Gender Based Violence Feature
Women at the forefront for change in Helenvale
Since the establishment of the German co-funded Safety and Peace through Urban Upgrading (SPUU) programme, the MBDA, in collaboration with community structures, leadership and residents of Helenvale, the Agency established several working groups that would seek solutions to various socio-economic challenges of the area.
The dialogue groups are very active and consist of representation from all four voting districts of ward thirteen. The Youth and Women’s dialogues have been the most active and sustained since the program was launched in 2013.
Debbie Hendricks, Operations Executive at the MBDA and leader of the project team says “The women’s dialogue is a platform that allows women to come together every Thursday to dialogue on matters that affect them in order to bring about positive change in Helenvale”. Some of the programs led by the women include peace marches and prayer meetings.
The group consist mainly of women between the ages of 25 and 80 years living in Helenvale, with most of the participants in the category of 40-60 years. The size of the group varies from ten to thirty at a time, depending on current initiatives or pressing issues. Through their participation in these dialogues, the women get exposed to various opportunities for personal development, including leadership, conflict resolution and other psychosocial skills programs.
Although the SPUU program has an end date, it was important for the women to start a process to imagine their future and existence beyond the SPUU program, so in 2019 they got together to strategize.
Considering the challenging backgrounds and social circumstances that he SPUU program aims to alleviate, the woman’s dialogue becomes a safe and caring space where open expression, sharing and compassion is found.
Hendricks concludes “Many of the women have now grown to became change agents in their own community, they participate actively in the daily struggles for a better and safer Helenvale”.
Elizabeth Sondag of Extension 12 says “being part of the women’s dialogue has changed my life. I got to share my struggles with other women, without judgment. Every time we got together, we bonded, strengthened, and encouraged each other to become better than our circumstances”
“Today I run a community soup kitchen, I believe God opened my eyes when I joined the women’s dialogue and then with people like George Jerry involved, they guided us to take baby steps. Today we are strong women, making a difference where we live” added an emotional Sondag.
These amazing women of Helenvale are a demonstration of hope, resilience, and courage. They build each other up and continue to lead the championing of women’s rights, a safe and peaceful Helenvale.
The MBDA salutes these Mbokodos.
This article was paid for by MBDA.
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