Survivors of abuse learn new skills

MC Lebogang Mashile

A group of 26 women who were victims of gender-based violence and abuse, are turning over a new leaf, having managed to free themselves of their abusive relationships and graduated from a year-long programme which will help them earn a living.

The women who were part of the Edgars UNiTE Orange Day Campaign, celebrated the completion of the programme at the River Club on Thursday October 25.

The campaign is a partnership between Edgars, the United Nations (UN) Women’s SA Multi-country Office, the departments of social development and community safety, SEW Africa College, and South African designers and fashion industry experts.

First launched in Gauteng in 2015, the campaign aims to empower women who have suffered gender-based violence and abuse by developing their skills in fashion designing and sewing through workshops and accredited training courses.

The 26 graduates brings the total number beneficiaries to 122 women.

At the graduation, SEW Africa college CEO Traci Mann said the programme gave the women the skills and tools to become financially independent.

She said the change in the women was evident and as the weeks went on, they made a shift from a survivor to a “thriver”.

Nicole (not her real name) was living at the Sisters Incorporated Shelter in Kenilworth, when she heard about the campaign. She said she had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her father and her twin girls were
later sexually abused by her stepfather.

She made the decision to leave home and go to the shelter.

“My life fell apart and I was reliving my own experience but I had to be strong for my girls. I wanted revenge and that was when I realised that I needed help,” she said.

Nicole said she never imagined that she would one day end up in a shelter but that was where she found herself.

She said the journey had been tough but worth it.

She was grateful for the opportunity the programme gave her and said she wanted to be a mother who could work and provide for her children but also be there to protect them.

“When the opportunity came I grabbed it with both hands and my life has truly changed. I don’t ever see myself as a victim but someone who has overcome things,” she said.

Edgars CEO Mike Elliott said the initiative would result in tangible opportunities for job creation in the local manufacturing market and boost financial independence and enterprise development.

“Our strategy is to ensure that the women we train are skilled enough to produce garments that can help them generate an income for themselves,” he said.