One Day At A Time

“One day at a time and it is possible for them to make it.” These words, spoken by Mama Thandie Mfene at a Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development office outside Johannesburg, refer to the female victims of domestic violence here in South Africa. I’ve spent most of my time interviewing students at the University of the Witwatersrand in the comfort of campus cafes. But, yesterday, listening to four Nisaa leaders discuss the problems women face in the impoverished township called Orange Farm, gave me the most insight into what women continue to struggle with in this country. Many women still “belong” to their husbands. They are expected to stay in violent relationships so as not be shunned by their families. Young girls cannot leave their homes without the very real possibility of rape. They are often hungry for food, and for independence. They have nowhere to go and find themselves abandoned by their families because they sought help. Yesterday’s discussion struck me on a personal level. I developed an eating disorder a couple years back. I refused certain foods and restricted my caloric intake. During my recovery, I was constantly reminded, “one day at a time.” An overwhelming amount of guilt came over me as Nisaa workers told stories of women, and men, who could not take their HIV medication because they had nothing to eat. To imagine men, women and children searching for scraps of food just to survive, made me feel ashamed and selfish for once turning down the nourishment they would do anything for. I’ve had a lot of fun here in South Africa, but this morning was not fun. To be honest, I wanted to leave Orange Farm as quickly as possible. It wasn’t easy being surrounded by people who probably had nothing to eat. But those experiences, the ones that prompt self-reflection, make being on this trip worthwhile.
–Lindsay Castleberry