16 Days of Activism Launch 24 Nov 17

16 Days of Activism Launch 24 Nov 17

Join Patron Wendy Ackerman and become an Ambassador for 1000 Women united against domestic violence and abuse project!

 

  • One out of every four women in South Africa is in an abusive relationship.
  • Every six days a woman in South Africa is murdered by her intimate partner.
  • Every 25 seconds a woman or girl is raped in South Africa.

 

These shocking statistics are not new to us, because every time we read a newspaper or turn on the television, we are made aware of the escalating level of abuse towards women and girls that takes place in our communities every day. We are calling all South Africans to stand together and speak out.

 

Since 2004, we have been mobilizing “1000 Women to Unite against Domestic Violence” in Cape Town. This initiative is worth remembering, with 1000 women standing together against domestic violence. Join us in 2017 on 24 November 2017 at RAND Club in Johannesburg at 8am. The event will close at 10H30 and proceeds will be paid to fund the TEARS Foundation.

 

We mobilize resources to provide access to skills, leadership capacity building and provide seed funding to women-led organisations.

 

Please visit www.1000women.co.za and see where the money goes.

“Being one of the founding members of the 1000 Women United against Domestic Violence Initiative, I believe every South African should get involved in this initiative. Join me and make yourself heard!” Wendy Ackerman Trustee.

How can YOU get involved?

  • Become an Ambassador – donate R1000 and mobilise your friends to join 1000 Women 1 Voice.
  • Donate to the 1000 Women Trust and provide funds for grants that support projects working with violence against women.
  • Make sure your Company invests in this project. Invest R10 000 bring 10 people to the event and we will ensure your branding is visible at the event.

Contact tina@1000woman.co.za – to see the rights package.

  • Mobilise your friends and join the event – buy your ticket now, R5 000 for 10 people

 

Become a significant partner in this prestigious one-of-a-kind event and add your name to the growing number of good citizens and companies that take a stand against domestic violence.

 

NPO’s should contact the office for information on how they can participate.

 

Secure your booking:

 

Contact:                      Fiona

Email:                          info@1000women.co.za

Telephone:                  021-782 8816

 

Details of venue:

 

Address:                     33 Loveday, CNR Fox Street, Marshalltown,

City:                             Johannesburg

Date:                           24 November 2017

Time:                           8H00 – 10H30

 

Thank you,

Fiona Michaels

New Business Development Officer

1000 WOMEN TRUST

Phone:  021-782 8816

Email:  info@1000women.co.za

Cape Town 10th May 2018, Cape Town.

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Respect and Freedom for All – Free Gender, Khayelitsha

Story by Bernedette Muthien (info@engender.org.za, Mobile 083 345 0552, www.engender.org.za). On behalf of WHEAT Trust

 

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Free Gender is a black lesbian organisation founded by community activists during 2008. Based in Khayelitsha, they also work in Nyanga, two impoverished, overcrowded, underdeveloped townships created under Apartheid for Black people. Their blog, http://freegender.wordpress.com/about, states that, “as human rights defenders, we are also gender friendly towards transgender and intersex persons in our community.” They organise protests, political meetings and talks at academic and community forums, and work in solidarity with other activists.

The objectives of Free Gender are:

  • To develop programmes and activities that challenge stigma, exclusion and discriminate against community members on the grounds of sexual identity or gender expression;
  • To facilitate acceptance, inclusion and representation for lesbians and bisexual women in public spaces;
  • To raise awareness and educate communities of the rights of lesbians and bisexuals, and to offer tools and resources to seek redress when rights are violated;
  • To build strong social networks for lesbians and bisexuals evicted from their homes;
  • To provide support for parents of lesbians and bisexuals;
  • To raise awareness on gender issues among Butch and Femme women;
  • To develop capacity and skills on organisational management and leaderships through networking and partnerships with various service providers.

They envision a non-discriminatory, tolerant and accepting community that is open and unafraid and where homosexuality is understood and respected. Free Gender opposes all forms of violence and hate speech, and works towards developing safe spaces for lesbians and bisexual women.

Coordinator, Chairperson and Co-founder of Free Gender, Funeka Soldaat, was born in the Eastern Cape in 1961. A lifelong activist, Funeka is described as “very political”, she “loves to talk about stories and what is happening around women and lesbians. She loves doing her work.” Funeka moved permanently to Cape Town in 1980, and for many years used to offer shelter in her shack to LGBT people evicted by their homophobic families. Funeka has been married to her wife for three years, after a seven year relationship.

At present there are 34 Free Gender members, with each of their three programmes run by seven members. Each of the three groups is managed by a committee that meets monthly. At the end of each month they have on join Free Gender meeting with all their members. Their programmes focus on Communications, Activism and Internal Development.

Administrator and Secretary of Free Gender, Brenda Mtabata, was born during 1984 in Gugulethu, a Cape Town township. She is not married, identifies as lesbian, and joined Free Gender during 2009, during the trial of the perpetrators of the brutal gang rape and murder of Zoliswa Nkonyana, a 19 year old Khayelitsha lesbian. Most of the members of Free Gender knew Zoliswa personally and still grieve for her and the other countless Black lesbians heartlessly slaughtered by gangs of delinquent men in South African townships. Brenda says that her and Funeka “work together very closely.”

WHEAT Trust has supported Free Gender’s work through funding their public events, including a march in Khayelitsha during the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women Campaign. During February each year, in collaboration with other LGBTI organisations and allies, Free Gender hosts an event, Walk for Justice, which WHEAT sponsored during 2013. Their 5km Walk for Justice, which takes five hours to complete, highlights homophobia and hate crimes in their communities. They march to the local police station to hand over a memorandum, demanding that rapists be incarcerated. During the march they are confronted by homophobic members of the community, including taxi drivers, young men and Christian bigots, endangering marchers, and showing the raw courage of protestors and their allies. They march through the streets of Khayelitsha because three of their members were brutally attacked there recently. During the march members of the “community shouted that these lesbians, tomboys have to be killed in our area. It was important for us to leave a message that homophobia hurts and also that lesbians exist in our communities.”

Free Gender members feel that Cape Town Pride is more about having fun, than about community wellness. So Free Gender started Khumbulani Pride, to take Pride back to the township, to “raise more awareness in communities about gays and lesbians.” Free Gender collaborates closely with other organisations to sensitise people about gender-based violence and that violence specifically targeting lesbians are very much part of gender-based violence.

Despite the hideous violences that Free Gender members are confronted with daily, in their homes and their communities, they are often seen smiling and laughing at frequent social events, optimistic that some day they too will be able to be protected by South Africa’s inspiring Constitution, legislation and policies. As Nelson Mandela has said, after 27 years of imprisonment, “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another…” and “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Free Gender is working very hard to ensure that all South Africa’s residents may one day be free, safe and happy.

 

Visionary Volunteers – Nonkosazana (Nonki) Simakada – Masiphumelele Women’s Support Network

Story by Bernedette Muthien (info@engender.org.za, Mobile 083 345 0552, www.engender.org.zaOn behalf of WHEAT Trust.

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Masiphumelele Women’s Support Network was founded in Fish Hoek and Crossroads during 2011 and 2012 respectively, specifically to combat xenophobia and to foster better trust and relationships between locals and migrants. They work entirely with women on the critical issue of combating gender-based violence. Originally only a modest group of 11 women, they now boast 31 dedicated members in both communities.

They begin with women sharing stories of their lives at home, to build trust and create a sense of safety among deeply traumatised and culturally diverse women from different African countries, and gradually they progress to women’s human rights training. Co-founder Nonkosazana (Nonki) Simakada explains that “some women don’t know how to write their own names, don’t know their own rights as women or about violence.” Most of their members are from Zimbabwe, the Congo and Malawi. Masiphumelele members choose their areas of interest, from sewing to container gardening to computer skills and beadwork. They are starting a new jam-making project. Nonki asserts that “everyone can have an interest in something.”

Born in an Eastern Cape village in 1978, Nonki has three children, and is married to her high school sweetheart. She came to Cape Town in 2000 to seek employment. As she attests, “in the villages we grew up in, we used to work with the soil. Most of the time we used to get food from our hands. My dad taught me to garden when I was still a kid. After school Dad asked us to take care of our plots, one child per plot. He asked which type of veg we want to plant: tomatoes, potatoes, peas, onions, cabbage. Still now my garden is growing in the village.” A gifted gardener, Nonki studied agriculture in school.

Nonki dreams of starting a women’s gardening project in the Eastern Cape, where her father, mother and aunt each offer vacant land in their separate ancestral homes.

Back in Cape Town, Masiphumelele completed training in sewing, gardening and beadwork, with their computer skills and jam-making still to still follow. Their first three sewing graduates now train others in sewing. Virginia Tseka, born in the Eastern Cape during 1960, and Tata Kwalo, an elderly man, help with the beading. The gardening is managed by Nonki, Tata Kwalo and Virginia. They garden in containers that they salvage from dump sites – “old bathtubs, car tyres, old buckets.” They pay R30 per month to the provincial Department of Agriculture for 30 trays of seedlings and two 10kg bags of manure, while gardeners bring their own tools and wheelbarrows. They hope that the Department of Social Development will allocate them a grant to buy gardening tools. They distribute the garden produce to their members and the wider community. To sell the produce, they need more space, since they presently only garden in members’ cramped backyards. They are working on getting access to two school grounds to expand their gardening. Their sewing and beading is sold to the community, and they hope to have a stall at the Waterfront soon.

They work closely with the migrant and anti-xenophobia organisation, PASSOP, founded by youth activist Braam Hanekom. An unpaid volunteer at Masiphumelele, Nonki works as office manager at PASSOP, where she supports the gender-based violence project, run by a young woman, Percy, aka Susan, who was burnt in an acid attack two years before. Nonki is unapologetic about her work: “I concentrate on women only.”

Nonki has been undergoing training since 1993 as a sangoma or traditional healer, and Tata Kwalo Nozakuzaku Mfama born 1949 is also a sangoma. They belong to a group of sangomas doing community project called IBUYAMBO CULTURAL PROJECT engaged with development work in their communities, including a soup kitchen, counselling for HIV&AIDS, diabetes and other training courses. As Nonki says, “my gift from the ancestors is to help women and children.”

WHEAT Trust allocated R10,000 to Masiphumelele, with which they purchased their first sewing machines and material. As Nonki describes, “the funds went a long way in assisting us to achieve our goal of bringing women together, and enabling them to develop the capacity to challenge the daily issues that confront them in a patriarchal and xenophobic country. The funds injected both enthusiasm and a renewed zeal among the women and our intervention; it brought our initiative to life. We were also able to fund the transport of women to the sewing classes and meetings which had presented great difficulty before we received funding. It helped establish trust and confidence between our staff and participants and fostered group solidarity, creating women’s economic empowerment as they gained the necessary skills to create garments for their families and for profit. Overall, the funds helped to make our initiative a reality. We gained the tools, the means and the support necessary to implement our intervention and encourage local and migrant women to come together to discuss and learn about sewing, gender rights, and community spirit.”

Some of their members bring varied skills to the organisation, like Virginia, who is a trained nurse. Groote Schuur Hospital also offers certificated first aid training for the community in basic healthcare, greatly aiding them in their work. Rudo Chikara, born in Zimbabwe during 1988, is a skilled writer.

All members are unpaid volunteers, which sometimes creates immense challenges for the organisation, since some members struggle to work without any income. At the Fish Hoek branch the women sold the sewing products like aprons and shared the income among them, instead of re-investing at least part of the funds in the organisation. As Nonki says, “people were sick of working for no money, they have a problem with volunteering. Now they don’t have money. We needed to re-invest the products to make more products. If sales are good we can, for example, distribute food parcels to benefit everyone rather than only a small group of sewers. We try to get them to understand they must be patient, we’re still looking for money.” Nonki shares that they have few active members who “organise everything for the project. Others sit back because they don’t want to work all the time without pay.”

Nonki’s experiences are universal, from Crossroads to the Kalahari, where impoverished and under-skilled people need cash for transport, health care, food and other basic household necessities. In some communities members of groups even sell for cash the very gardening tools or livestock they have been granted to enable their own development, entirely due to desperation. People also struggle to maintain a longer term view while they are stuck in desperate circumstances. These are the very real challenges of working in impoverished communities, where satisfying an immediate urgent need supersedes the apparent luxury of planning for the future. The vast majority of community based organisations, staffed by volunteers, are confronted with these critical dilemmas.

At present Masiphumelele members work from their respective cramped and overcrowded homes, which makes group meetings difficult, and working together in the same space impossible. They would like to have an office, says Nonki, “where people can come to work and visit every day, where they can keep attendance registers, where they can get group support daily.”

With her feet firmly rooted in our African soil, Nonki does not “want to promise to people what we aren’t sure we can deliver, like creche’s. First we see what the community has and then we try to fill the gaps.”

Passionate about Children and the Community – Phakama’s Mabato Tileing

Story by Bernedette Muthien (info@engender.org.za, Mobile 083 345 0552, www.engender.org.zaOn behalf of WHEAT Trust.

 

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During 2000 Mabato Tileing and four other “concerned” women noticed the negative impact of HIV&AIDS in their community and together founded the community-based organisation, Phakama, based in KTC, a township created during Apartheid for Black people in Cape Town. During the 1980s KTC, then entirely a shantytown, was the centre of intense violence between progressive anti-Apartheid forces who were brutally attacked and even murdered by Apartheid government sponsored gangs, dubbed the Witdoeke due to their donning of white bandanas. This sprawling, impoverished community is still recovering from decades of inhumane Apartheid violence and underdevelopment.

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Despite some excellent HIV&AIDS interventions, the five co-founders of Phakama felt that HIV infections continued unabated, fuelled by widespread unemployment and poverty. “It’s the duty of every responsible citizen to fight HIV&AIDS”, Mabato asserts.

A year later Phakama launched their home-based care programme by training twelve young people through the provincial Department of Health. The graduates then interned as volunteers at local clinics, after which they were tasked with caring for home-bound patients, supervised by a professional nurse employed by Phakama.

Their programme with orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) started in 2005 when they observed the routine abandonment of children when their parents died or became incapacitated by HIV&AIDS. “We started working with eight orphans and three vulnerable children, but now it’s expanded to 33 orphans and 32 vulnerable children. We provide lifeskills through drama, music, dance, workshops and educational camps during school holidays,” says Mabato.

During 2008 Phakama’s work expanded to offering skills training to young women who are unemployed or victims of domestic violence. Phakama encourages the young women to become independent through providing training in sewing, gardening and beadwork. They also visit local community cooperatives to learn more about cooperative industries.

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The provincial Department of Social Development (DSD) requested partnership with Phakama during 2011, and started deploying Phakama’s experienced facilitators in schools, where Phakama now manages psycho-social support groups for primary school children, meeting weekly in each of the three schools.

Their educare programmes were launched a year later, focused on primary education for 15 children, aged one to five years, during week days. Creche fees are R150 per month. If parents cannot afford the fees, Phakama assists them for three months, during which time the parents are supported to apply for state child support grants.

Due to a severe lack of funding, Phakama relies on the Food Bank, which for R250 provides them with a large quantity of food, which they have to collect at the Epping depot, with transport costing them R450. Despite the costs of accessing this food, they manage to distribute monthly food parcels to ten young volunteers, while they cook the rest of the food for their orphans and vulnerable children who attend rehearsals at their Centre.

Mabato asserts that Phakama is gifted with “passion, dedication, experience and having a large venue” for their offices. “Our weak points are lack of funding and a lack of accredited skills” because their immense experience is often not accredited. The Phakama Centre is a brick building with nine rooms, “including toilets”, which they have rented from a local church since 2001. “It’s not in a good condition,” describes Mabato. “The roof leaks when it rains; the roof even blows off during heavy rains, and once we even lost important archives” during these typical Cape winter storms. At one time the provincial Department of Social Development provided Mabato with a stipend, which she used to repair the Centre and cover the costs of the rent and other expenses. “When the DSD cut our funding I could no longer afford the increased rent and expenses.” The Phakama Centre in KTC also houses an independent HIV&AIDS adherence club, as well as the library of the Mzantsi youth project, both rent-free.

WHEAT granted Phakama R5,000 to conduct activities during the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women Campaign. Phakama offered workshop on crime prevention for the youth, as well as hosted a community dialogue, attended by stakeholders such as the DSD.

Mabato notes that Phakama “discovered that the police lose the dockets of domestic violence and rape complaints,” and now “we hold the local police accountable. When we refer clients to the DSD, these clients complain of not being helped and then we hold the DSD accountable to the community.” Clients also complain of breaches in confidentiality at HIV&AIDS clinics, and so Phakama also educates clinic staff to change their practices to protect clients’ confidentiality. As Mabato puts it, “We work hand in hand with these clinics to enhance clients’ experiences.”

Born in 1960 in Nyanga East, Mabato has three biological and five foster children. She describes her former husband, who abandoned her due to her “calling. He said my work is too much for him, because at that time I didn’t have any money and he used to help me with his wages. This was when we started the OVC programme. I used my husband’s money to cook for the children, and so he left me in 2005. I’ve been on my own, with my children and my work, ever since.”

Mabato’s second-born daughter, Babalwa, was diagnosed with HIV during 2005, while studying Human Resource Management at the Cape Technicon, and died during 2011, aged 26. “She left me with a beautiful gift, a very cute boy who is now three years old, named Sipho.” Babalwa managed Phakama’s OVC programme and “worked very, very hard,” says Mabato. “She was a huge source of support. She set up the administrative systems in our Centre, and became a very outspoken HIV activist, even travelling to neighbouring countries for HIV&AIDS meetings.” Mabato declares that she is “passionate about working with children and the community.” As we say on the Cape Flats, daughter Babalwa’s apple did not fall far from mother Mabato’s tree.

 

Vision and Energy Inspires – We are All Created Perfect

TruImage – Veronique and Bernadine

“When you educate a woman, you change a nation” – Malcolm X

Story by Bernedette Muthien (info@engender.org.za, Mobile 083 345 0552, www.engender.org.zaOn behalf of WHEAT Trust.

TruImage co-founder, Veronique Ellers-Zoutman, and youth volunteer, Bernadine Botha, inspire goosebumps with their vision, their selflessness and their bounteous energy.

Founded during 2008, and registered as an NGO during 2010, TruImage creates a space for young women to develop socially, personally and spiritually, so that they can render service to their immediate environment and community. They do this through structured training, continuous evaluation as well as strategic and compassionate community interventions. TruImage teaches young women that they are created perfectly, that they should love themselves as perfect and embrace their true image of perfection. This is the underlying message of all their work, from combating gender-based violence to providing empowerment and general support. “It starts with self-love, without which others cannot love you”, asserts Veronique.

They work in the economically marginalised areas of the northern suburbs of Cape Town, including the informal settlement of Green Park, farms around Eerste River, Klein Jacobsdal, Firgrove and Macassar, as well as deprived communities in Belhar, Delft and Kalkfontein.

 

Veronique, born in 1981, is a trained accountant whose church sent her to do volunteer work for several months in a refugee camp in Belgium, after which she felt “a calling” to do community work, and promptly resigned her day job as a bookkeeper in a private company. While doing volunteer community work she met WHEAT, who supported her with registering TruImage, and also sponsored her to complete a professional course in NPO Management at Stellenbosch University’s Business School. Veronique is married to a financial manager who takes care of their domestic expenses, to free her to engage with her community work without the usual stresses of sustained personal income. They have two young boys and foster a baby girl. As Veronique says, “they’re all community children. I have a very supportive husband. I couldn’t do what I do without him. It’s important to have support systems in place to successfully do this sort of selfless community work. It’s not a paying job, it’s not about bringing money into the household, but it’s the most rewarding job one could have.”

 

Bernadine Botha, born 1987, started volunteering with Veronique when she was in high school. The first words Veronique said to her were, “you are warming my place”, which showed that Veronique was deeply committed to building capacity and aware that all leadership positions are only temporary, to be filled by generations as they grow and mature. Bernadine honours Veronique’s mentoring: “She inspired me to have dreams, to look forward to things. I fell in love with TruImage, the heart of the volunteer. Hearing TruImage’s story gives me gooseflesh each time even if I’ve heard the story a hundred times.”

 

TruImage offers empowerment workshops with young girls, aged 14 to 18 years. They focus on combating gender-based violence, offer support groups for young girls struggling with teenage pregnancy, and facilitate quarterly lifeskills camps. WHEAT funds their work in general, especially their empowerment work and training workshops on gender-based violence.

 

As the only registered organisation working in Green Park, TruImage is tasked with fulfilling most of the community’s needs. For Veronique, Green Park is “a very multicultural community, a little village. They even have a Khoe chief with uncles and aunties serving on committees for the benefit of the community”. Over the past two years TruImage took over the defunct Educare Centre, where community women, “aunties”, care for the children of teenage girls. This enables the young girls to return to school. Since TruImage at times embody ‘tough love’, the inspire the girls to attain a minimum 60% pass rate in order to maintain their childcare fees at R50 per month. Teens even do their homework in the centre. Five “aunties” – the principle and four teachers – completed certified Early Childhood development training at a local college, and manage the crèche. “It’s a community-run educare centre,” asserts Veronique.

 

They also manage a feeding scheme or soup kitchen on Tuesdays, which feeds between 60 and 100 children. In their skills development container, community women do sewing, beading and crochet, and teach young girls who are not at school. They create a platform where “gogos” or “aunties” can talk with community girls and teach different skills, a space for conversation and support.

 

In other areas they facilitate regular short workshops with a range of topics, including gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy, as well as counselling on HIV&AIDS. With their quarterly camps we bring all the neighbourhoods together so the girls can see that there is more that binds them than what separate them. As Veronique puts it, “it’s not about where you come from, but what connects.”

 

They go into communities that are very disadvantaged and have high crime rates. As they put it,“We do a needs assessment with the community, going door to door. We link especially with lifeskills teachers at schools the neighbourhoods. We custom make interventions for specific areas.” Delft and Belhar suffer high crime rates, compounded by tik and other drug-related crimes. On the farms they see more teen pregnancy and school dropouts, as well as numerous child-headed households. In the Green Park informal settlement there is no electricity, which is very challenging for the community regarding high crime, and for TruImage since they have to prepare everything like printing in advance of workshops, even as they are fundraising for a generator to improve their interventions. They are also starting community gardens, since most of the residents are unemployed and can live off the produce. They deal with extremely high levels of gender-based violence, especially rape and domestic violence, exacerbated by poverty, unemployment and substance abuse.

 

They speak of their communities as “gebroke, broken, broken by poverty. There is a great need for intervention in our communities, not just from government and politicians, but interventions from within. There’s a need for communities to care for each other, not just financially. But a real care – who is my neighbour, what is happening. If a husband lifts his hand to his wife I would phone the police. Communities should heal themselves through these types of interventions.”

 

With their camps for girls they realised that girls return to abusive relationships and continue to place themselves in danger, including with “sugar daddies”, having unsafe sex, and teenage pregnancies. So they started two trial camps last year with about thirty boys from different communities. Veronique says they “can’t just work with women only, but need to transform boys as well.”

 

They also work with mothers to educate their sons on how to treat women, how to speak with women. As they put it, “our mothers are our greatest educators. If we can improve the mother-son relationship, it would have a bigger impact, to start from a young age.” They run boys-only camps that they would like to have each quarter, as they do with girls. Although they are increasingly including boys in their strategic work, they are firm about the fact that their “primary focus remains girl and women empowerment.”

 

To enhance their work with young girls and boys, TruImage would like to establish a dedicated youth centre. As they put it, “we want to create a home for young girls where they can be educated on different levels and be of service in their communities, and give back, pay forward. We want them to know they can come to TruImage for that home, that haven. While we can’t see to all their needs, we can refer them to other service providers for help. We want them to know they’re not alone in this fight.”

 

TruImage won the Wheat Success Award at Artscape’s annual Women’s Festival during 2011.

The Long Journeys Home / Home is Where the Heart Is

Videfi – Mulasi Jacqueline Charles, Coordinator & Ebalo Heri, Project Coordinator

Story by Bernedette Muthien (info@engender.org.za, Mobile 083 345 0552, www.engender.org.zaOn behalf of WHEAT Trust.

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Founded during 2008, Videfi is a French acronym for Vision for the Development of Women from the region of Fizi in the Eastern DRC. Their main activities are to empower women and girls by providing them with the necessary skills that will help them to forge their future. Sustainability is a key component of their work. A women-led non-profit organisation staffed entirely by volunteers, they have six female and three male members. With their main office in Bellville, and two smaller branches in Kraaifontein and Strand, Videfi offers the most vulnerable women and girls entrepreneurship skills, especially in sewing and hairstyling. They also raise awareness on gender-based violence and understanding different forms of violence that affect women and girls daily, as well as human rights and intersectional issues such as HIV&AIDS an reproductive health and rights, through seminars and workshops aimed to cultivate the minds of their community members, both migrants from different African countries and local South Africans. They work to break down women’s “yoke of dependency”, as they put it, to become economically independent of men, capacitating women to access information through networking and training in computer skills, as well as providing women with financial support to attend short professional courses that benefit them individually as well as their communities at large.

 

The inspiration behind the organisation is the Francophone Mulasi Jacqueline Charles, called Jacqueline, born in 1984, who is married to a compatriot, with whom she has a son and a daughter. An introvert who struggles with English, Jacqueline is the vision behind the organisation’s entrepreneurial initiatives. She is closely supported by the multilingual trained hairstylist, Ebalo Heri, called Heri, born in 1974, who failed to complete the final year of his degree in Women & Gender Studies at the University of the Western Cape due to a lack of funding. Heri came to South Africa in 2003 after a long and arduous journey, inspired by his selfless and hardworking mother, oppressed by a polygamous father, determined to break the yokes of cultural discrimination and violence against women. Heri is a walking example of a new masculinity that respects women and understands cultures as dynamic and subject to change, especially to protect society’s members, and women in particular. The inspiring Videfi co-founders, all migrants from Francophone and Lusophone countries outside South Africa, each attesting to gruelling and dangerous journeys to Cape Town, are not shy to proclaim women’s rights to economic and emotional independence, especially in context of traditional, cultural, patriarchal male control over women.

 

During 2012 WHEAT Trust purchased Videfi’s first sewing machine, banner, and projector for seminars. Videfi then consulted with school principals and Videfi trainees made 87 school shirts and blouses for underprivileged school children. As Videfi puts it, “unskilled and unemployed women are more at risk to be violated by gender-based violence, so let us skill unskilled women to empower them and make them financially independent of men. With newfound skills graduates can become entrepreneurs or be employed permanently.” Already they have 45 women sewing graduates, with 20 machinists working in different shops, 17 self-employed with their own sewing machines in their homes, and only eight still unemployed.

 

While training in hair styling was Videfi’s first project, many trainees drop out since they are unable to fund the expensive equipment and hair products needed to establish hair salons. The hair styling and sewing projects were originally identified by their own members.

 

Videfi would like to capacitate women in leadership, computer literacy skills, and English literacy. Ever the entrepreneurs, they offer that “once their English classes open, we can offer French and Portuguese lessons to others for fees and to foster intercultural dialogue.”

 

One of Videfi’s shining success stories is of a very mathematically talented young volunteer, whose financial accounting course fees Videfi pays, with the aim of her managing Videfi’s accounting after spending vacations on internships in other more established organisations like WHEAT. Having attended WHEAT’s writing skills workshop, Videfi is also cultivating her to become their spokesperson, especially since Jacqueline prefers hands-on work to public speaking.

 

Most of Videfi’s members come from different African countries and from “disadvantaged, poor households”, where they say “the ways women are treated is systematic torture, often without the women knowing it. It made us challenge our culture, about how we’re raised. If culture doesn’t accommodate human beings’, and women’s, rights, what is the use of the culture?! If culture harms my own mother, my own sister, why do I practice that culture?! The family is an institution that oppresses women. This must change, and it must change now.”

 

In their spirited, trailblazing ways Videfi is even conceptualising a support project for migrant LGBTI people, since they believe the struggles of women, LGBTI people and other marginalised sectors are inextricably interdependent. As Nelson Mandela said on his release from prison in 1990, “I cannot be free while others are oppressed.” Videfi members’ epic journeys to eventually find a safer home in Cape Town shows their courage and inspire us all to realise that home is, after all, where the heart is.