The White Light Foundation (NPC - 2018/474143/08) was formed as a non-profit to assist women who were victims of violence and or sexual abuse. Many of these women are also mothers to children who have been victims of sexual abuse or violence. Having worked with UNICEF for over 12 years a Goodwill Ambassador I was privy to the communities where these social vices where rife. I also realized that if women are not economically empowered they do not have a chance to change their lives and that of their children - they tend to also stay in households, relationships or communities where they remain vulnerable and victims of all types of abuse. This is the same for their children. Most of the women do not have any job prospects and have no skills which makes it difficult.
In 2016 I decided on creating a range of homeware and decided that I would teach a group of women the requisite skills to sew and embellish products. It has been a long and arduous journey as my studio and I have helped fund this and at the same time had the attendant responsibility of these traumatized individuals. We realized that our roles where not just to empower these individuals economically to create the transformation in their lives but we were dealing with individuals that had other needs e.g. women had severe injuries that needed specialized treatment, treatment HIV/AIDS that had been transmitted due to sexual abuse, post traumatic stress disorder and a host of other issues. We enlisted kind souls in the medical fraternity who gave of their time generously to help and continue to do so.
The reality is that what started out with 3 women has grown to a group of over 30 women (and this number continues to grow and we have had to severely limit this due to budgetary constraints). At present we have run out of space and we are running low on resources to continue to fund the products that they need to make in order to gain a living. Also each women needs a set of basic sewing tools These women also need to be remunerated whilst being taught as they have no means of income.
In essence we are looking to buy fabrics and other materials, second-hand sewing machines and perhaps even rent a smaller space for them to work from as my current studio has run out of space.
Some basic statistics around domestic violence in South Africa and child abuse
"The Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation reported troubling findings in their 2017 study titled "Violence Against Women in South Africa: A country in crisis". The statistics will numb you, but not as much as the harrowing testimonies given on the lived experiences of those affected by Gender Based Violence (GBV) at last year's Femicide and Gender Summit.
Population studies show that more than ¼ of men reported rape (27%) and data from women shows between 25 and 40% experienced physical or sexual violence. Financial dependence is a factor when women consider leaving their violent partners, and it does appear that women who are economically empowered may develop greater capacity to free themselves from abusive relationships.
According to Statistics South Africa and a KPMG report the economic impact of gender-based violence and is estimated to be in billions, annually."Tamara Mathebula is acting chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality from News24
"According to the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, there have been 124256 rape cases reported in the last three years.
“The MRC states that only 2% of rapes are reported. It’s then safe to assume that the number of rape cases is closer to two million a year. What is more appalling is that General Cele said 41% of reported rapes were committed against children. It’s quite apparent that we desperately need activism to create awareness about the need to put a stop to women and child abuse,” Hofmeyr said.
“One of the reasons for the high rate of domestic and sexual abuse is lack of respect for the law. That’s a result of South Africa’s history and the way that crime was addressed in the apartheid era. Also, we live in an unequal society, and people with few resources are taken advantage of by perpetrators who believe they will get away with their crimes. There is little trust in the police system and abusers most likely think they will not be reported or, if they are reported, that they will not be prosecuted.” Hein Hofmeyr, Clinical Psychologist - Akeso from IOL