ATTACK: Mantsadi Sepheka, a Stay Safe member, demonstrates a hit to one of the participants at a workshop in Villiersdorp. Picture: Margaret Neethling
Cape Town - With the rise of reports on rape and murder of women and girls NPO initiatives such as Stay Safe work to empower women and provide them with basic safety tips and techniques to prevent gender violence.

According to Stay Safe, 40% of South African women are at risk of being raped in their lifetime. From a young age, girls - especially in disadvantaged communities - are at risk of being molested, raped, or murdered. Rape does not discriminate - women of any class or colour are subject to these statistics.

Sanette Smit of Stay Safe put together a syllabus of safety tips and self-defence techniques to empower women to defend themselves.

She said: “I have had women tell me ‘had I known that, I could have prevented this’. So this is all about power and control and giving women the skills and techniques to stay safe.”

Though Smit has 40 years of experience in karate, her programme is not solely based on one form of martial arts, but has been cultivated based on interviews with rape survivors as well as research on the physical details of sexual attacks.

The Stay Safe initiative, registered as an NPO in 2016, focuses on providing communities and rural areas where women are more vulnerable to attacks with the opportunity to learn self-defence techniques.

Relying solely on sponsorships and donations, the organisation has hosted workshops in Atlantis, Gugulethu, Piketberg, Athlone, and Mfuleni, among other communities around the province.

Several of the workshops Smit and her team have hosted have also been aimed at young girls with language appropriate classes teaching girls as young as five years old how to take charge of a situation.

“We won’t throw the word ‘rape’ at them. But we will teach them basic safety. We will let them know that they can tell their mothers when someone is being inappropriate, or a neutral teacher outside their home,” explained Smit.

Smit argued that it was not enough to celebrate Women’s Month; people should be encouraged to give women the power and techniques to defend themselves so that these women can teach others.

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