Encouraging Strength in Women
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