Ilitha Labantu reopens Dorothy Zihlangu House

Guests took a walk around the newly refurbished Dorothy Zihlangu Transitional House in Langa.
Mandisa Monakali, founder of Ilitha Labantu, shows guests the Dorothy Zihlangu Transitional House, which is a place of safety for abused women and children.

There was a sense of pride and appreciation as non-governmental organisation Ilitha Labantu, officially reopened the Dorothy Zihlangu Transitional House after almost a year of renovations on Tuesday May 11.

The house, in Langa, is meant to be a rehabilitation space for abused women and children. It can accommodate 12 at any given time.

Those who are assisted, are expected to stay for a period of three months while the NGO and in-house social workers assess their circumstances to ascertain what kind of help they require.

While at the house, residents will receive counselling and skills training.

Founder of Ilitha Labantu, Mandisa Monakali, said they never wanted to call this place a shelter because they strongly felt that it was stigmatising the abused women who would be living there.

She said when she opened the facility for abused women in 1998 it was the first one to be opened in the township.

But she said she faced a lot of push back and criticism from the community who were against the idea of having such a facility in their community.

“But as all you know it, if you are in an abusive relationship you try by all means to deny that and the help that might come,“ she said.

“This not a shelter because a shelter in our language in the township is referred to a shack. But we call it a transitional house because a woman is moving on with her life.

“We want whoever comes here to know that I’m moving and I’m on my way to rebuilding my life once again. No one wants to be in a shelter,” she said.

“We named this after Dorothy because she was one of the women who marched in 1956 and we pay homage to women who fearlessly fought for liberation.”

Ms Monakali added: “The notion that educated men do not abuse women is a fallacy and we should stop such comments. We did not receive a funding from any department and we had to look for funding from different private sector companies to make this happen.”

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo applauded the organisation’s efforts to address against gender-based violence and help victims rebuild their lives.

Director of Ilitha Labantu, Ella Mangisa said they wanted the space to be a home away from the home the women had been forced to leave and a space where victims of abuse could find themselves again.