Ikhaya Lethemba a symbol of hope for abused women
GLADYS Modise is only 22 years old but has gone through a lot in her young life.
She was orphaned at 16, kicked out of her family home, forced to move in with her boyfriend who then physically abused her, forced to move out of his home when she could not take his beatings any more, ended up on the streets, went back to him when she found out she was pregnant but the abuse continued despite the fact that she was carrying his child.
Thanks to the police who took her to Ikhaya Lethemba, a centre that caters for abused women, Modise has put the days of abuse behind her and is thriving.
Not only did she complete her matric obtaining five As and two Bs while pregnant, but Modise is also studying towards her Bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Johannesburg.
“I want to become the best educator I can be and provide a better life for my son,” she said.
Modise said everything started after she lost her parents in 2011. Her father’s family then started fighting for the ownership of the house. She said they claimed she was not related to them, kicked her out of the house and said she must go and search for her biological father. This was despite the fact that she was only 16 and in Grade 10. She moved in with her boyfriend as she had nowhere to go. However, instead of her boyfriend giving her love and warmth, she said she was beaten up every day.
“I would have to go to school with bruises on my face and I would lie and say I got into fights with other girls,” said Modise.
She said her school teachers were not aware that she was no longer living under guardianship and had moved in with her boyfriend hence she had to cover up for him whenever she had bruises.
Modise said that she tried numerous times to get out of the relationship, seeking help from her mother’s side of the family but received none.
When help was not forthcoming, she moved out and would squat at a friend’s house or sleep under different bridges while attending school.
Later, Modise found out she was pregnant and said she had no other choice but to go back to her abusive boyfriend, to seek shelter for her and her unborn baby.
As she was in matric and wanted to complete her studies, Modise said she had to hide her pregnancy from her teachers as she feared she would be expelled.
The abuse got worse despite the fact that she was pregnant, Modise said.
The beating got so bad at one point that her cries and screams attracted the attention of her neighbours who rescued her and took her to the police station to lay charges against her boyfriend.
One of the police officers then took her to Ikhaya Lethemba Centre where she received counselling.
“The breakthrough came when I met one of the house mothers who deals with spiritual counselling… I started having hope again,” she said.
While at the centre, Modise passed her matric with flying colours. The centre also helped her apply to UJ where she was accepted.
While Modise’s boyfriend was never prosecuted for abusing her, he stays with their 3-year-old son while Modise stays at UJ student residence.
Merita Ground, director of Ikhaya Lethemba, said Modise was one of the youngest women at the time and she had to learn during her adolescent years to fend for herself.
“What is admirable though, is that living with her family (that really did not want her), random friends and on the streets, she stayed true to her worth and ideals,” said Ground.
She added that Modise’s story inspired many young girls, professional women and single mothers who suffered abuse.
Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane said she opened the one-stop centre while she was still a councillor in 2000, long before she became an MEC.
Nkosi-Malobane said that her friend was raped and physically abused by her husband and when she tried to assist her, they would be sent from pillar to post.
“I decided to partner with national, provincial and civil society to build a home like Ikhaya Lethemba that would assist women who face genderbased violence,” said NkosiMalobane.
“We didn’t know at the time we would become the first stop centre in the country that’s able to cater for women the way we do, under one roof,” NkosiMalobane said.
Ikhaya Lethemba is a holistic psycho-social service centre that continues to play a paramount role in supporting victims of gender-based violence. The shelter accommodates 140 women and children.
What is admirable… she stayed true to her worth and ideals