Survivors of abuse don't need to suffer in silence
After going through the pain of being raped more than 25 years ago, Limpopo activist Nobesuthu Javu, popularly known as Nobza, was inspired to start an organisation that helps survivors of abuse.
In 2015 Javu decided to open a centre situated inside a house in Seshego in Polokwane to help women who have been abused.
The centre, Ekhuphumleni Restoration Home, popular known as ThyRest, has housed about 30 women and their children from the time it opened its doors while more than a 180 women rely on its outpatient services.
At the time Javu, who originates from the Eastern Cape but came to Polokwane through work, had kept silent about her ordeal for more than 25 years and wanted to make sure that the same thing does not happen to others.
Javu said her experience as a rape survivor showed her that many women and children suffer in silence without anyone to turn to. She said she was inspired to start the centre to provide a safe space for women who have been victims of sexual abuse, rape and human trafficking.
“The community or society has a way of re-victimising people. In families they would just want to put everything under the carpet and everyone is expected to move on. Indeed everybody moves on accept the victim because the perpetrator is being protected more than the victim,” Javu said.
Cases that land on her doorstep go from women who are fleeing abusive partners with their children and those who are trapped by human traffickers. They get referrals from the police and social workers.
Javu said one of the first cases they ever dealt with involved a woman who had been raped and also had a drug abuse problem. She was accommodated at the shelter with her children for about 18 months. Javu said the vision had always been to make sure that women leave the centre more empowered.
“Our slogan says we journey with you from victim survivor so our aim is that once you have received our services you are totally restored,” Javu said.
The organisation does not only provide shelter and a safe space for survivors, but also provides skills training opportunities in gardening, sewing, make-up artistry and beadwork.
“We do skills development where we assist women to be financially independent because most women don’t have alternative income.
“They depend on the abuser for security,” she said.
At the end of the skills programme the women each get a business pack with equipment like sewing machines, gardening tools, seedlings and make-up kits to help them start small enterprises.
Over the years they have reached thousands of communities through outreach programmes at schools, beauty pageants and churches to bring awareness around GBV.
But Javu, who started the organisation with her own money, said that keeping their doors open has been financially challenging as they rely on donors to fund activities.
Rape survivor and activist Nthabiseng Mogathwe,37, said she discovered the organisation through a friend in 2017. Mogathwe, who was gang raped at the age of 21, said she always felt a need to find a safe place where she can interact with women who have been through similar ordeals.
She said after attending counselling sessions at the centre, she been empowered to speak about her experiences. “They showed me that I’m not going to stay a victim forever. I now have the ability to speak out boldly even if it hurts.”
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