Mandisa Monakali takes a stand against abuse

Cape Town - The director and founder of Ilitha Labantu in Gugulethu, Mandisa Monakali, 57, said she was a survivor of physical and emotional abuse. But it took courage to free herself and her children from an abusive situation.

“Many women, and particularly young women today, find themselves unable to escape toxic and abusive relationships.

"Often it leads to dire consequences; as you know South Africa has one of the highest femicide rates in the world.

"This is why as a survivor myself I have committed myself towards the empowerment of women and girls. I started Ilitha Labantu 28 years ago, after it became clear the problem of violence against women and children represented a critical obstacle to development in township communities,” she said.

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She added that at the time there were no organisations offering specialised social services in townships of the greater Cape region. Women who were victims and survivors of abuse had to travel far to receive help.

“There were only such organisations in the centre of Cape Town. At these organisations they were often confronted with compounding challenges, including a language barrier, and as a result this left many women in the townships feeling a great sense of hopelessness,” she said.

Monakali said she was deeply saddened that the country’s justice system continued to fail women.

“Far too often the perpetrators of violence are given light sentences, and as a result these offenders go out in society and repeat the very same or similar offences, this is an endless cycle where justice is not served.

"But certain sectors of our society choose to remain silent. In light of the gruesome acts of violence and abuse of our women, addressing this scourge is the responsibility of us all - no one is exempt from taking action.

"We also call upon men to pay a greater role towards eradicating violence against women. Moving forward we urge men to take action as it is not the sole responsibility of women, because women are not abusing themselves.

"There needs to be a greater sense of urgency towards addressing violence against women and children; violence perpetrated on women and children occurs 365 days of the year,” she said.

Ilitha Labantu provides counselling, and the training of youth and advocacy to protect the rights of women and children. Since its inception the organisation has participated in various international platforms including the Beijing Platform for Action, the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002 and continues to form part of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

For 16 Days of Activism to end violence against women and children, Independent Media will bring you stories behind the statistics. Please DONT LOOK AWAY. We can all make a difference by supporting victims and organisations working to build a future without violence.

Cape Argus