Fighting The Good Fight

Today the Nisaa group got to show the Joburg Child Welfare and the Journalism groups a little bit of what we have been doing with the non-governmental women’s development organization we’ve been working with since we arrived in South Africa. When we got to the Lenasia office, things were a bit hectic. We showed Professor Locy and a few of our peers around and introduced them to some of the women from the shelter and their children. It was very gratifying when Asha, one of the women from the shelter, ran with her arms open and enveloped me in a hug. I felt like we had finally established a relationship and she felt comfortable opening up to me. Her energetic four-year-old son, Zedan, also seemed to be warming up to me. After some initial difficulty of working through the logistics of transportation, Harriet showed us the way to Orange Farm, a township outside of Johannesburg. We were all a bit unsure of what to expect. Rows of makeshift shacks lined the red dirt road leading to the big green fence that marked the area for government buildings. We walked past the place where people obtain their identification cards and made our way into the Nisaa office. Nisaa’s busiest branch is run by three selfless women: Francinah Mokoena, Fikile Thusi and Thandi Mfene. Mama Thandi explained that poverty and domestic abuse are linked. She said violence against women can be blamed on two factors: financial hardships and alcohol and/or drug abuse. She said crushing unemployment, and rampant HIV exacerbate the situation. As a result, Mama Thandi said, there has been an increase in demand for Nisaa’s services. Women also cannot rely on family to help them get out of abusive relationships. Mama Thandi said South Africa has become an increasingly self-centered society, in which abused women are on their own. She and her co-workers said their clients’ problems are sometimes so overwhelming that they, the social workers, need to counsel one another. I was floored by their devotion and passion, and I respect them for fighting such a daunting task.
–Colin Wallace