“The security of having a regular guaranteed income provides dignity. When women have income, they are able to transform the fortunes of their immediate and extended families and their communities,” says Bongi Ndondo, CEO of Hlanganisa Community Fund for Social and Gender Justice.
Hlanganisa has partnered with the IDC under the Social Employment Fund to help solve unemployment in the country. Since the inception of the programme in August 2022, Hlanganisa has created over 2,600 employment opportunities for women to provide community gender-based violence (GBV) paralegal services.
Called the the Sisterhood Advocates (SHA) project, these women are trained within their communities to support survivors of gender-based violence in terms of how and where to lay charges with the police, apply for protection or maintenance orders and refer them to local domestic violence shelters.
Since the project launched nine months ago across the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West, over 19 600 women have been assisted to get the help they need.
“Survivors of GBV often don’t know where to go when they experience violence,” says Ndlovu. “Apart from the impact made by these women within their commmunities, the Sisterhood Advocates who we employ have been able to transform their lives with the dignity and security provided by having a regular guaranteed income”.
For many of these women, this is the first real work opportunity they have been given.
The SEF forms part of Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme (PES) announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020.
As part of government’s broader economic recovery agenda post the pandemic, this stimulus package uses direct public investment to support employment opportunities, and now includes social employment as part of its portfolio of interventions to create jobs and support livelihoods.
To date, the PES has created 1 098 304 work and livelihood opportunities for unemployed South Africans, of which 84% are youth and 62% are women. Reflecting on the initial success of this stimulus programme, President Ramaphosa said that it was an example of what we can achieve when we work collectively, not only within government but across society, to address an urgent need.
“Once you have your own guaranteed income, you can start to make decisions and plan your life which adds a great deal of dignity to your life too,” Ndlovu says. He adds that with earning a monthly salary comes a sense of professionalism and a sense of purpose for these women.
“Sisterhood has brought changes to my community. It has lowered the unemployment issue and people now understand more about violence, child abuse and GBV,” says a 33-year-old woman from the North West who was unemployed for years before becoming a Sisterhood advocate.
“We raise awareness and help the community fight against GBV taking place in our daily lives,” says another Sisterhood advocate. “Seeing myself helping people to resolve their problems and learning every day. It boosts my self-confidence,” says another.
Hlanganisa Community Fund for Social and Gender Justice is an innovative grant-maker aimed at strengthening social accountability, promoting human rights in pursuit of social justice. The fund supports women’s rights centred on impactful, community-led programmes to build resilient, sustainable communities who use their voice and agency to advance good governance and social justice. A key component of Hlanganisa’s work is to support the economic empowerment of women as a tool for addressing GBV. For more information, visit https://hlanganisa.org.za/.