Twenty years of empowering women

Keynote speaker former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela.

A non-profit organisation that raises awareness around gender-based violence held a brunch to commemorate its 20th anniversary.

The 1000 Women 1 Voice organisation, founded in 2003 by Tina Thiart and Wendy Ackerman, aims to raise awareness, empower survivors, and work towards eradicating all forms of violence against women.

The brunch on Thursday August 4 at Pick n Pay’s head office in Kenilworth included talks by former public protector Professor Thuli Madonsela, African Bank group chief transformation and sustainability officer Edna Montse, Ms Thiart and Ms Ackerman.

The brunch was attended by about 200 brand ambassadors, businesswomen, sponsors and others, including 1000 Women Ambassador Suzanne Ackerman-Berman, mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis’s wife Cara, Premier Alan Winde’s wife Tracey, and Pick n Pay founder Raymond Ackerman.

KFM’s Saskia Falken was the MC and the event included a fashion show.

Ms Madonsela called for women to empower themselves by using not only constitutional policies but also by seeking out their own opportunities. She said that while the constitution made strides in ensuring financial freedom for women, disparities continued because of the injustices of the past.

“We need to replicate what 1000 Women are doing so that every village and every woman is reached and supported. When we empower women, everyone in society, regardless of colour, benefits,” she said.

Ms Montse called on women to be kinder to each other and to create safe spaces where women could share their stories and challenges.

“We continue to fail each other and ourselves if we don’t open up our spaces for loved ones to be able to talk about their challenges. We need to take care of ourselves – have the audacity to believe in yourself,” she said.

Ms Thiart gave an overview of the organisation and presented their annual report. She said they had managed to work with more than 100 small community-based organisations equipping and empowering women. They trained 10 000 trauma buddies, 350 facilitators and 5 000 people working in schools to deal with bullying. They had also managed to raise R50 million.

“Lockdown gave us an opportunity to re-evaluate how we were doing things and opened new doors for us. In the last two to three years is when the real change happened in our organisation, and this has helped us to equip and empower even more women,” she said.

The annual brunch initiative has seen many prominent women joining forces to create change, leading to investment in trauma training programmes and the Talking to Boys and Hear Me Too campaigns. The organisation’s anti-bullying toolkit and training course reached more than 4 000 parents and teachers to help schools address the issue. The 1000 Women Restart Programme was launched two years ago in collaboration with Pick n Pay to empower victims of gender- based violence. It included webinars to equip women who lost their jobs during the pandemic with new resources, skills, business mentorship and hope.

1000 Women 1 Voice co-founder Tina Thiart.
1000 Women 1 Voice co-founder and philanthropist Wendy Ackerman.
The brunch included a fashion show.