Cape Argus - - WEATHER & NEWS - Ru­sana Phi­lan­der

AF­TER years of phys­i­cal emotional abuse, the di­rec­tor of one of the first or­gan­i­sa­tions that deal with vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren in the town­ships ended her mar­riage. To­day she helps oth­ers in the same sit­u­a­tion.

The di­rec­tor and founder of Ilitha La­bantu in Gugulethu, Man­disa Mon­akali, 57, said she was a sur­vivor of phys­i­cal and emotional abuse. But it took courage to free her­self and her chil­dren from an abu­sive sit­u­a­tion.

“Many women, and par­tic­u­larly young women to­day, find them­selves un­able to es­cape toxic and abu­sive re­la­tion­ships.

“Of­ten it leads to dire con­se­quences; as you know South Africa has one of the high­est femi­cide rates in the world.

“This is why as a sur­vivor my­self I have com­mit­ted my­self to­wards the em­pow­er­ment of women and girls. I started Ilitha La­bantu 28 years ago, af­ter it be­came clear the prob­lem of vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren rep­re­sented a crit­i­cal ob­sta­cle to devel­op­ment in town­ship com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

She added that at the time there were no or­gan­i­sa­tions of­fer­ing spe­cialised so­cial ser­vices in town­ships of the greater Cape re­gion. Women who were vic­tims and sur­vivors of abuse had to travel far to re­ceive help.

“There were only such or­gan­i­sa­tions in the cen­tre of Cape Town. At these or­gan­i­sa­tions they were of­ten con­fronted with com­pound­ing chal­lenges, in­clud­ing a lan­guage bar­rier, and as a re­sult this left many women in the town­ships feel­ing a great sense of hope­less­ness,” she said.

Mon­akali said she was deeply sad­dened that the coun­try’s jus­tice sys­tem con­tin­ued to fail women.

“Far too of­ten the per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lence are given light sen­tences, and as a re­sult these of­fend­ers go out in so­ci­ety and re­peat the very same or sim­i­lar of­fences, this is an end­less cy­cle where jus­tice is not served.

“But cer­tain sec­tors of our so­ci­ety choose to re­main silent. In light of the grue­some acts of vi­o­lence and abuse of our women, ad­dress­ing this scourge is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of us all – no one is ex­empt from tak­ing ac­tion.

“We also call upon men to pay a greater role to­wards erad­i­cat­ing vi­o­lence against women. Mov­ing for­ward we urge men to take ac­tion as it is not the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of women, be­cause women are not abus­ing them­selves.

“There needs to be a greater sense of ur­gency to­wards ad­dress­ing vi­o­lence against women and chil­dren; vi­o­lence per­pe­trated on women and chil­dren oc­curs 365 days of the year,” she said.

Ilitha La­bantu pro­vides coun­selling, and the train­ing of youth and ad­vo­cacy to pro­tect the rights of women and chil­dren. Since its in­cep­tion the or­gan­i­sa­tion has par­tic­i­pated in var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional plat­forms in­clud­ing the Bei­jing Plat­form for Ac­tion, the World Sum­mit on Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment 2002 and con­tin­ues to form part of the UN Com­mis­sion on the Sta­tus of Women.

HELP­ING OTH­ERS: Man­disa Mon­akali

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