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Giving hope to abused Alex women Print E-mail
Volunteers Naume Mkone (left) and Deborah Fransisco take a break
Volunteers Naume Mkone (left) and Deborah Fransisco take a break

FOR the women at Bombani Shelter for Abused Women in Alexandra, life has seldom been sweet. But here they find food, emotional and physical support, and perhaps a way forward.

Loud music is blaring from one of the rooms. Clothes are hung on the lines and women are executing light chores. Kids, some sceptical of strangers, peep from their mothers' rooms, before they gather enough courage to come and meet them. It is like any other home, but the differences are vast.

Housed at an old fire station, the shelter was opened in August 2000 and has been offering support to abused women from the local community and other surrounding areas.

Three unemployed women are working together as volunteers to keep the shelter running.

"We provide short term shelter, offer individual and group counselling to abused women," says Deborah Fransisco, co-ordinator and counsellor at the shelter. "Most stay here for two weeks, but some stay longer due to the nature of their problems." 

A child wanders past the shelter's rudimentary cottages
A child wanders past the shelter's rudimentary cottages

After the women have been counselled, most decide to go back to their partners and the shelter pays for their transport. 

"We have a relationship with the police forums; we discuss issues of domestic violence," Fransisco says. At night the police help with transport for the volunteers, as the shelter operates 24 hours a day.

Bombani (Shangaan for "Be Proud"), accommodates only ten women at a time, but is frequently inundated with calls from other centres wanting it to take more women. "At times we have a large number of people, but we must not exceed our limit," says Fransisco. If the shelter gets more women than it can help and look after, it refers them to other centres offering similar services.

Six women are currently staying at the shelter, and some brought their children along. "The women we take get the help they want and are happy. At times there is a lack of food but we try to help."

Bombani deals with all forms of abused women. "Women abuse is on the increase. Some women don't want to speak out because they depend on their partners who abuse them," says Rhoda Myeki, one of the volunteers at the shelter.

"We deal with cases like physical, emotional and financial abuse. We also counsel rape victims," adds Myeki.

Recently the shelter extended a helping hand to a woman with a different problem. For the past three months, it has been looking after a Congolese woman who came to South Africa seeking refuge.

Besides helping women, the shelter also counsels men who are abused by their partners as well as those who perpetrate violence. The men are later referred to "Men for Change", an organisation that counsels men in Alexandra.

The shelter, with its high walls and razor wire, has a security guard who lives at the premises and guards it at night. 

A brightly painted wall greets visitors to the shelter
A brightly painted wall greets visitors to the shelter

According to the volunteers, the shelter faces a number of challenges. It needs funds to buy food, pay for electricity and water bills. There is a need for more resources like computers. "We are currently using a council building and we need a permanent structure that can accommodate more people. We need more training so as to cope with the job demands," says Naume Mkone, another volunteer. 

For its survival, Bombani relies on donations from the police, members of the community and other well-wishers. Business people also help the shelter by donating money. Soul City, an organisation involved in health awareness campaigns, gave bedding to the shelter, and Janssen Cilag, a pharmaceutical company based in Sandton, has provided a four-plate stove, fridge, a television set and geyser.

The volunteers would also appreciate payment one of these days - something that has not yet happened. However, they are upbeat that with the Alexandra Renewal Project in place, Bombani shelter might be in for a facelift - and maybe some extra funds.

 


 

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