Eastern Cape women’s rights champion
GIVING VULNERABLE women the chance to improve their lives.
Dr Lesley Ann Foster has a passion for women’s rights and her legacy is measured in the positive feedback she receives from the people whose lives she has touched.
Earlier this year, Dr Forster – who founded Masimanyane Women’s Rights International – intervened in a case involving domestic worker Phumza Kadeni, whose baby girl was taken away from her by her employer. The case was made more complex because the employer is a magistrate who had bonded with the baby. When Kadeni took her baby back, she was arrested. To add to this a social worker had reportedly written a report saying that Kadeni’s shack was not suitable for a baby and the courts gave her daughter back to the employer.
“I was furious when I heard the story. Since when does being poor disqualify a woman from being a mother? I wrote to the magistrate, quoting international and domestic law and highlighting that it is in the best interests of the baby to be with her mother. I made a very strong case and the baby was returned home,” said Dr Foster. Dr Foster started Masimanyane in 1996, after working with street children for seven years and realising that it was often an unfavourable home environment that forced them to live on the streets. Masimanyane has a 10bed shelter in East London which provides a sanctuary for female victims of domestic violence and their children. “We provide temporary accommodation, meet basic needs and offer counselling and life skills programmes,” she said. Masimanyane is funded by the Department of Social Development and employs about 42 people. It also offers medical and legal services and 24-hour counselling.
Dr Lesley Ann Foster founded the Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre and is known as a champion for women's rights.