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This is the fifth in a series of interviews that highlight the journey, struggles and achievements of women doing work in community networks. We are documenting their experiences with the intention to inspire more women to get involved in this field. For this interview we spoke with Nontsokolo Sigcau.
Nontsokolo Sigcau, better known by those around her as Mama Sigcau, is a representative of Zenzeleni in South Africa for the community networks learning grant initiative implemented through the "Connecting the Unconnected: Supporting community networks and other community-based connectivity initiatives" project.
Mama Sigcau is one of the original Zenzeleni Mankosi Cooperative directors. She has been involved in Zenzeleni through its multiple phases over the last seven years. She is one of the pillars in the Mankosi community and of the Zenzeleni community network.
Here are her responses to the questions we are asking all these inspiring women who are bringing connectivity to underserved communities:
APCNews: What is the most interesting reaction you have received from a community when doing the work?
Nontsokolo Sigcau: The most interesting reaction I received from the community is their respect for me, the love they show to me, and showing me that they want to use the community network. They ask me to get smartphones for them to support the network and buy vouchers.
APCNews: Can you share a moment or experience where you overcame structural/cultural gender barriers while working on community networks?
NS: I overcome cultural gender barriers when fathers ask, “Will this network work for our wives in their kitchens, helping them to wash dishes, to cook food, to fetch water, to go to cut the wood in the forest?” All those questions fathers ask me when I talk about community networks, and they make me embarrassed.
APCNews: What is a gender stereotypical comment you received and what did you do about it?
NS: Stereotypical comments I receive is when other fathers tell me that their wives can't use smartphones or use a community network because WhatsApp is not good, they will cheat on them, and their families will be destroyed. But I just came showing them that I, as mama, I use WhatsApp with my own father, the headman, and the network is cheaper than buying airtime. When you use WhatsApp, you just buy a voucher for five rand and use it the whole month, sharing with your child outside in high school or university, sharing with your other child working in Johannesburg or Cape Town or Durban, sharing with your whole family that are inside or outside the country and are far from you.
Nothing about the network is wrong. It is the people who use the network to do wrong things. The network is not wrong, it is good, and I show that I have many, many friends outside the country that support me and make me be strong and work hard for the community, to show the community to combine, to do something to strengthen their lives and make better the lives of their families. For example, those who put [their products] on the YouTube so they have many customers to buy and they have money by doing that.
APCNews: What do you enjoy most about your work on community networks?
NS: What I like in my work when I am working on the community network is when I share with the mamas, because they show me that they really want to use the network. Mamas ask me to find for them the cheapest smartphone so they can support the network by buying vouchers, because they believe.
If they have smartphones, their work, their businesses will grow faster, and they will have many customers, not only in the community, even outside the community, and they trust me. I also enjoy when I share with them how the voucher works and how to put the voucher in the phone, so that they must learn. I show them that now I am busy, as old as I, learning computer, they were so happy when they hear me, that I am learning computer now.
I am so happy and proud about the community network and I want to take this community network to other communities, to share with other communities, so that we must push as much as we can, so that all the world uses community networks to have better lives, to spend less, because data is so expensive. And internet is for everyone, old or young, educated or not educated, for everyone, internet is there to use. Thank you so much.
APCNews: Thank you, Mama Sigcau!
You can listen to Mama Sigcau describing her experiences with the Zenzeleni Mankosi community network here.