“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker. Women are often made to feel that they have no power, something which is entirely untrue. This Women’s Month, the National Children and Violence Trust (NCVT) reflects on this issue.

Since its inception in 1994, the National Children and Violence Trust (NCVT) has had vast experience in assisting women from impoverished areas such as Diepsloot, Zandspruit and Cosmo City. These women often face seemingly hopeless situations, including physical and emotional abuse. With Women’s Month approaching, NCVT reflects on these challenges and the supportive role that social workers play.

Poverty remains one of the greatest challenges in South Africa, with around 20% of households reporting to have run out of money to buy food during 2015/2016*. “A large majority of women born into poverty often struggle to get themselves out of the perpetual cycle of poverty unless they have had access to education”, says Nokwazi Dlamini, a senior social worker at NCVT. “A lack of financial independence often causes women to enter and stay in abusive relationships. When it comes to domestic violence, women have been found to be more proactive in seeking help from social workers than men, but this usually only happens when the violence has escalated too far. A woman should preferably seek help as soon as domestic violence occurs, not only once it has become the norm or she ends up in hospital,” adds Dlamini

A second challenge that women face is that they absorb most of the burden of raising a family. “In our line of work, we have seen a rise in the number of female single parent headed households over the last few years. The resultant stress can cause chronic anxiety and other psychological disorders,” says Dlamini.

Last, but by no means least, rape is an ongoing issue. Statistics show that most rape victims are raped by someone known to them, with 25.5% of sexual offences being committed by the spouse or lover of the victim**. “For this reason, these victims often do not report the rape or approach social workers for counselling,” explains Dlamini.

“The current social stigma in the areas where we work is that women are expected to keep family matters within the family. Approaching social workers is, therefore, seen as having failed to deal with the issue properly by oneself. We encourage women to nullify this stigma and seek assistance where necessary,” motivates Dlamini. “As social workers, we found that some women find it hard to confide in us, feeling that they will be judged or blamed for the violence inflicted on them; in contrast, other women feel that social workers will be able to solve all their problems, while failing to implement interventions after the counselling.”

However, the work that social workers do remains an immensely powerful tool for helping women in difficulty. “There are women who are optimistic and trust us enough to get the necessary guidance that will help them solve their problems. We provide the necessary counselling and they implement the steps that help them to recover from their experience and improve their situation – those women are the ones that really experience a difference,” concludes Dlamini.

Come join NCVT this Women’s month and find out more about how they touch lives. Under this year’s theme, “Women’s Wellness”, NCVT will host two events focused on women in impoverished communities: A Women’s Dialogue will take place at 10:30 on 12 August 2016 at St Mungos Church in Diepsloot, with a performance by the NCVT Choir to enjoy. A similar dialogue will also take place in Cosmo City on 26 August 2016

“We are looking forward to celebrating the amazing women that we are involved with next month,” says Dlamini. “Come join us for our Women’s Month and find out more about how we touch lives,” she concludes.

For more information about NCVT and to join the events this Women’s Month contact 011 705 1960 or visit http://www.ncvt.co.za/. Join NCVT’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/The-National-Children-Violence-Trust-NCVT-197670257245796/ or Tweet them at @NCVT_ZA.

*Statistics South Africa Community Survey 2016

**Statistics South Africa Victims of Crime Survey 2014/2015