She spoke about her life, and encouraged women in similar situations to speak to their children. Last year, the movie The Ellen Pakkies Story was released, depicting her life.
Pakkies said: “At the age of 29 I was raped. I later ran away from home and got into prostitution. I never knew what it was like to be a child, and left school in Standard 2. I was married four times, and my third child was born after I was raped. All three of my children are on drugs.
“But I am thankful to the Lord. Life was hard, but I picked myself up every time. Everyone only knows me as the woman who strangled her son. But I am also a mother...
“In our communities you find that as women and mothers we put each other and our children down. This is how we destroy communities. We need to encourage and build each other up,” she said.
Pakkies advised parents to take an interest in their children’s lives.
Today, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren, she said.
“Children don’t want to grow up in communities plagued by gangsters and drugs.
“Our children don’t want to live this way. So make time for them and talk to them,” she urged parents.
Avon Foundation director Christine Jaworsky said it wants to stop violence against women.
“It destroys communities, and it has become all too common.
“The women here today want to bring about change in their communities. Through the programme we launched in Cape Town, we want to provide education and make a bigger impact. That is why we started the Vital Voices programme,” she said.
Anne-Myriam Adrien of Vital Voices said it is a global network that invests in women.
“We are change-makers who focus on human rights. Today, one in three women globally are affected by violence. And we want to prevent it.”