Massage therapy empowers township women to find jobs

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Eight women evicted from their shacks in Lwandle, Strand, this week graduated as massage therapists and already secured employment via a city-based spa.

In June 2014, the women were among shack occupants evicted from land owned by the South African National Roads Agency. The matter dragged on for months, resulting in political spats and a community still wondering where to next.

Some of the eight women are still living in the Nomzamo community hall in township next to Lwandle.

They were offered a free three-month training course that included transport from the community hall Strand to the Cape Town Medi-Spa in Kloof Street, Gardens, where the training was offered.

One of the women, Asanda Mfeketo, said she was “nervous because I didn’t know anything about massaging before”.

Asanda Mfeketo was evicted in Lwandle, Strand, in June 2014 and this week graduated after completing a course in massage therapy. She can now start earning an income despite still living in a community hall in Nomzamo, Strand. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

Asanda Mfeketo was evicted in Lwandle, Strand, in June 2014 and this week graduated after completing a course in massage therapy. She can now start earning an income despite still living in a community hall in Nomzamo, Strand. Picture Yazeed Kamaldien

“I thought it meant that I should allow a man to touch my body while I am giving him a massage. I thought it was about sex. That’s what I heard about it,” she said.

“But when I did the training I learned more about it. A massage is about relieving stress and tension.”

Mfeketo and the other women are set to be part of a three-month University of Cape Town research project still being finalised.

Ian Macfarlane, the Medi-Spa director who runs the non-profit Ubuntu Touch Project that offered the training, said this research aimed to “demonstrate the medical effect of massage therapy”.

Ian Macfarlane is developing a project that literally places opportunity in the hands of poor women. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Ian Macfarlane is developing a project that literally places opportunity in the hands of poor women. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Macfarlane said this was the third group of women the Ubuntu project had trained. They had also secured employment for the women who will work as massage therapists when various corporates require their services.

Macfarlane said they still “need more corporates” but are already working with call centres and other companies.

“Our aim is to create jobs. But the women have skills now to set up their own businesses too. Some of our past students have already done that,” said Macfarlane.

“There are so many women sitting at home and who want to work. This training boosts their confidence. It is a step up to other opportunities.”

On a practical level, the course is officially recognised and trainees receive certificates they can use when seeking future employment. The training included practical massage sessions with employees at various businesses in Cape Town.

On a more personal note, the training helped the women to also address some of the trauma endured when they were forcibly removed from their shacks last June.

“The women were reconnected to their own energy. Some of them had hypertension. In our first group of trainees we also found nutrition needed to be adjusted to encourage healthy eating,” said Macfarlane.

“We encourage the women to be more aware of the body and mind connection.”

Nomonde Dyasi from Du Noon informal settlement in Milnerton completed a massage therapy course at Medi-Spa at the end of 2012. She has been assisting with the training of new recruits.

Nomondo Dyasi completed massage therapy training and is now assisting other women to do the same. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Nomondo Dyasi completed massage therapy training and is now assisting other women to do the same. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

She said: “I ended up doing counseling with the women who were on the course. They were crying because they were starting to talk about what they had been through. Their homes were destroyed.”

Dyasi is meanwhile working part-time as a massage therapist at a spa in Camp’s Bay where she “gets paid commission, not a salary”.

“I’m thinking now about starting my own business to earn an income. Even though I’m not good with technology, I need to get Facebook and advertise to get clients,” she said.

“People are asking me when will I start my own business and do massages for them. I need some equipment. I already bought a massage bed and some towels.”

Dyasi said her experience as a massage therapist in the “work environment can give people energy”.

“Massage improves productivity in the work place. It also means that people will have to take less medication. When we do the massage we encourage people to drink lots of water to wash out the toxins,” she said.

“A massage works directly on the tension in your body and relieves pain. This means you don’t need to take painkillers.”

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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