“For us, this is about letting young girls know the power they possess within themselves to change the narrative, to grow mentally, find balance psychologically and to physically be able to protect themselves against anything that threatens their existence, anything that silences their voices and delays their growth.”

These are the words of Mpume Zondi, Director of Operations at The GoodMen Foundation, who spoke during the POWER TO YOU drive that was hosted on 7 April 2021 to kick start their 16-week campaign against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in association with the Siya Kolisi Foundation.

The powerhouse-filled event hosted 75 young women from Vukuzakhe High School and the Mangosuthu University of Technology in Umlazi, who were encouraged to take their power back and serve as advocates for change in the fight against GBV.

Noma Mrwetyana, mother of the late Uyinene Mrwetyana

Even when bodies heal, the mental health toll often endures
In attendance at the event to hand over resource packs to guests was the reigning Miss South Africa, Shudufhadzo Musida and the mother of the late Uyinene Mrwetyana, Noma Mrwetyana. Ms Mrwetyana continues to pay tribute to her daughter through the work being done by the foundation which was founded to celebrate the life of Uyinene.

The foundation also raises awareness on social ills that Uyinene was vocal about, including patriarchal oppression and issues of gender-based violence. “I believe in the power of forgiveness and as painful as my daughter’s passing was, it became a seed for the work the Uyinene Foundation is doing, offering psychological help to young people around South Africa in her name,” says Ms Mrwetyana.

“Part of self-care also includes taking care of your mental health, being aware of your thoughts and emotions and how that affects your behaviour daily,” says Miss South Africa, who echoed Ms Mrwetyana’s sentiments when emphasising the need for young girls to be self-aware.

The reigning Miss South Africa, Shudufhadzo Musida and Noma Mrwetyana hand over gift parcels to learners from Vukuzakhe High School.

According to policy specialists on gender, health and HIV, recent data shows the devastating impact that GBV has on mental health. There is a rise in mental illness that includes depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal ideation for women who have experienced violence and abuse. The reverse relationship is also true: women living with severe mental illness are significantly more likely to fall victims to violence. In fact, they are six times more likely to experience sexual violence during their lifetime.

Miss South Africa, Shudufhadzo Musida

When men take a strong stand against gender-based violence
Supporting the event and sharing his thoughts on the role of men in the fight against GBV, was Ranyaka local coordinator, Andile Wah! Mafa.

“For me the biggest thing men can offer in the fight against GBV is their transformation and maturity. Through character, offer women covering, comfort and a place of refreshment instead of causing them to feel threatened or scared,” says Andile.

Smangaye Xaba, founder and director of The GoodMen Foundation

“And it is only through partnerships and collaborations that we are able to tackle gender-based violence. That is why we collaborate with various stakeholders who are passionate about the same issues and are able to support and put in resources that will enable us to continue with the fight until every young girl and woman feels safe enough to leave their personal space and go out into the world with confidence.”

Photography: Mzansi Creative

Umlazi is one of 15 communities in 7 provinces across South Africa where Ranyaka is implementing the Nedbank Proud of my Town programme. Ranyaka local co-ordinator in Umlazi, Andile Wah! Mafa, was instrumental in assisting with the arrangement of the Power 2 You gender-based violence event on 7 April 2021. It is a privilege to embark on a journey with organisations such as the GoodMen Foundation and we look forward to a fruitful partnership going forward.