First, thank you to each and every individual, corporate and foundation who have helped make our new Ikemele women empowerment project a reality. Because of you, women in Mabopane have restored hope, motivation and the support they need to overcome their abusive backgrounds and rise up!
After 7 months of running the program, 23 women have graduated and we have assisted 6 small business start ups. Other graduates are choosing to go back and finish their high school education, and one graduate made the decision to quit commercial sex work and moved out of the brothel we found her in. Women are motivated and committed to inspiring other women in abusive situations with the knowledge and confidence they have grown.
These are just some of the stories of our most recent graduates...
With human rights and sustainable development at the core of everything we do, it's paramount that we are able to listen, learn, evaluate, restructure and serve to the best of our ability. Our team has paid close attention to the feedback from the women who have graduated from Ikemele. Many are so thankful for the program but feel that the period of 3 months went by too quickly and still feel they need our intervention in their lives. Women are also motivated to start small businesses yet need our guidance and a modest budget of seed funding.
Thus, the Ikemele program will extend to a 6 month program as of July 2021. The first three, we will focus on helping women recover from their abuse through support groups and one-on-one counselling. The group sessions will also include life skills education, including information on gender-based violence, human rights and coping mechanisms. It's crucial that we meet women where they are and take the time to work through their brokenness and trauma to ensure long-term success. The following three months, the women will continue their support groups and counselling, while completing a technical skill course of their choice, such as Sewing & Beading, Computer Literacy or Cashier & Merchandising.
Women in our program also receive monthly food parcels and transport fare to get to counselling and classes. The on-site Ratanang Day Care Centre is open for them to leave their children in safe care. After graduation, we will continue to assist women plan, seed fund and launch small businesses.
Another development is that we are forming the Ikemele Alumni - our Project Facilitator, Tshepo, maintains messaging groups for each group of women who graduate, and will host an annual Christmas party for all Alumni. This networking will encourage women to form their own support groups and continue meeting, reducing their reliance on our services in the future.
In these 7 months, Lesedi la Batho has actively sought after new funding opportunities and partnerships to increase our impact reducing gender-based violence in Mabopane. These partners include the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, the Solidarity Fund, and strengthened relationships with corporates working in the space of GBV. We have also started monthly Man2Man workshops at our centre, which provide education on GBV, sexual health and rights, and a safe space for men and boys to share their experiences.
If you would like to ensure more women are able to access our services, please consider donating to the Ikemele project. The amount doesn't matter - small gestures together are impactful!