Gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) is a profound and widespread problem in South African communities, impacting on almost every aspect of life. GBVF (which disproportionately affects women and girls) is systemically and deeply entrenched in institutions, cultures and traditions in South Africa. Population-based surveys show very high levels of intimate partner violence (IPV) and non-partner sexual violence (SV) in particular, with IPV being the most common form of violence against women.
To address this challenge, the National Development Agency (NDA) granted funding to Umtata Women’s Support Centre (UWSC) to implement a Victim Empowerment Programme in King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality at O.R Tambo District within the villages of Baziya, Mpheko, Tabase, Ntshabeni, Msana and Bumbane.
The programme, led by UWSC, uses an approach called Masiphunge (Let’s Have a Cup of Tea) Women Empowerment Programme to specifically target women living in rural areas, and bring them together to share a cup of tea whilst discussing matters that affect their daily lives - through conversations, the women share their dreams, pains and achievements. Masiphunge Women Empowerment Programme (MWEP) provides a Safe Space for women to heal and encourage holistic wellness physically, spiritually and psychologically. As a result, the women who complete the programme are now Whistle Blowers of GBVF in their own communities.
UWSC is an Eastern Cape based organisation founded in 1999 that deals with Gender Based Violence, Women’s Human Rights, HIV/AIDS, Sexual Reproduction Health and Rights, and Human Trafficking in the area of O.R. Tambo district municipality. UWSC is brainchild of Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) that set up the Centre because of approaches from desperate women, police and media reports on crime especially on women, which also affects children.
The launch of the Masiphunge WEP brought together, within the affected area, beneficiaries of the programme, officials from various government departments and stakeholders including community leaders and traditional leaders led by Chief Thanduxolo Mtirara as well as the South African Police Services (SAPS); National Prosecuting Authority and Women Rights International amongst several others.
“Masiphunge WEP is a powerful instrument that is intended to heal women holistically – mentally, physically and economically by implementing NDP pillars 2, 3, 4 and 5 that focus on various intervention starting with prevention, through to justice, care and healing and finally the economic emancipation of women. We have seen significant changes and growth in all the women, particularly the women of Ntshabeni who have even mastered our last module that deals with forgiveness” says Mrs Kholiwe Nongauza, Social Worker and Programme Director at Umtata Women Support Centre.
Mrs Sinenjongo Makhanda (39) of Ntshabeni says, “We are so grateful for this programme – Masiphunge came to us and healed us in so many ways. We are better and stronger and are definitely healing – the scones we sell now after undergoing a baking course are our bread and butter.”
“It is through strategic partnerships and an effective capacity building programme that we are able to reach disadvantaged communities and contribute to critical causes such as GBFV. O.R Tambo district was lauded as a hot spot for GBFV, I believe serious work has been achieved through the Masiphunge EWP. It is a pleasure to come and observe the outcome of the programme today and we hope to do more in future,” says Mrs Nokulunga Skeyi, NDA Provincial Manager.
The Department of Social Development has pledged continued support of this type of programme and the expansion thereof to other villages in the district and beyond. Self-defense classes are also lauded to be one of the additional services that will be included within the programme going forward.
Communications Officer - National Development Agency