Helping women back on their feet

MEC for Social Development Albert Fritz and MEC for Economic Opportunities Alan Winde during a joint visit to the Sister Incorporated Shelter for women, on Friday August 11.

A new initiative in Kenilworth is helping women and children fleeing abuse.

The Sisters Incorporated Shelter launched the project on Friday August 11. It will link the women seeking refuge there to more opportunities with help from government and business contacts.

The shelter helps women find work and get back on their feet, without having to rely on anyone, by teaching crafts – knitting, beading, painting – and computer skills. The women then sell their wares at markets. Recently they knitted 100 scarves for an American firm.

The project has the support of the departments of Social Development and Economic Opportunities and the respective MECs Albert Fritz and Alan Winde were there on Friday.

Mr Winde said it was a “no-brainer” for his department to get involved.

“We ask ourselves why haven’t we done this before? Life has left many of these women at the wayside. We will create opportunities to uplift their self-worth.”

He said both provincial departments ran several assistance programmes – from community vegetable gardens to agricultural processing – and they also had partnerships with many businesses, such as Woodstock’s Bandwidth Barn, an incubator for communication technology businesses.

“We have these programmes, and we want to create work opportunities for these women to partake in once they complete their time at the shelter,” said Mr Winde.

Social Development spokesman Sihle Ngobese said there were more than 300 women at the 16 shelters, including Sisters, that the department funded in the province. Most of the women were victims of gender violence and human trafficking.

Delene Roberts is the chairwoman of the Western Cape Women’s Shelter Movement (WSM) based in Woodstock.

She said women escaping abusive relationships often left with only the clothes on their backs.

“We’ve recently experienced something like that where a woman with two children just arrived with a carrier bag.

“She had no ID, no bank account. We help them to get that back.

“Some of the women do work, but then there are those who are poverty-stricken and not employed. They don’t want to go back to the perpetrator, but they say, ‘What else can we do?’ So we try and do what we can so that they are not forced to go back.”