Khoza beacon of hope for abused women
A school dropout and survivor of countless abuse, Gabisile Khoza says there's nothing that can break her.
Today, she successfully celebrates 20 years of running a shelter for women and children who have suffered the same fate.
"Note, I did this with zero education. I realised late in life that my abuse was not in vain, I would be a voice for the voiceless and I opened up this place," she says proudly pointing to the brightly coloured walls of the Siyazigabisa Home of Hope.
Based in Tembisa, Khoza's shelter houses 27 orphans, six mothers - two of them teenagers, and also entertains 30 gogos who come for various activities including beadwork and yoga.
Khoza says she has also seen numerous women who suffered domestic violence, rape and other atrocities walk through her doors tattered and torn and leaving with new-found skills and hope.
"We offer more than just shelter. We give them counselling and encourage them to report the culprits to the police.
"We teach them skills such as cooking, baking, decor, flower arranging and other skills including firefighting. Many women have found work through people who sponsor us as well and were able to get back on their feet.
"The grannies come here because even their children abuse them," she says.
Khoza says just recently she helped a woman win back her family home from an abusive brother who threw her and her children out on the street.
She is now Khoza's assistant at the home.
A biological mother of one, Khoza proudly calls herself the "mother of 200" referring to everyone she looks after.
"I look after all these kids - as well as care for my late sister's seven children.
Nothing brings me greater joy," she says as she shows off the facilities.
She has a library, as well as a computer centre (unfortunately, the computers were stolen), separate rooms for boys and girls, and rooms where destitute moms stay with their kids.
Khoza was only eight years old when she was attacked and raped by a family member.
"He raped me on several occasions and threatened to hurt me if I said anything."
She believes that as a victim, her fear was detected by other perpetrators and resulted in her being raped again and again at the ages of 12, 16 and 20.
"I had a mom who brought in different boyfriends. I didn't have proper school clothes or shoes. I wore her 12-inch black heels to get to school while the children made fun of me. Because of the taunting and bullying, I dropped out of school and wandered these streets.
"I didn't even have food to eat and would go days without it. I was a lost soul.
"But this all changed at the age of 32 when I found God. My abusers had all died, but I forgave them as well as my mother," she says.
At 50, she says she feels 35 and shows off her recent achievement, her NQF level 7 qualification in community development from the University of Stellenbosch.
"I will not stop until I get my doctorate."
But she reiterates that she started the home "clueless" with only a passion to make a change.
"I knew that if I tell my story other women would speak up. I started by going to schools to speak to the children.
I asked for donations - people gave me R1 which I appreciated. The taxi association gave me R500 [and] I was shocked. Coca Cola stepped in and gave me a lump sum which bought this property."
Growing up she always wanted to be a singer and has finally dropped her album, Isililo, which speaks to abusers and victims.
"Today, no man will hurt me again. I will strangle him first. This music is meant to soften the hearts of men who use abuse as their power and for the women to take back their power."
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