Ikhaya Lethemba a sym­bol of hope for abused women

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MASABATA MKWANANZI masabata.mkwananzi@inl.co.za @Sa­bie_M

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

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