For many rural dwellers making ends meet is a constant struggle, and even in death money can be a problem.
It is this fact of life that inspired a group of women in the Kgatleng District to form their own burial society to help ease the financial burden of burial expenses. Inspired by the church especially the Dutch Reformed Church, the idea of burial societies has now become part of Kgatleng custom.
When a member of the society suffers bereavement her friends get money from the society’s account to help with funeral expenses. They also offer the much need spiritual and moral support.
One such organ is the Dikhwidiri Burial Society in Morwa. Founded by Masego Goitsemodimo Thamage more than a decade ago, it has 17 members. They meet once a month to discuss progress and map the way forward. At these meetings they also make the monthly contribution, which is then credited to their BBS account to be withdrawn in time of need.
Thamage says she was inspired to form it when she realized that burial societies were useful, especially to people with little money and no insurance policies.
Relating the need for burial societies Thamage and some of her associates explained that unlike other funeral finance providers such as insurance companies, the rural folk recognize that in Setswana culture relatives are not only the immediate family, but in-laws, cousins and other blood relatives.
With this in mind their burial society helps with funeral expenses for immediate relatives, and has an allowance for six more people who are related to them. The contributions are also affordable even to the unemployed.
“We recognize that your immediate family is not only your relatives, but all those you are related to through blood or marriage. That is what we had in mind when we set it up. We are so accommodating that we also help in the burial of any member’s boyfriend provided we know of the relationship,” Thamage said.
Membership of the society is limited to women born or married in Mora. Thamage says this is a way of protecting their money from people who might live in Morwa for a while, form a society and then disappear.
“This has not happened to us because we have been vigilant from the start. Older burial societies had asked us to be careful of whom we allow into our organization because they had been cheated. I am glad we took the advice.”
Any member who wants to leave is free to do so and will be given their contribution minus any money they may have claimed. At times the society is forced to sack a member either because they do not contribute as expected, or is simply unruly and disrespectable to her fellows. In such cases the dishonored member also gets their contribution back and reimburses the society any money they may have borrowed.
The ladies of Dikhwidiri Burial Society encourage women all over the country to form societies as a means to cushion them in times of bereavement when they need cash, spiritual and moral support.
“Women, especially young ones must start societies. A society is like an extension of the family. We are sisters who share in each other’s pain. It also gives us the satisfaction of doing something for ourselves to ease each others’ burden,” said Masego.