From Field to Facials: Work with Solidaridad Spurs a Spa Dream

The struggle to find work in South Africa is real. Since 2000, the unemployment rate has held steady at over 20 percent; in 2023 the country maintained the highest unemployment rate in the world. New programmes from Solidaridad are bringing practical training,  jobs, and hope to women and men who are ready to work for their future.

Thandeka Mashinini manages a spa at the Khayalami Hotel in Nelspruit, South Africa.

Unemployment has had a dramatic impact on livelihoods in South Africa. Without employment, entire communities suffer from poor health and nutrition; without work, parents struggle to provide for their children’s education; and without regular income, young men and women face a bleak future. 

The South African government has long struggled with the countrywide crisis. In 2020, in partnership with Solidaridad and over thirty other civil society groups,  the government launched a stimulus programme that included the Social Employment Fund (SEF). Projects funded by the SEF were designed to spur employment and opportunity throughout the agricultural sector. 

Thandeka Mashinini was one young South African who found an opportunity in the SEF programme and joined Solidaridad as a timekeeper.

“Working with different people from different backgrounds and learning how to lead them was an invaluable experience, it was my stepping stone to fulfilling my dream,” Thandeka said.

As part of the programme, the South African government paid Thandeka a regular stipend for her work with the Solidaridad team and worked on projects that revolved around agricultural supply chains. She quickly developed as a leader, with strong interpersonal skills that she put to immediate use at the end of her time in the SEF programme.

Although my SEF experience was in production and farming, something which I really enjoyed and might pursue in the future, the lessons I learned were more about my own abilities.

Thandeka Mashinini

Thandeka had long harbored a dream to become a beauty therapist and following her time with Solidaridad, she sought out new business opportunities for professional advancement in the South African town of Nelspruit.  

Thandeka found an exciting opportunity to manage the spa at the Khayalami Hotel and used her savings from the SEF project as seed capital to launch her venture. Though farming remains an option as a career path somewhere down the road, she is committed to her own business. Her spa offers a range of services that include massage, manicures, pedicures, and even facials. Thandeka attributes much of her success to the invaluable experiences she gained from working at Solidaridad.

It helped me hone my leadership skills, gave me the confidence to believe in myself which led to taking up the opportunity to open and run a beauty salon. My focus is now on building and growing this business.

Thandeka Mashinini

While Thandeka  knows that her work with Solidaridad and the SEF programme was an important stepping stone along the pathway of her success, she recognizes that she has embarked upon a lifelong journey as an entrepreneur.

 As Thandeka faces the future with courage and commitment, she has embraced a quote by Oprah Winfrey which reads, “I have a lot of things to prove to myself. One is that I can live my life fearlessly.”