the beauty of empowerment

educateHER: Mpho's Story

Isabell Bernal

With the start of the semester (or school year in South Africa) we have decided to launch the neela education fund in honor of a very special girl. 


Mpho is fourteen years old, she dreams of going to university and becoming a lawyer.  She has everything it takes, determination, resilience, passion, work ethic... everything except a uniform and textbooks. 


Soon after Mpho was born she was taken by members of her extended family to be raised on a farm many miles away. 


Sonto has been able to visit her daughter only a few times over the past fourteen years.  However, over this past Christmas Sonto and her two younger children went out to the rural village to see Mpho.  Mpho desperately wanted to come back to Johannesburg with them.  Now that Sonto has a job at neela, the extended family agreed. 


Mpho started high school in Johannesburg on Monday, and the night before Sonto called me in a panic.  There is no such thing as free school in South Africa, and Mpho was charged with a late registration fee that Sonto was unprepared for in addition to the tuition, textbooks, and uniform.


Mpho and Sonto shared some shocking news with me.  When families can only afford to send one child to school, the boys get priority (even if they are younger)!  Girls are already targets of rape in the community, and having them home all day puts them at great physical danger and even increases their risk of unplanned pregnancy- further driving the cycle of poverty. 


Here's how we stop poverty: EDUCATE GIRLS

Mpho, Sonto, and I came up with the idea to sell ten neela bags that would specifically target education for girls in the community.  100% of the proceeds of the navy bag are going towards sending girls in the community to school.  Each bag covers tuition, uniforms, books, and supplies for one girl for an entire year.

Sonto, Mpho’s mother and a neela artisan

Sonto, Mpho’s mother and a neela artisan