“In South Africa, one out of every 4 women is in an abusive relationship. Every six days, a woman is murdered by her partner, and every 25 seconds a woman is raped. This has to stop.”
These were the words of Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp, the master of ceremonies at the annual 1 000 Women 1 Voice fundraiser luncheon at the CTICC on Thursday May 10, where 1 000 women and a handful of men gathered in support of women who are victims of abuse and domestic violence.
“To those who are struggling, we want you to know you are not alone and that people are here to support you, and that enough is enough.”
The 1 000 Women Trust, founded in 2003 by Wendy Ackerman, supports organisations which help women who are victims of domestic violence and abuse.
While the primary aim of the event is to raise money, it also aims to demonstrate the power of 1 000 women standing together; create a safe space for women to meet and talk about challenges and issues, and how they deal with abuse, violence and rape; to motivate, support and give hope to women in abusive relationships or who have been raped; and to mobilise resources for safe houses and women’s initiatives.
According to a statement by the CTICC, the lunch, thanks to the donations and sponsorships received over the years, has thus far raised R6 million and affected the lives of 10 000 women. It was unclear how much money was raised at this event.
Ms Afrika-Bredenkamp said for the past 14 years, the 1 000 Women Trust had fought the battle to end the epidemic of violence against women.
“This has to stop. It will stop. It does not happen to other people. It happens around us, amongst us. It is time to break the silence. The more we speak about it, the more we can help each other, and today is an opportunity to do something about what you are going through,” she said.
“Today is not just about speaking up, its a about faith, change and hope. And although this is a fundraising event, it doesn’t always take money to make a difference. Sometimes all we need is your support.”
The women also lit candles in support of and solidarity with those who lost their lives to rape or gender violence, as well those who had survived.
Ms Ackerman said women must remember they are not alone.
“There are people who can help you – that is my message to all of you today.”
She referred to society where little girls were almost always afraid of men. “What has our society come to? We are here to protect our children and keep them happy. Children are not meant to be abused.”
She said the event allowed for women to stand together. “I hope you can all feel the strength to protect each other.”
A video of survivors were played for guests, with a number of women sitting in the audience telling their stories, with the theme “This is me, and I am enough.”
Karin Schermbrucker, who is a businesswoman, photographer, mother and wife delivered the key-note address, saying at the centre of the lives of women who have to endure so much, is courage. She shared her account of a traumatic experience she had in Mali, and said that at a time she thought she would die, it was the voices of all the women she had met along her journey – women who struggle with HIV-Aids, refugees and women who work tirelessly to provide for their families – whose voices she heard, encouraging her to be strong. “I will not be intimidated, discouraged or dissuaded from standing up for the rights of those who suffer injustice. I will not fear. In fact, we have an even greater resolve to speak up for those who cannot do so,” she said.
“My standing up here today is testimony to many of the courageous woman in my life – who have helped me find my voice and have always called me to more – women who have fought for justice and believed that we can and should help change the lives of women all over the world,” she said.
“Women really hold up half the sky.”
Louise Pietersen from Wellington, spoke to the CapeTowner about her ordeal.
She said she came from an abusive home, then was physically abused in her marriage for 15 years. After she got divorced, she start abusing substances, but didn’t say what she was addicted to. “When I lost everything and everyone because of my habits, I had enough and I sought help.”
She said she went to the Athlone House of Strength shelter in Paarl, where she was sent on the 1 000 Women writing retreat, Every Scar Tells a Story, as part of her healing journey.
“For the first time, I told and wrote my story. I am thankful that I could go on the retreat and I am so fortunate to be where I am today.”
She said she would advise women who don’t know how to tell their story to write it down. “I grew up with women who thought abuse was okay and never spoke up. If you don’t have a voice, write your story.”
She also said that people shouldn’t judge those who abuse substances because “you don’t know what they’ve been through to get them to that dark place.”
Caroline Peters, a project manager at 1000 Women Trust, said she joined the organisation because of what she’s been through. Ms Peters was gang-raped when she was 16 years old, and thereafter, in an abusive marriage for four years. “I got out for my children – I had three daughters at the time.”
She started out at Rape Crisis as a volunteer, then worked at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Abused Women and Children in Manenberg for 18 years before she started at 1000 Women Trust. “I always say together we can do more. I love working with an organisation who support this cause. Some people are visionaries, and we support them in their plight to end violence. We support women.”
She said so far the organisation has trained 2 000 local women to support others, and have also held workshops about human trafficking for 200 women. Her message to women was: “There are organisations out there that can help, and get out, because it never gets better.”
The event was an emotional experience for many as the audience sat wiping tears, while others were jubliant and excited.
The audience was also entertained by Talitha Luiters, 13, from Atlantis, who won the Suidoosterfees, who sang This is Me by Keala Settle, and poetry by Lusanda Masua.
Guests were invited to bring toiletries, soft toys and tin food for the shelters. Helpline numbers:
Tears helpline: *134*7355#
GBV national hotline: Dial *120*7867# (free) from any cellphone and a social worker will call back. They are available Monday to Sunday, 24 hours a day. GVB Hotline: 080 042 8428
Stop gender violence: 0800 150 1504
Human Trafficking hotline: 0800 222 777