Bobbi Bear: carrying the torch for 20 years

2014-09-29 00:00

OPERATION Bobbi Bear founder, Jackie Branfield, is preparing to hand over the torch after 20 years of fighting for children’s rights.

She admitted that at 63 she does not have the same energy that she had when she first started the organisation.

The Zimbabwean-born activist founded Operation Bobbi Bear under a tree in Illovo in 1994.

The children’s rights organisation is based in Amanzimtoti, KwaZulu-Natal.

Branfield said: “My dream for Bobbi Bear is for it to become a qualified training entity. I want it to secure enough funding so that we can become a national and international organisation.”

She said although the organisation had enjoyed a successful 20 years, there was more to be done.

“The more you do the more you realise there is still a lot of work to be done because society is always changing,” she said.

The mother of six said she was concerned about the youth. “I believe that today’s generation of young people are going to hell in a hand basket. Children are giving birth to children hoping that they will be loved,” said Branfield.

She said she could not speak about the organisation’s success without recalling her painful childhood in Zimbabwe.

“My father’s best friend raped me when I was 11. I was raped again at the age of 12 and 14, but I did not tell anyone,” she said.

Coming from a poor family meant that she had to become independent at a young age.

She dropped out of school at the age of 14 because she suffered from dyslexia and dyscalculia — severe learning disabilities.

Her mother worked two shifts at a bar just to provide a meal for her and her two brothers.

She said, “While my mother was at work, it was the black women in the flats who raised us and fed us because we were starving. And despite their love and protection, I was still raped several times.

“In those days it was one thing to be black and poor, but to be white and poor in a white colonial country, was something else.”

Branfield met the love of her life, Allan, at the age of 18 and the pair married when she was 19 years old. They moved to South Africa in the early ’90s and she started the organisation. “I always wonder why I didn’t speak out,” said Branfield.


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