Femada Shamam, 42 years of age, has been with TAFTA for 17 years. She recently took over the leadership role of CEO of this organisation. Her profile is inspirational.
To what do you attribute TAFTA’s success as an organisation serving the aged?
“Four main drivers of success:
Ability to change and adjust according to the needs of the elders thereby ensuring that the services are relevant
Support, goodwill and dedication of the many volunteers, donors and community members
Passionate, committed and loyal staff.”
What are TAFTA’s greatest strengths?
“The elders themselves – they trust that the organization can offer them a place, a context and an environment to flourish
The various care partners – Tafta has been blessed with dedicated, committed and loyal staff members over the years. Its not uncommon to have many people receiving long service awards – 40 years service, 30 years service etc. We have also had volunteers who have been generous with their time and resources. We recently acknowledged a volunteer for 40 years service. She now assists as a hopper delivering meals as part of our meals on wheels service.
Adding to our strength is a strong and committed Council members who oversee the organization and ensure adherence to governance practices.
Over the last 59 years, Tafta has earned the reputation of being a credible, well managed and progressive organisation.”
What is TAFTA’s greatest challenge?
“The greatest challenge is ensuring that the organization is positioned, resourced and capacitated to meet the increasing needs of the elderly.
The needs of the elders are growing faster than the services that the organization can supply. Therefore the strategic aim of forming partnerships and collaborating with like-minded organisations, individuals and corporates is essential to amplify the impact of our intervention.
The financial sustainability of care and support services continues to be a challenge but it also provides fertile ground for innovative and creative initiatives to add value to the lives of the elderly in a different but relevant way.
The challenge is therefore not just the money, it’s the people and the passion they display in all that they do.”
You have just taken on a major leadership role as CEO of TAFTA, and are a CommonAge Ambassador – how do you see your role in aged care going forward?
“Both these roles provides the platform for furthering the Ageing agenda and continuing the conversation, lobbying and advocacy towards an age inclusive and supportive environment. Within Tafta the leadership role is centered on ensuring that the leadership team is empowered and motivated to design and implement services to meet the needs of the elderly. In the context of the wider community, I see myself as carrying the Tafta flag in every engagement with a view to muster support and raise awareness around the opportunities for other care partners to get involved in our long term vision that a better life for the elderly is possible. As a CommonAge Ambassador I see my role as a conduit to transfer and share knowledge, resources and continue the conversation on best practice models. Its also about identifying and developing leadership potential to carry forward the ageing agenda. In addition international support for local initiatives becomes a reality. I see CommonAge as a platform to learn, share and grow in a way that ultimately changes the elder care environment.
Imagine a world where elders are engaged, supported and constantly growing….these roles will help to make this a reality.”
Does TAFTA focus on succession planning – what is being done in this regard?
“Yes, over the years there has been some initiatives around succession planning. Our current strategy started out as “Succession and Sustainability” in 2014. Tafta’s approach has been to identify leadership opportunities within our staff and have committed to developing individuals who have shown the passion to lead in their various roles. Tafta’s support has been in the form of formal and informal education as well as practical experience. Having adopted a teamwork approach to service delivery, makes it easier for staff members to test their abilities in their non -traditional roles. Succession planning is critical for the sustainability of any organization and we will continue to have this on our strategic and development agenda.”
What does leadership mean for you in your position? And for your organisation? And for the sector as whole?
“Leadership means inspiring passion towards a common goal. Leadership means responsibility and accountability. Leadership means a willingness to be open minded about the various opportunities which present itself. Leadership for Tafta is about steering the ship along a growth strategy that ultimately inspires active ageing and support and care for the elders who need it. Leadership in this sector is about mutual sharing, collaboration and a willingness to work together to bring about transformation which leads to the elders having an inclusive space within the broader community. It’s about changing the discourse on ageing from a deficit attitude to one where elders are seen and treated as meaningful contributors to society. Leadership in this sector is about courage to explore different, innovative and creative solutions to the challenges being faced. Leadership in this sector is also about tenacity in constantly ensuring that the ageing agenda is progressed at all levels”.
What are the new conversations you think we should be having in the care sector?
Sustainable operating models – try new approaches, push the boundaries, explore new possibilities.
Inspiring interest in the field of gerontology – our human capital is important and the reputation of any organization lies with the manner in which the staff interact, communicate and engage the community at large
Opportunities for skills transfer – how are organizations positioned to embrace the idea of continuous growth in our elders. Are we “walking the talk?
Culture change – making work fun – finding the purpose in what you do.”
Talk to me about collaboration in the sector?
“This is essential in this environment. It is impossible for any single person or any single organization to be all things to all people. We can however amplify our impact by working together.”
What does it mean for you?
“My greatest growth and learning has been through collaboration. It has opened my mind to the possibilities that lie ahead. It works on all levels. I have witnessed the impact of elders collaborating on joint activities …the sense of achievement in getting things done is heartwarming to witness. Even the robust disagreements are a sight to behold. Collaboration at an organizational level provides fertile ground to spark creative thinking and demonstrates commitment to a larger vision of elder care and support.”
What networks are you involved in?
“Local and provincial networks (Network of Directors in KZN, Welfare Forum – we have been very busy lobbying with the Department of Social Development in the last year around the subsidies and rationalization of services.
IAGG Africa Region Committee – I serve on this committee as the South African representative
Global Ageing Network – I recently joined the Board of this organization. “
What value do you see in collaboration and networking? Do you see value in global networking and collaboration?
“We cannot be all things to all people individually but together our impact is much greater. Throughout the world the context of ageing is different but there are some fundamentals which apply to all societies. The population of elders is growing ….and we need to act fast and quick to position our organisations to respond to this phenomenon…my personal belief is that a better life for elders is possible. The question I then ask myself is what does this look like?
This is what I see….
Elders can meet their basic needs. They have a place to live. They have food to eat. They have water. They are clothed. They have access to affordable health care. They are safe. They can get the help they need, when they need it. They wake up in the morning knowing that they have a purpose, that their lives matter and what they do contributes in some way to the bigger picture.
I am sure that there are other people who believe the same ….and if we have many people who have a similar vision and think and talk about how things could be better…we start a global conversation…and this starts a global movement….and this impacts on the quality of life of all elders across the world…it snowballs…it starts with the belief that things can be better…and it becomes reality though networking and collaboration. Networking and collaboration becomes the vehicle for change . “
Who or what inspires you?
“I am inspired my many things:
The elders themselves…their resilience, quiet determination, their stories
I am inspired by my late mother …her belief that I could be anything I wanted.
I am inspired by our staff who work tirelessly and very often go beyond the call of duty to do better
I am inspired by small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness by community members and donors”
Tell us about who Femada is outside of TAFTA?
“I am many things…I am a wife to a wonderfully supportive husband who inspires me to be better every day. I am mum to a pixie like 4 year old who teaches me to appreciate the wonder of life in everything I do. I am a daughter to a very active “60 something” year old who redefines ageing in all that he does. I love listening to the stories of his escapades…I am a sister to two sisters and a brother. I have a large extended family who can make me smile, cry and roll around in laughter in the same conversation ..they are wonderful. I am a fisher-woman ..I have a love for the sea and all things natural. Camping has become one of our favourite past times.
I am a person of faith.
I love reading …books, articles online, social media sites…
I also enjoy quiet time…time to reflect, time to think and time to process..”
Leadership epitomized….Femada, the SACF salutes you for your leadership in our sector and wishes you well in your multiple roles. Your contribution on many different levels is hugely impactful.