University of South Africa: Campaign fosters social cohesion and lasting connections between women

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Forming part of Women’s Day celebrations, the event was hosted at the ISHS, in partnership with Imbumbe Yabafazi, on Saturday 20 August 2022. The Friendship and Hope Campaign aims to create social connections and foster social cohesion among the Thembelihle and Lenasia community in Johannesburg South’s region G.

Drawing on its objectives to bring attention to the dynamic work done in Thembelihle and to attract resources and support to the Thembelihle community through networking, the event saw many women come from various backgrounds to gather in unity for what turned out to be an enlightening and fruitful day for all.

Among the guests who gathered at the event were women from the Unisa Women’s Forum (UWF) represented by Hetta Pieterse of Unisa Press, women from South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) who were represented by Suraya Bibi Bhyat-Khan, Ntsoaki Mohapi and Puseletso Madumise. Karabo Buffel and Vuyo Mdondolo represented Gift of the Givers. Community partners from surrounding areas such as Vlakfontein and Lehae also honoured the invitation in support of Thembelihle.

The day’s discussions began with Zandile Chuma from ISHS’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) network, who spoke about the work of their ECD, Ntirhisano Childhood Development, which is based in Thembelihle and how the ECD contributes to the women of the community. This was followed by Leonie Petersen, the Programmes Ambassador at Articulating Life, who shared her journey of transitioning her family from public schooling to a home-schooling system, and the responses thereto. Moipone Ntilane, who works with people with disabilities, elaborated on the extent of work that her organisation does and the overall assistance they require.

Partner organisations then responded with presentations of their work. First was Vlakfontein Men’s Forum (VMF), founded by Bennet Ndzoko, who spoke on the work they do mentoring young men in the community, with Steve Mahumane, who described himself as a product of this mentorship programme by his side. This was an impactful moment which highlighted their efforts to address issues that also affect women such as domestic abuse. Suraya Bibi Bhyat-Khan followed with a presentation on SAWID’s National Action Plan for Women’s Peace and Safety. She shared personal stories of the experiences and events that led her to be active in the fight for women – this was a moving dialogue.

Entertaining the crowd at particular intervals was Ubuhlebendalo Youth Cultural Group, a group of young maidens managed by Nomvula Tsotsetsi from Lehae, who showcased their traditional Zulu dances. Local musical talent, Ms Nontobeko Simelane gave the ladies a taste of her vocal ability as she performed her songs “Ndaliwe” and “Uhamba Nami” from her album also titled “Ndaliwe”.

The day ended on a joyous note as the ladies received gift bags organised by the ISHS, Hetta Pieterse, Lynette van Niekerk and Ntsoaki Mohapi, through donors Unisa’s College of Human Sciences, Unisa Press, Media 24, Discovery, and Ambassador Nozipho January-Bardill who sent signed copies of her book for each woman. Adding to this joy was Gift of the Givers who donated toiletry packs to each of the ladies. Additional sponsors recognised were FilTeg Solutions and JD funerals who donated water bottles and PEM Audiotainment who sponsored the sound.

This event, noted as the first women focused event of the campaign since its launch in 2018, would not have been possible without the dedication and commitments received from the current campaign lead, Nomagugu Ngwenya, and colleagues at the ISHS, Vuyiswa Mhlongo as Imbumbe Yabafazi’s founder, each sponsor, speaker and each community member. We are certain that more will come from the campaign and that the upcoming soccer tournament it will support in Thembelihle will equally be a success.

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