they are actively involved in uplifting the youth

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