Cape Town - She is one of South Africa’s most fierce women and fast becoming a force to be reckoned with. Olwethu Leshabane, 28, is quickly becoming one of the country’s most beloved celebrities with her razor sharp wit and radiant beauty. Here she shares her experience of sexual harassment.
“Many times sexual harassment is classified as rape and other horrific experiences like that. But we forget that calling a woman out on the street or saying something offensive also is classified as sexual harassment,” Leshabane said.
She was crowned South Africa’s first princess in 2016 and since then has been a fierce advocate for women’s rights and protecting children. The most recent sexual harassment incident happened in October while she and her husband Neo de Jenero were on holiday in Dubai.
Leshabane shared a photo on social media of herself in a one-piece swimsuit posing with her husband in Dubai.
She was soon attacked for the swimsuit she was wearing. De Jenero received a message from someone who questioned why he would allow his wife to wear such a revealing swimsuit. They also questioned her ability to be a good wife and whether she respected herself and her marriage.
“Women feel powerless and that’s what harassment normally does it breaks women down.
“There’s so many worse things men have said to me and it just breaks me down,” she said.
Leshabane, a mother to three boys, spends most of her time in the public eye. She encountered another scary incident in September while she was walking out of Sandton Convention centre in Johannesburg while attending the Joburg Art Fair.
“This guy comes up to me and tells me ‘hi I’m rich I can take really good care of you. All I need is your number’.”
She said she felt so disgusted and this was a clear indication how rife toxic masculinity is.
“There is an assumption that this woman needs to be kept It’s not that it’s become normalised; it’s so much bigger now because we have become aware of this. It’s been like this the whole time but now we do not remain silent about this,” she said.
Leshabane is also the founder of The Red Wings Project, an initiative highlighting the lack of sanitary products for disadvantaged women. Recently she teamed up with India’s SafeCity to help reduce the high rape and sexual harassment rates in South Africa.
By bringing SafeCity to South Africa, through The Red Wings Project, Leshabane will source stories of sexual harassment and violence in public spaces.
“Not everybody is comfortable to disclose what their situation is and because people are not sure how to secure their reporting it’s also a huge barrier to try to communicate and to educate them on confidentiality,” she said.
The idea behind this is to make data collected useful for individuals, communities and local administrations to identify factors leading to violence and work on strategies for solutions.
Leshabane said one of the many reasons that encouraged her to collaborate with SafeCity was that many survivors are embarrassed, afraid or have lost faith in the policing services.
“South Africa has a very different narrative.
“We are trying to communicate and educate, to move away from victim blaming but to hold those responsible accountable,” she said.
How to show your support:
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