Women strike a blow for their communities

2016-09-04 13:20
Rose Kweba and Lebo Selialia from Boitumelo Community Organisation. Picture: Eugene Goddard/EG Media

Rose Kweba and Lebo Selialia from Boitumelo Community Organisation. Picture: Eugene Goddard/EG Media

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The tremendous courage of caring women, many of them abused, yet unbuckled by past and present setbacks, characterised the Ukhamba Giving Event that was held by the Southern Africa Trust in Observatory, Johannesburg, last weekend.

Now in its third year, Ukhamba coincided not only with Women’s Month, but also, and almost to the day, with the 60th anniversary of the historic march to the Union Buildings by thousands of women protesting against pass laws on August 9 1956.

That same spirit of resilience and resourcefulness, of Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo (You strike a woman, you strike a rock) was on display at Saturday’s fundraiser, where a packed hall of benefactors pledged R83 850 to four community-care ventures.

This year’s Ukhamba event featured Bethany Home, Boitumelo Community Organisation, Gender Links and Let Us Grow.

During the separate presentations by each of the projects, the urgency of aid, particularly financial, was made poignantly clear.

Bethany, for example, has become a haven of succour in a sea of despair, drugs and domestic abuse.

Situated in Bertrams, Johannesburg, it can accommodate up to 53 people and its main goal, says housemother Rebecca Johnson, is to “rehabilitate abused women and children through counselling and skills training”.

In addition to finding accommodation and employment for the people who knock on their door, they also provide regular feeding and it is in this department – sustaining and expending its vegetable patch – that the most pressing need is felt.

Boitumelo from Sebokeng contributes in large measure to feeding and clothing orphans, and helping them with their schoolwork.

They serve about 50 child-run households, more than 200 orphans between the ages of 15 and 18, and another 300 or more orphans who are younger than 14.

Regular visits are made to schools in the area to talk about the perils of teenage pregnancy and a lot more could probably be done, if they had more access to transport. Currently, they have access to transport one day per week.

According to Boitumelo’s project manager, Rose Kweba, 817 chronic patients rely on them for transport for medical assistance to clinics.

The need for wheelchairs and sewing machines has left the organisation vastly overburdened.

The Trust’s Programme Administrator, Silvia de Sousa, explained that Ukhamba is a social giving platform which falls under one of the Trust’s key initiatives, Change4ever campaign, and that it serves as a “platform for community organisations to impress upon potential donors the importance of giving towards poverty alleviation projects”.

Boitumelo’s staff, like many of the other care providers, receive no remuneration for their services.

And although registered with the social development department, Boitumelo is yet to see any government funding.

The most it has received through an outreach project was R85 000 raised through community station Thatha FM.

The founder of Let Us Grow is one of many unbowed women whose story speaks of courage and character in the face of abject adversity.

Raped by her father’s friend when she was nine, raped by four school boys when she was 19, and gang-raped by seven men when she was 39, she survived HIV – contracted from one of her assailants – and formed an organisation that is doing phenomenal work in Orange Farm.

Her family turned against her, telling her that rape is a cultural thing, a man’s right, especially when he’s an elder.

It is in creating awareness of the work that small community-care organisations do, that Ukhamba fulfils perhaps the most important role.

Scientist Dr Sharanjeet Shan said during a speech at Saturday’s fundraiser that the first step a woman must take to liberate herself is to break with culture.

It’s such shared experiences that recall the collective spirit of the women who marched in 1956.

“All these women have been through hell,” Ann Hilton of Gender Links told City Press.

“And yet here they are, giving their all to helping others.”

This article forms part of the How To Spread It series, in which City Press and the Southern Africa Trust profile African philanthropy.

Read more on:    gender links

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