Creating a safe zone for women and men alike

Founder Zikhona Msengana

From the township of Kagiso, in the West rand, Zikhona Msengana is a highly passionate, caring and outgoing young lady who has dedicated her time to empowering her community.

In 2017, Zikhona established a programme called, WO-MEN ENOUGH, with the aim of empowering the women within the community. The programme was created after the realization that women still endure unfair and oppressive practices today. She wanted to create a safe zone for women, a support structure where women can be themselves and grow without any judgment or fear. The programme allowed women of all ages to come forth and share wisdom, motivation, and life experiences.

However, Zikhona felt that this was not enough to build the community. “If we were here empowering women to be the best of themselves, who was out there empowering the men in our community?” WO-MEN ENOUGH, initially being restricted to women only, became much broader as it became inclusive to men. “I realized that the young men within our community lacked support structures as much as the women did; they needed empowerment and better role models to guide them through life”, said Zikhona. The programme now focuses mostly on the youth, since they appear to be the most vulnerable to negative external influence.

 

 Zikhona, empowering women at a local clinic

 

WO-MEN ENOUGH does not only provide empowerment through motivational talks, but it also brings people together to form one close knit family. Those who feel a bit out of place in the community feel right at home when they become a part of this incredible programme. The programme also provides psychological and academic support. Individuals who struggle psychologically, either from stress, depression or any other condition are offered help by a trained psychologist who is closely associated with the programme, while those that seek to advance their education are offered the necessary resources to help them achieve this goal.

Unfortunately, the programme receives no external financial aid, so in order for anything to be achieved the members need to contribute from their very own pockets. This can be hard when huge events have to be organized, because this would result in an intense financial strain. “If we had funders on our side I believe we would be able achieve so much more. We already have things planned for the future, but our lack of resources makes the process slower and difficult”, Zikhona explained.

Apart from the lack of resources, the other challenge that the programme encountered was acquiring the knowledge to operate a programme like this. Zikhona and her team had to learn all that was necessary to get this programme up and running.

As WO-MEN ENOUGH grew, it developed a small project under it called, Young Parents & Single Parents. It is common knowledge that young people are highly explorative, but sometimes they get a bit carried away and mistakes happen. A child pops into the picture of this young couple’s lives and they do not know exactly how to adjust to the situation. Their families may disapprove and unleash a storm of judgements and negativity upon them, making life even harder. This eventually results in the family support structure crumbling and fading away, leaving the young couple with no one to turn to. The situation may get even more aggravated when the young father decides to flee, abandoning the young mother to raise the child alone.

The Young Parents & Single Parents project was created to specifically focus on empowering young parents who might be going through similar scenarios. The project offers them a safe space to adjust, learn and receive advice and comfort from those with experience. They also receive necessary resources to help them in raising their children.

“I want them to know and understand that having a baby is not the end of the world. You can still live the life you want; opportunities will still be there for you to achieve your dreams. Make necessary sacrifices if needs be, to ensure that your child receives a proper, stable and happy life”, said Zikhona.

 

 

 

“We want to end this continuous circle of teenage pregnancy by empowering these young mothers to raise responsible and wise children who will not repeat the same mistakes they did. From the research I conducted I discovered that in most cases you find that children who lack father figures tend to become associated with criminal activities, sometimes ending up a slave to nyaope or other substances. We want to encourage young fathers of today to take action in their children’s upbringing and guide them through life no matter how challenging it might become”, she added.

 

Zikhona states that they will now be focusing on developing the programme further until change is visible within the community. The Young Parents & Single Parents project will continue to operate and aid young mothers and fathers. There are two more projects that are still to be initiated; the first will be a rehabilitation project for nyaope addicts. Since some of them tend to relapse after getting clean, this programme will work on establishing measures to prevent that from happening. The last project they will be focusing on will be a mentorship programme for young boys. “We will organize highly respectable men from within our society to help us mentor, and build these young boys to become responsible, wise leaders of tomorrow”.

 

People that are dedicated as Zikhona about building the community are very important. She has established a programme that gives people a chance at life and that makes them feel that they belong. For us to achieve progress in South Africa we need to unite, support one another, and build our communities for the better.

 

 

By Tebogo J. Mphatswe

 

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