When women had nowhere to turn, she raised her voice against violence

 
 
 

The year was 1989. South Africa was in the throes of apartheid. Women in townships were the most oppressed on account of their gender, race, and class. Subjected to atrocities at the hands of men, they had nowhere to turn. When Mandisa Monakali’s husband assaulted her, there were no crisis centres nearby, counsellors who spoke her language, or anyone to stand up for her. “I realised that something should be done to fight the scourge of violence in the townships,” she says. 

Monakali began Ilitha Labantu in Gugulethu. It was the only organisation to support victims of gender-based violence in Western Cape townships at the time. The initiative has since expanded to other provinces, providing life-saving services. These range from counselling and support groups to safe houses for women to move in and move on with their lives. Monakali has worked tirelessly to break down the barriers that prevent women from reaching out. At any time, they’re welcome to walk in and seek help. Counsellors speak the language of the local community, and all services are offered free of charge. Ilitha Labantu is integral to not only protecting, but empowering women in townships. “Women are power and strength,” Monakali says. “Women are changing the world and it’s about time the world should see that.”

Three decades later, apartheid is over and oppression is unconstitutional. Yet gender-based violence prevails. It’s easy to lose hope. But Monakali urges us to take action and raise our voices. “Do something,” she says. “Start talking to each other and assist each other.” No one should suffer, especially in silence. Places such as Ilitha Labantu are blazing the trail for women to unite and receive support. In solidarity, there is strength.

To reach out to Ilitha Labantu, contact 021 633 2383.