Fostering Independence with Books
I AM ENOUGH, said Nonkululeko Mdluli, a belief she now treasures after attending the Global Women's Leadership Network, with African Library Project sponsorship, at Santa Clara University's Graduate School of Business in Santa Clara, CA. Until recently, she worried that she needed more degrees before she could help the people of Swaziland, but now she realizes that this belief was not true.
Growing up in extreme poverty in Swaziland and as the youngest of 23 children, she beat staggering odds and became a professional librarian, a rare occupation in sub-Saharan Africa. (Nonkululeko's story can be read here). For four years, she has been the director of Fundza, an ALP partner and nonprofit organization that aims to raise Swaziland's literacy rate and promote lifelong learning skills.
"Attending the leadership program at Santa Clara University has brought to me a paradigm shift, and has empowered me with leadership skills," she said. Although the program has helped her believe in herself, she will continue developing herself and view challenges as steppingstones. One significant challenge is Swaziland's crumbling economy. Fundza depends on and appreciates ALP's help in their urgent efforts to acquire more books and nurture a reading culture in schools. "To develop a society, it starts with children," Nonkululeko said.
Nonkululeko means independence, and one of the most important reasons for increasing literacy and promoting a reading culture is to provide Africans with a cornerstone for independence. "I believe I'm living my name," said Nonkululeko. "I'm taking my past and pushing forward, so that the coming generations don't suffer. We are all capable, but we need to acquire knowledge through reading to be independent. With the African Library Project, together we are helping people help themselves."
Thanks to our partnership with Fundza and the Swaziland National Library Service, not to mention Nonkululeko's contagious passion, 192 libraries have been created or improved across the country. Like Nonkululeko, if we believe we are enough, we all can make a real impact.