There is no limit to what we as women, can accomplish,’ is the sentiment from Nhlanhla Mchunu, a Gender Based Violence (GBV) community development worker who has been with Rays of Hope assisting victims of GBV for the past five years. In light of the many cases of domestic abuse and violence she has seen in the community of Alexandra Township, and with Women’s Month upon us, Nhlanhla highlighted the daily struggles women go through.

“Working in the field with victims of gender-based violence can be very challenging and heartbreaking, as so many of the victims we speak to look defeated and lost and don’t know who to turn to for support,” explains Mchunu. “Our job is to counsel them every day and demonstrate to them that they are worthy and should not be made to feel inferior by their partners. This can sometimes be very hard to do with a defeated woman, who often feels like she is not worthy of love or respect.”

Mchunu says that while Rays of Hope offers the victims love and support, one of the most frustrating parts of working in a community like Alexandra is that many victims of gender-based violence return to the same cycle of abuse. According to a survey conducted by Rays of Hope and their School Intervention Programme, 43% of the women go back to their partners as a result of being unable to support themselves financially, or the fear that their children will get taken away from them to either live with an abusive parent, or worse – be left on the streets. 

“While most women do go back to their partners, there are the fair few who carry on with the counseling and start to see that they are worthy and can survive on their own. It’s so empowering to see some of the victims go on to start new lives and even their own small businesses in the community to make a living in a peaceful and happy environment. This is what makes my job worthwhile, seeing them rise above what they have been through and accomplish great things,” adds Mchunu.

As gender-based violence continues to grow, organisations like Rays of Hope are starting to see more instances in primary schools. Both young boys and girls are falling victim to gender-based violence, where many are afraid to return to school out of fear of being beaten up or even killed.

Nhlanhla and the rest of the social workers at Rays of Hope are working hard to intervene at local Alexandra-based schools before violence ensues between the students. However, lack of social workers and funding does not allow them to do this very often.

“Social workers offer much-needed support for the community. My colleagues and I are pleading to corporate South Africa and generous donors to please help fund the programme by donating to Rays of Hope, so the NGO can hire more social workers and obtain more funding to help those women and children in need,” concludes Mchunu.

To find out how you or your company can be of support, please contact Tracey Peppler at [email protected] or visit raysofhope.co.za/gbv/ to read more about how Rays of Hope and its social workers assist the community.