En­cour­ag­ing Strength in Women

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Contents - Text: Kelly Easton Im­ages © Khula De­vel­op­ment Group

Na­tional Woman’s Day is marked on 9 Au­gust in South Africa, com­mem­o­rat­ing the Women’s March of 1956 and cel­e­brat­ing the strength and courage of women.

Sadly, even 61 years after over 20,000 women fought for their rights, women in this coun­try still face sig­nif­i­cant is­sues, one of them be­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. De­ter­mined to fight this harsh truth is the Khula De­vel­op­ment Group, a com­mu­nity based or­gan­i­sa­tion em­pow­er­ing women in the Paarl East area of the Western Cape.

Since 2003, the aim of this group is to pro­vide women with pow­er­ful tools and the knowl­edge in or­der to be­come in­de­pen­dent, strong women that stand up to their abusers. Some­one who has seen women abuse from all an­gles is so­cial worker, Daleen Labuschagne (D.L), the CEO of the Khula De­vel­op­ment Group. She spoke to PREMIER about how women are able to over­come strug­gle and stand up for them­selves.

PREMIER: What do you believe holds women back from tak­ing con­trol of their lives?

D.L: I believe the big­gest rea­son why women do not take con­trol of their lives is be­cause of fear. Fear of any­thing within their cir­cum­stances; it may be fear of abuse, lone­li­ness, lack of money, in­de­pen­dence. They often do not re­alise their value and strength, and then be­come de­pen­dent on other peo­ple.

PREMIER: What is one of the hard­est parts about deal­ing with women that have been abused?

D.L: The big­gest part about deal­ing with abused women is the feel­ing of help­less­ness. If you can­not do any­thing to bet­ter their cir­cum­stances, know­ing that they will go back to their houses and still live with the strug­gles of abuse.

PREMIER: What is the strat­egy of your or­gan­i­sa­tion around em­pow­er­ing women and how are women taught to main­tain that life skill after go­ing out on their own?

D.L: We as an or­gan­i­sa­tion believe in the won­der­ful gifts and skills of women. We em­power and equip our field­work­ers to be­come pil­lars of strength in their com­mu­ni­ties. We build ca­pac­ity around them and send them out as lead­ers that are con­fi­dent and pos­i­tive. We have a per­for­mance and de­vel­op­ment pol­icy that fo­cuses on their char­ac­ter, call­ing, chem­istry, and then com­pe­tence. We help the em­ployee to re­flect on their own de­vel­op­ment needs; all of this is done in recog­ni­tion of their own per­sonal cir­cum­stances and they should ask them­selves: What am I good at? What do I need to work on? What could help me along? What might stop me?

PREMIER: Are there any sto­ries you have come across that re­ally changed how you view the issue of vi­o­lence against women?

D.L: In all my years work­ing within this or­gan­i­sa­tion, I am just aware of how many women live in emo­tional abu­sive cir­cum­stances. Within the com­mu­ni­ties that we work, a lot of women are still seen as in­fe­rior and are de­pen­dent on their hus­bands for re­ceiv­ing any form of money. They do not have money to spend on them­selves, and must al­most beg just to buy un­der­wear. We as a so­ci­ety only see phys­i­cal abuse and act upon it. There are a lot of women without any phys­i­cal wounds, but with a lot of emo­tional and spir­i­tual wounds. I believe it is time that we also act upon that.

PREMIER: What are three steps com­mu­ni­ties can take to em­power women?

D.L: As a com­mu­nity, we can help them re­alise their own potential through tes­ti­monies of suc­cess­ful women. We can en­cour­age the im­por­tance of com­plet­ing ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and the need for fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion. And we can pub­licly recog­nise and stand against emo­tional abuse.

PREMIER: What would you tell women who are un­able to over­come their own strug­gles?

D.L: I would love to say to them to look in the mir­ror and see a won­der­ful per­son, one with a pur­pose, in front of them. I would tell them to think back to their dreams as young girls and iden­tify when those dreams were shat­tered, so that they can for­give the peo­ple re­spon­si­ble for shat­ter­ing their dreams. Lastly, to start dream­ing again; iden­tify pos­si­ble ways to reach the dreams and then put on their shoes and go into the world with con­fi­dence.

While women have made in­cred­i­ble strides since the Women’s March of 1956, there are still sig­nif­i­cant is­sues that far too many women deal with – even in their own homes. Hope­fully, with peo­ple like Labuschagne and the Khula De­vel­op­ment Group, along with com­mu­ni­ties stand­ing up against abuse, these is­sues will be­come a dis­tant mem­ory.

For more info on the Khula De­vel­op­ment Group, visit www.khu­ladg.co.za.

Daleen Labuschagne, the CEO of the Khula De­vel­op­ment Group

The Khula De­vel­op­ment Group team

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