Creating Modern Day Warriors Out of Young Women!
My name is Nthabiseng Letsoso and I live in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. I am privileged to be an artist and experience life in my community which lead to the birth of After School Art Project (ASAP), an initiative I started with my partner Mambila Mageza in 2013. ASAP has piloted a series of art classes and workshops that teach young women among other members in my community to upcycle —by turning junk materials into sellable art, fashion and furniture.
I am even more fortunate to be a daughter of an exceptionally determined woman who after members of my family could not decide and agree on my name insisted that I should be called Nthabiseng—meaning ‘make me happy’ in English. My Mother tells me that my birth was mysterious and it took 13 months before I came out. Nthabiseng is not too unusual a name but the fact that it is the only name I have as compared to my sister and most of my cousins can be. Needless to say, this got pretty frustrating as a kid. When all you are trying to do is fit in at school and seem cool, the last thing you want is to have to wrestle with your mind over how at a guess your name sound self-seeking.
For me economic empowerment means having a purpose in life. Thus, my purpose derives from an implication of my name, to be a mentor and happiness-driven woman. I came to understand that being happy is in fact a command from “mother nature”, not only to live, benefit and survive but also to thrive. I believe that young women, who are out of school and unemployed in my community, do not have a chance at economic empowerment because they are habitually victims of social ills such as domestic violence and substance abuse.
In support of employment creation and women's economic empowerment in South Africa, ASAP, through its quarterly seminars called Leading with productive creativity, informs and exposes young people to leadership, creativity and productivity, as well the link between the three. ASAP also brings the community members together to nurture a skill-based environment while learning the importance of up-cycling waste through photography and fashion designing. This exciting initiative is sure a boost to economic empowerment in South Africa where ASAP is creating warriors of our era and future mothers who need to be prepared for a bright and happy future.
Nthabiseng is the Co-founder of After School Art Project (ASAP) based in Orlando West Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa.