A courageous woman 23 years ago undertook a journey very few people survive as she rejected the notion that a woman has to be subservient in order to survive. The journey started with the proverbial tears of anger at the plight of the other women who lacked her courage and determination to end the cycle of violence and abuse.
One should be reminded that patriarchy was the order of the day where women had to listen and obey rather than the adage from one song from the religious community of “trust and obey”. How could one trust and obey a person who yielded a stick of verbal, emotional and physical abuse and violence?
How could one allow the loss of dignity and self-worth? In a woman brought up to uphold family values and principle the journey began towards the liberation and emancipation of women and uprooting the debilitating practices of patriarchy that were prevalent.
Who better deal with these atrocious acts of violence against women than a woman scorned and seeing the throttling of the right to freedom and safety of women than a woman?
Ilitha Labantu came to birth through that determination that enough of women oppression and abuse that results in unhappy families especially children. The journey began from the notion of being a victim to that of a survivor of all forms of abuse and violence.
The journey began with the direct challenge of the structural violence manifested in the laws and practices of the day which were automatic obstacles to the freedom of women. The journey was infested with predators who were practising new forms of abuse and violence which began to shock the nation(s). This required women of all stature to embark on a warpath to deal with the scourge of violence and abuse.
The history of Ilitha Labantu is an all telling tale of the courageous and dedicated women who enhanced the 1956 march by women of all classes and races to the South African Union Buildings singing “ Wathint’abafazi, wathint’imbokodo” ( You strike a woman, you strike a rock). Ilitha Labantu has proved beyond reasonable doubt that when women decide to stand up they are a force to be reckoned with.
The journey has led to a river of life for women who had endured suffering and pain. It opened opportunities for more and more women to shape their lives where the obstacles have been perceived as a chance to build up the energy and pent up feelings towards change and transformation from being victims to survivors.
It has been a journey for me when I joined the Board of Ilitha Labantu as the river of my life filled with rocks blocking off my progress became a challenge. I learnt the ropes towards freedom of mind that enabled me as a person to make choices and decisions that suited me rather than being a conformist to the norm of subservience. There were times where the challenges of the dry patches in the river of my life were influencing me to go back to the space of dependency on others. Ilitha Labantu has taught me that rocks, rubble and drought will not deter me from continuing the journey by jumping over them and making the dry period to reflect on the free flow of the river producing a feeling of goodness and seeing the dry patches not as a curse but of strategizing on how to pass through it and get to the other side where is free flowing water driving one forward than being stuck in the dry patch which has no opportunity for growth and development.
Ilitha Labantu has created opportunities for women to grow and develop through its firm belief that there is no mountain that is insurmountable. To the women of this world, men of this world let it be known that this is a never ending journey as the dry patch is now a thing of the past as seeds are sown on it and it is producing good fruit as women are now liberated and are free to make decisions and choices befitting them. The new journey begins from the dry patch with vigour and energy that is making women more determined to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals aimed at the empowerment of women and children are achieved which Ilitha Labantu will ensure at all costs for the benefit of the women of the universe.
Let us all rise up to the challenges and never give up and stand together in forging ways of having our goals achieved.
My Kindest of Regards,
Ms Ntutu Mtwana