Cleo’s pet project goes global

2017-05-25 06:02
Some of the women who volunteered to pamper and do all the works for the female inmates at Polsmoor Correctional Facility.PHOTOS: BEAUTY BEHIND BARS

Some of the women who volunteered to pamper and do all the works for the female inmates at Polsmoor Correctional Facility.PHOTOS: BEAUTY BEHIND BARS

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As Veliswa Cleo Jacobs sat down pondering how to help women get out of the stifling relations they find themselves in, she could never have imagined that she would found a project that will end up with international connections.

And when her light bulb moment finally arrived, she came up with the concept of Beauty Behind Bars South Africa. That was in September 2016.

Jacobs,34, a native of Gugulethu who now lives in Maitland, said when all is considered, she now occupies a beautiful space in her young life because of the project.

For a start, Beauty Behind Bars does not only have to do with the physical barriers of a prisons. It is used a metaphor for all the barriers that hold women back and stunts their progress in society. It could be the home, the streets, the work place or anywhere where women experience hurdles because of who they are. They could also be in rehabilitation or mental institutions. Some of these women suffer illnesses which hold them back, but if they apply beauty to their situation, things always change for the better, she holds.

The mission is to make them feel wholesome again because she sees women as the flowers of society who battle against the thorns that bar them from progression.

“Indeed, they could be behind bars, having made mistakes, but they need the confidence to move forward once they are out of the prison gates.”

She said she had recognised the need to do so because once they are out from behind bars, they find themselves in the same situation as they were before they went in.

“Society rejects them, some just cease to exist as they soon become forgotten and find it difficult to rebuild their status,” she offers.

Earlier this month, Jacobs and hundreds of her volunteers, some of whom are university students, visited the female section of the Polsmoor Correctional facility, where they pampered, manicured, pedicured and applied make-up to hundreds of female inmates, with the message that: You are still beautiful even if you are behind bars.

“If they look good, they will also feel good about themselves and great things will happen to them. The bars should not limit their potential. That is our primary message to them,” she said.

She said part of the long term strategy was also to equip them with beauty skills, so they are not found wanting once they are released from behind bars.

“Some will apply the skills whilst there, so they can earn a living while serving their prison sentences.”

She says they have noted that most former inmates are just released into society without adequate preparation for what awaits them outside the prison bars.

“We have plans for a halfway house where they can be counselled, develop their skills and look for job placements for them,”.

The Valkenberg Mental Hospital and the Brooklyn Chest Hospital is in their sights for future endeavours.

Jacobs and her volunteers have also visited old ages homes as part of their outreach programme.

“We have visited senior citizen inmates in old age homes, as we believe the frail, bedridden grannies also need to be made to feel beautiful. To some we have held music concerts to make them feel not neglected by society.”

According to her, beauty is a thread that connects all women and they should be pampered and shown appreciation by those who claim to care for them.

She says although she is excited about the prospects of growth for her organisation, nothing could have prepared her for an invitation from Beauty Behind Bars USA, an organisation founded on the same principles, albeit oceans apart.

Tiffany Love Harden is her counterpart in America, and the two have hit it off like long lost sisters.

As a result, the two organisations will host an International Women’s Conference in Cape Town in may 2016.

“We have turned purpose into a vision for the future... From the death row of suffering to a future full of blessings.”


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