A beautiful journey with the Diepsloot Action Group-Phumzile Mnisi

The Action Group was started in 2016 by a group of 13 amazing young women between the ages of 18 and 26. The main aim of the group was for the women to use the action group to connect with each other, to share experiences through journaling and also awareness raising around GBV issues. The members had always hoped to grow the group by recruiting more members but because of the socioeconomic challenges faced in Diepsloot; some of the members found full time employment while others went to school and struggled with balancing work and the action group. The group then expanded in 2017 with 25 group members consisting of strong women with a deep sense of shared purpose and a strong passion to draw broader layers of the community of Diepsloot in engaging in various community mobilization activities by mainly using various activities to fight GBV.

The group would first meet and have four days’ workshop series that was aimed at showing the oppressive nature of patriarchy and patriarchal systems and institutions. The group took a huge responsibility and ownership of the intervention by providing a platform to LvA to conduct workshops on GBV in their own shacks whenever there were challenges with securing venue. It was hoped that the participants would then be able to articulate the injustices suffered by women in general and use what they have learnt in the workshops in their own families and in the Diepsloot community at large.

After the workshops, the group took the responsibility of coming together for creative positive awareness activities, meetings would be held for capacity building and planning around awareness activities. These women also held conversations around continuing the group meetings and organizing awareness activities on GBV even beyond LvA’s presence. Since its inception and peak, the group has spearheaded several awareness activities around the community through some guidance from LvA. The activities undertaken were aimed at preventing the occurrence of GBV. Activities included community dialogue, awareness walkabout, mall outreach and door to door.

Working with the group was great but also a challenging experience at the same time. Our weekly meetings gave them more personal space and confidence to come up with more activities on addressing GBV and mobilizing the broader community. As much as I came in as a guide or support structure, I learned a lot from the group. I have learned that in order to build and sustain such relationships and groups, there needs to be undying commitment, resilience and continuous questioning and reflection. I have learned humility from them that made me draw courage and conviction to continue working with them even under the most challenging and unbearable situations.

My experience in working with them has given me an opportunity to reflect deeply on my role in the growth and empowerment of the group and myself. Because socioeconomic factor has emerged as a major aspect of GBV amongst the group, most women have openly spoke about the abuse in their relationships where they indicated that they feel pressured to stay in the relationships because they fear the economic consequences of leaving. To curb this factor, we had hoped with the group to recruit more women and to come up with programme for the livelihood of the group to move forward so that they can move on their own even if LvA is no longer there, because the need for the group to be there is about the unique process undertaken by the group. We had hoped for an empowerment programme that would be through direct referrals or link and partnerships with valuable resources within the community, a programme that would give hope and restore the women’s dignity through education, literacy and vocational training.

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