PICS | How an Eastern Cape organisation empowers women, educates men about gender based violence

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An NPO in the Eastern Cape is on a mission to teach women how to sew their own clothing and improve their economic opportunities.
An NPO in the Eastern Cape is on a mission to teach women how to sew their own clothing and improve their economic opportunities.
  • The Sakhe Family Care Development Centre is helping unemployed men find jobs.
  • The organisation is providing men access to much-needed skills to make them more employable.
  • The social development department commended the organisation for its work.

The Sakhe Family Care Development Centre, based in Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape, is on a mission to uplift families by providing much-needed training courses for wives, husbands and even their children.

The non-profit organisation's ultimate goal is to prevent gender-based violence (GBV) by providing life skills, driving lessons and computer courses to unemployed men and youth. It also teaches women sewing, so they can ultimately make their own clothing and possibly start their own businesses.

The founder of the organisation, Chris Buka, said it was shocking to see the increase in unemployed men, who were unable to provide for their families.

"In most family cases, we see it is mostly women who are providing for the family because the men are not able to find work. This makes the men feel weak and useless because they can't take care of their families," said Buka.

This, he added, was one of the major reasons why men resort to GBV.

The women are awarded certificates once they have completed their courses.
Woman showing off item of clothing she sewed
Some of the clothing items women at the NPO are able to make.
Supplied Supplied

The organisation said it targeted about 50 unemployed men per year, who then enroll in a 10-week life skills course programme, as well as a six-month programme provided by the Department of Public Works.

Buka said:

Once the men have completed the 10-week programme, they then enrol in the six-month work course, where they learn computer skills, which also provides them with a stipend. So, basically, the life skills lessons that they learn will then be used in the work programme that they undergo. This is to give them a sense of belonging and hope that they can do something with their lives.

"We teach the men and youths on behavioural change, masculinity, taking responsibility, discipline, and how to handle conflict and rejection in life. In most of the cases where women are murdered by their partners, it is young men who can't handle rejection once the woman ends the relationship, which then ultimately results in the woman's death."

According to Buka, once the programmes have ended, the men are able to find jobs and live happily. Some even move out of the province because there are more opportunities elsewhere.

"We do an evaluation check on every group who joins our organisation to see how they are doing and if they managed to find work. In most cases, the responses we receive are fantastic and one can hear in their voices the change in their lifestyle and how they approach situations going forth," Buka said.

"This makes us very happy and proud of the work we are doing for them. In some cases, their marriages have also improved drastically, which is always great news to hear."

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The organisation has teamed up with local pastors, businesses and the social development department.  

"It has been difficult trying to get men to join our programme as many of them are too proud and don't feel comfortable talking about these situations. This is where the local ministers and pastors in the area come in... because if they speak to the men and explain to them the purpose behind joining the programme, then some of them start taking an interest and start joining."

As part of their mandate, the organisation is looking to equip more women by providing advanced sewing classes and training on industrial sewing machines. It hopes to empower the women to create school uniforms, overalls and other products for local businesses.

"So many women in South Africa never had and don't have the opportunity to study, but they have a passionate desire to be trained," said facilitator Antoinette Ferrear.

Clothing items made by women at the Sakhe Family Care Development Centre.
Handmade women's bag sewn by locals
Bags are among some of the items women at the NPO have learned to make.
Supplied Supplied

In the Kouga area of the Eastern Cape, there were many women who yearn to receive training in some direction to make them economically active and independent.

"Consequently, we have identified a specific area of need: we aim to train as many women as possible in sewing and related skills, enabling them to produce a sellable product that can be marketed," said Ferrear.

"We have trained 25 women so far, but the need is tremendous. After first making the training available, our waiting list has grown. As more women see the success of those who have done the course, they also want to do the training. We have many women on our waiting list."

Ferrear said: 

I train the women to sew, and they have loved every minute of it, learning to produce their own clothing from scratch. We want to help women start their own businesses by learning the basics of sewing, so that they can either start making their own clothes and start selling them or alternatively start up their own local business.

Neliwa Mbekwa said she was "beyond thankful" for the work the organisation was doing to help them be successful in life.

"I did not know how to sew and how to design material, but now I can do it with my eyes closed and that makes me very happy and excited. Antoinette has made things easier for us to not be unemployed. Now I'm able to teach my children that there are opportunities and that they don't need to sit at home and do nothing," said Mbekwa.

Lena Abrahams said sewing was her passion and she "absolutely loves it".  

READ | Meet the Cape Flats mom steering kids away from gangs and towards food gardens

"When I started, I didn't know how to work the big sewing machine and how to work with special cutting scissors. Antoinette has so much patience because she taught us women, step-by-step, how to make the garments, such as skirts. It's been amazing learning to make my own clothing, for my family also," said Abrahams.

The social development department confirmed that it funded the organisation because of the "tremendous work".

"They provide direct gender-based violence services to poor communities and vulnerable individuals. They also play a critical role in supplementing a service where, perhaps, the department falls short," said Mzukisi Solani, a spokesperson for the department.

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