By Quentan Marule (25th February 2021)
Sekwanele is an isiXhosa word meaning “its enough”. It has a profound meaning for women in our country. Women who have been voiceless for far too long, those whose vulnerability has left them with enough trauma to last a lifetime. Abusers have been oppressing women for way too long. They strike everywhere, anytime to anyone. They attack babies, sisters, mothers and grandmothers. They then shift the blame to women, saying it’s how we dress that triggers their sick intentions. Fear creeps up on any woman when they see a man approaching.
Our society still encourages the toxic dominance that men have towards women. Men have been given the entitlement to a woman’s body by our own culture. Women have been taught that it is natural to submit to a man. These kinds of norms leave women at a disadvantage because once violence starts, they often have no where to run. The only thing to do is to submit, carry the bag of trauma and continue. “A woman should be strong, she should endure”, it’s what they say. Our community is turning a blind eye to gender based violence.
The RDP area is situated in Acornhoek which is a densely populated area where many homes are child headed and where some are dysfunctional because of abuse. Alcohol is the main trigger of abuse and violence in this area. Most women are financially dependent on their partners which tends to be a disadvantage for them because when they are abused they tend to feel like if they report they might lose their only source of income. This project, Sekwanele, aims to help women retrieve their self confidence, realise the worth they have. We want to offer women the right tools to help defend themselves from these vultures. We saw that self defence classes were essential to have in this community. We want to change the norm in our community by uplifting amazing women by introducing them to the right people to help them deal with their trauma. We want to give them a platform to speak amongst each other.
We want to give them a ray of hope that will help them enhance their capabilities. OWN YOUR CROWN: this metaphor is really making its way to these ladies. They are starting to release the toxicity of their own trauma. They are slowly taking back their power one step at a time, slowly picking up the broken pieces that were left by their perpetrators. Women shouldn’t have to endure abuse and pain all in the name being imbokoto (strong women/heroines). A women should never have to feel like she is making a wrong decision by leaving, they should never be crucified just because they spoke out. Yes we are imbokoto but our fragility should be embraced. Power should not be one sided; it’s high time women take back their thrones.
Women should never feel afraid to report abuse. They should know that they have a strong force of support from fellow women. We got twenty women to participate in the project and we want to achieve greatness through them. We want these women to be the epitome of greatness. They should be the perfect example to other females out there.
Our first presentation about our project to NGO Women’s Development Bank was more of an accelerant for us, because we saw that this kind of campaign is greatly needed. We got positive remarks on who to approach and how this will greatly impact on our society and its traditions .
On the 28th of October 2020 the meeting took place together with inspirational director Carol Manana who showed interest in what we are doing and encouraged us to tell her more about the project. We later got enough funding to launch the first two classes of Sekwanele.
We had our first meeting with the ladies on the 8th of November 2020. This was to explain the intentions of the project. It turned out to be an amazing gesture for the women because some of them immediately built up the courage to talk about the kind of trauma they have experienced. They were able to identify that our community has a history of violence that still continues. They came up with real scenarios that prove that our society has violent attributes that still co exist amongst women and men. These women were trying to come up with solutions on how to stop gender based violence in the RDP village.
It was such an inspiring moment to see women who want change for our community. Women who want to break the norm and change the face of toxic masculinity in our area. In our meeting, the amazing Carol Manana introduced us to Hlayiseka, a pastor from Thulamahashe . Hlayiseka also has a project that deals with gender based violence in his area; it was amazing to see how broad the campaign is. He explained that he also helps men who struggle with alcohol and substance abuse, which we found as a pattern to most common violent acts. It goes to show that most men find comfort in alcohol or substance abuse. They rather drink than to talk to someone about what they are going through. He later highlighted that women are afraid to leave these men because they depend on them. If women where given the proper tools to help improve their livelihood there would be less domestic violence, a culture that needs to be broken.
We had our next meeting with the ladies just to see if they are really committed. They showed up and we told them about the launching of the project . On the 21st of November we started with our first self defence class with the help of our instructor Kru Xania. Xania is an amazing woman who once experienced a kind of trauma and she took it upon herself to learn self defence and mixed martial arts and teach others; she has also obtained several black belts. The ladies were excited, together with the facilitators Lillian Marule, myself and Stella Horgan to finally meet this amazing woman. The facilitators played a huge role in making their vision for the village come to life. The number of the ladies was more than we anticipated.
We had our last class for the year on the 5th of December 2020. Classes have been on hold because of Covid, but we plan to continue in March with socially distanced classes, continuing with the same drive and more positive energy. Aluta continua!