'I am no longer a victim but an overcomer' - GBV survivors on starting over through their small businesses

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  • Gender-based violence has been characterised as a pandemic in South Africa.
  • Corporate institutions such as JOKO, alongside People Opposing Women Abuse, are fighting GBV with their #EndDomesticSilence initiative.
  • Three women share how the initiative has helped them in running their own small businesses.


It is no secret that gender-based violence (GBV) is one of South Africa’s biggest social issues. In 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa even characterised GBV as a “second pandemic” after the coronavirus.

And while the government has promised to implement measures to fight this ‘pandemic’, corporate brands are starting initiatives to help survivors of GBV. The #EndDomesticSilence initiative being run by tea brand JOKO in partnership with People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) is giving abused women across South Africa a chance to learn a range of different skills and then sell their products and services.

Through this nationwide initiative that has been operating since the start of 2022, they are learning makeup application, wig-making, nail installation and eyelash extension, learning to drive and attaining sewing, baking, computer and HIV lay counselling skills.

READ MORE | Between abuse and hunger – food insecurity contributes to South Africa’s staggering GBV numbers

Beneficiaries of this programme are survivors who’ve received counselling at POWA offices and at various NGOs that POWA has partnered with through the #EndDomesticSilence initiative. These NGOs, all based in GBV hotspots, include Get Informed Youth Development Centre in Gauteng, Umtata Women’s Support Centre in the Eastern Cape, Banna Ba Kae in the North West Province, Schoemansdal Victims Support Centre in Mpumalanga, the Vee Van Heerden Foundation in the Free State and the Social Workers’ Empowerment Training and Support in KwaZulu-Natal, among others.

In addition to providing survivors supported by these organisations with skills, the partnership has also involved training them on numerous aspects of domestic violence so they can better respond to it and hosting Healing Days where GBV survivors share their experiences of abuse and how they triumphed over them.

“By being empowered to earn money, women are better able to support themselves and their children,” says Mpho Masilo, POWA’s projects and training manager.

“This way, they are more likely to end their silence and speak out about abuse - rather than stay in abusive relationships - because they are economically independent. They are also at reduced risk of being lured by fake employment opportunities that put them in danger,” she adds.

Three women share their stories:

*Mbali (32), Thembisa

“Before I started my business of doing nails, I wasn’t working, so I’m really grateful I’m now making some money to support myself and my child,” she says. “Perfecting my nail application skills is also helping to rebuild my self-esteem and hope in the future, which was damaged through the abuse I suffered from my ex-husband,” she says.

“He swore at me and said hurtful words to me. He dominated our conversations and wouldn’t let me have my own views and opinions. He sometimes slapped me, even when I was pregnant. I am really thankful for the counselling I received through the POWA Thembisa office and then the opportunity I got to learn various skills within the beauty industry,” *Mbali adds.  

Her heart has always been set on entrepreneurship rather than having a regular 9 to 5 job and she previously ran a business making ice cubes for a garage in her neighbourhood. She says engaging with this #EndDomesticSilence skills development programme has sparked her entrepreneurial passion and flair.

Photo: Supplied to TRUELOVE.

“I really enjoy what I do because I get to be creative with different colours and stickers,” she says.

“Running my own business means I have more time to do what I want because I’m not tied to a desk. I’m not controlled by anyone and can make and action my own decisions on how I want things to prosper. However, one challenge of being a business owner is making enough money to meet my own needs and then having enough to inject into the business,” she explains.

In striving to be as successful as possible, she is currently undergoing a business administration course.

“My dream is to eventually open my own salon,” she says.

READ MORE | Thabo Nonkenge on creating SOSS, an app created to fight GBV

*Khanyisa (26), Umtata

“My brother insulted and shouted at everyone in the house and he even beat my mother, which caused her to die from the stress,” *Khanyisa shares.

“Being around other women who had suffered GBV during the training strengthened me. I’m now selling beaded necklaces, bangles and watches to members of my community. I’m grateful for my new skill, which is the only skill I have. Before I started selling products, I wasn’t really working. I sometimes did people’s laundry and I’m grateful that I’m now busier than before. I really like mixing colours and being creative with my beadwork,” she says.

Photo: Supplied to TRUELOVE.

She lives with eight family members, who are survive with child support grants and the old age grant, so she’s happy to supplement the family income by selling her merchandise. She plans to extend her offerings by learning to sew beads onto clothes.

“I also want to train women in beadwork so I can employ them and expand my business,” she adds.     

*Not their real names

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