Wet weather did very little to dampen the spirits of staff at the Rape Crisis Centre in Khayelitsha as they celebrated the launch of a garden that will assist in the therapy and rehabilitation of rape victims.
At the event on Thursday, May 19, run in partnership with the Thompson Foundation Change A Life Project, Rape Crisis Centre staff planted indigenous plants such as spekboom and num num as well as spinach, cabbages and potatoes to inaugurate the garden.
The garden project not only aims to provide to assist in the therapy of rape survivors, but equips survivors with life-changing skills such as needlework and planting. The skills would enable them to approach life in a positive way, while boosting their confidence. It is also hoped the garden will provide survivors with small incentives.
Project coordinator Zodwa Daweti told Vukani that their mission was to create a platform for rape survivors to start their own small businesses and improve their employment prospects.
She added some survivors had never worked before, and were entirely dependent on their partners or spouses for money.
“For about four months the rape survivors in Langa and Athlone were taught how to sew clothes and sow seed. I also attended the training because I did not have knowledge about food gardening.
“The training has also enlightened me about the importance of having a food garden. I also went to Abalimi Bezekhaya to get additional skills,” she said.
Ms Daweti said most rape survivors struggled to face the world, but through the programme they were facing their challenges. She said they hoped to sew blankets for PEP and other stores, and appealed to residents and local business people to support the initiative.
Rape survivor Nomonde Mnyolo said when she first came to the centre in 2012, her life was almost over and she did not think things would ever change.
“Spiritually and physically I had been hurt. I was just sick. But through the staff’s help they managed to make me look at life from a different perspective. They managed to restore my confidence and dignity. They equipped me with skills to better my future and that of my family,” she said. “I now want to start my small sewing business.”
Loubie Rusch, an indigenous food activist and consultant, said they planned to start a soup kitchen once the garden was up and running. She said the country was in the midst of a severe drought, but the survivors could make use of this opportunity to grow their own food and stop buying expensive food from the shops.
“By empowering the rape survivors with these skills, we hope that they can share their know-how in their own communities and empower them as well. And of course they can also start their own businesses. This is a brilliant opportunity and I’m glad that they seem to be zealous about this project. We will do everything we can to better their lives,” she said.
Sarah Strydom, communications co-ordinator at Rape Crisis, said they started the food gardening initiative by revamping the building to create space for the garden last year.
“We are hoping that this initiative will breathe new life (into the survivors) and yield the desired results,” she said.