Ashley Kaimowtz and the roots of Nonceba

Photo: Ashley Kaimowtz at Nonceba.

On the International Day of the Girl, I’d like to commemorate a very special young woman called Ashley Kaimowitz.

A beautiful black and white photograph hangs in Nonceba’s entrance hall, made by local craftswomen in honour of an exceptional teenage girl called Ashley Kaimowitz.

In order to fully understand how the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre came into being, it’s important to know Ashley’s story.

In high school, Ashley was an active member of Rotary Interact —Rotary International’s service club for 12-18 year olds.

At the age of 16, she became secretary of her school’s chapter of the club, and she planned a trip to visit Nonceba with her executive committee in the township of Khayelitsha, where 1 in 3 children suffer serious sexual abuse by the age of 18.

Nonceba was originally founded in 2002 by a local resident called Nocawe Mankayi, who had become deeply distressed by how commonplace child rape was in the township, and how little support was available for victims. Nocawe offered children shelter in her own small brick house, feeding them with her meagre income. She dreamed of creating a larger, professionally-equipped, 24/7 safe haven for victims of sexual abuse. Nonceba received no assistance from the government and was being maintained solely by volunteers.

On her visit with Interact, Ashley met a little 4-year old girl who had been raped by her father the night before. Holding the child in her arms, Ashley was overcome with emotion. She felt destined to help manifest Nocawe’s vision —an idea to which she was about to wholeheartedly dedicate herself.

A high achiever, Ashley had long been passionate about filmmaking, something she planned to pursue as a career in the future. While she had never made a film, she conjectured that a documentary about rape in South Africa’s townships would be the perfect fundraising tool for Nonceba’s new centre.

Despite her inexperience, she resolved to script, direct, and produce her own film, underscoring the subject. She told her parents, “If I can’t bring the World to Khayelitsha, then I’m going to take Khayelitsha to the World!”.

In between school and her extracurricular activities, Ashley reached out to family members in the U.S. to help her fund the film, as she knew the dollar would go a long way in her native country. Her grandparents put her in touch with the Board of Directors at Rutgers University, where a couple named Jerry and Lorraine Aresty admired Ashley’s tenacity and idea so much that they offered to sponsor her project with a cheque for $1,000.

When a small film company in Cape Town learned of Ashley’s plan, they lent her all of the necessary film equipment, trained her in its application, and linked her to an editing company and film studio (both of which agreed to help with the documentary for free).

Ashley and a few friends spent their entire winter break filming in Khayelitsha alongside Nocawe.

In September of 2002, after months of steadfast effort on the documentary, “Uthando Labatwana — For the Love of Our Children” celebrated its premiere screening at Ashley’s high school. Her work received a standing ovation, but Ashley had no intentions of stopping there.

Schools in the area began showing Ashley’s documentary, and more individuals and organizations stepped forward with donations for Nonceba.

In 2004, after completing high school, Ashley moved to Japan for a year as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student Ambassador. Despite being far from home, her devotion to Nonceba never wavered. She continued campaigning for the cause by orchestrating film screenings in Japanese venues.

Soon, a professional film studio there offered to subtitle the film so that it would reach a broader audience. It was shown on national television and at film festivals across the country, and the Japanese population was startled into action by the content of Ashley’s work.

It wasn’t long before an entire organization was founded in Kyoto to create awareness about child rape, and raise additional funds for Nonceba.

When Ashley returned home, she set her sights on attending university in Australia, where she had arranged to study filmmaking.

While in the final stages of planning her move, she was tragically killed when a drunk driver hit her car.

Six months after Ashley’s death, Carte Blanche (a South African program similar to 60 Minutes) broadcast her story, and support poured in from people all over the country who were inspired by Ashley’s courage, empathy, and actions —virtues that were even more remarkable given her young age.

As a result of that segment, millions of South African rand were raised for Nonceba’s new centre, and a construction team was assembled.

In 2008, three years after Ashley’s death, Nocawe was able to open the doors of the new Nonceba. This location, unlike its predecessor, is equipped with medical facilities, a counselling clinic, a safe house for children and abused women’s shelter able to accommodate 45 women and children, a community hall, training facilities, multiple offices for doctors, lawyers, social workers and psychologists, an ample playground, and much more. The centre is open all day every day, with live-in staff and an entire team trained in crisis response.

While Ashley isn’t here to witness the fruits of her labour, the centre is dedicated to her memory and the relentless support of Nocawe’s mission.

Thanks to an extraordinary teenager who lost her life far too soon, there is a safe haven of hope in Kahyelitsha.
I’m so proud that The Circle is helping to support Ashley and Nocawe’s dream.

To find out more about the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre and donate, click here.

Watch Ashley’s Documentary:

#OneReasonImAGlobalFeminist #WomenEmpoweringWomen


The Circle Committees Gathering

Photo: The Circle Committees Gathering in London, October 2018

 

We had a wonderful get together last Saturday 29 September 2018, with representatives from The Asian Circle, The Lawyers Circle, The Oxford Circle, The Italian Circle as well as our now forming London, Media and Healthcare and USA Circles! The Calgary Circle joined via the technology of the internet… I am SO proud of the work everyone has done, is doing, and is planning to accomplish in the future… Working on issues such as violence against women, sex trafficking, a living wage for women working in the garment industry, supporting the most vulnerable refugee children and mentoring young female journalists working in conflict zones. We are covering a broad selection of challenges and establishing real traction!
To think that in the same week, Jessica Simor of The Lawyers Circle, along with our Executive Director Sioned Jones, went to The Hague to have dialogue that could actually change the law on what is considered to be a ‘living wage’ for women, is an outstanding Circle accomplishment! And our Asian Circle’s partner in India, Lok Astha, have just received a ‘Spirit of Humanity’  award in recognition of their work in creating a transformative model to eliminate domestic violence and empower women!
Photo: Susan Ferner, from The Calgary Circle, joined the meeting via video conference from Canada.

 

After only three and a half years of forming our NGO, we are beginning to demonstrate our real potential.
Please join me in amplifying the message as to who we are and what we are doing, by contributing to our #OneReasonWhyIamAGlobalFeminist campaign.
With gratitude and appreciation to every single one of our dear Circle members… and much love from Annie.
To become a member of The Circle, sign up here.

One Reason Why I’m A Global Feminist

 

Annie Lennox, Founder of The Circle, on why she is a global feminist. Join the #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist movement on social media and tag Annie Lennox and @TheCircleNGO.

Like millions of women and men, I feel hugely inspired by the development of the #MeToo, Time’s Up and Women’s March movements.

I am proud to call myself a feminist and stand in solidarity with everyone who understands the vital need for change in attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls.

The feminist movement is a broad church with different interpretations, opinions and ideas. I identify myself as a ‘Global Feminist’ to describe where I’m coming from.

I believe in equality of rights, with empowerment and justice made available for every woman and girl in every corner of the world.

#OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist is a call to action bringing collective meaning and value to the term ‘Global Feminism’.

Prof Pamela Gillies, Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University

Feminism needs to be relevant, appreciated and respected where the needs are greatest —in countries where women and girls are not even near the lowest rung of the ladder in terms of human rights. I’m impatient to see the ‘glass ceiling’ being smashed in my lifetime, so I’m inviting you to join me and The Circle, to create a massive advocacy wave to establish the term ‘Global Feminism’ and raise a better understanding about the bigger picture of global inequality.

This call to action will only take 5 minutes of your time.

Have your picture taken holding a sheet of paper with one selected handwritten reason why you identify yourself as a Global Feminist.

Post your picture on social media, using #OneReasonWhyImAGlobalFeminist and tag Annie Lennox and @TheCircleNgo so we can see your support. Feel free to help grow the campaign by tagging other organisations you support who work for the rights of women and girls and ask your friends, family and colleagues to join in too.

You will then become part of a collective wave for positive change for women’s rights around the world!

Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld.

Here are some reasons to choose from, in case you don’t already know them:

1.There are 757 million adults who cannot read or write —2 out of 3 of these are women.
2.In Africa, 28 million girls are not in education and will never step inside a classroom.
3.Over 750 million women alive today were married before their 18th birthday.
4.Every minute of the day, one young girl (aged 15-24) contracts HIV.
5.Women and girls account for 71% of human trafficking victims.
6.Every day approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
7.Women make up only 22.8% of the worlds parliamentarian seats.
8. Across the world 39,000 girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day.
9. In developing countries,20,000 girls under the age of 18 give birth every day.
10. 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
11. 41 million girls living in developing countries around the world are denied a primary education.
12. 1 in 3 women and girls are impacted by physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.

Love,

Annie Lennox


My visit to Nonceba

 

The Circle founder Annie Lennox shares her most recent visit to Nonceba, a family counselling centre and shelter for women supported by The Circle. Nonceba is located in Khayelitsha, a township in Western Cape, South Africa.

Its vast spread of corrugated iron shacks is breathtaking in size and scale, while living conditions are humbling.

The African sun burns at intensely high temperatures, turning shacks into roasting ovens. Fire is a constant hazard, spreading in seconds and devastating people’s lives on a regular basis.

The cold winter season brings freezing winds and heavy rains to flood and soak the thousands of vulnerable dwelling places, which are barely fit for shelter of any kind.

TB, pneumonia and HIV/AIDS are rife in impoverished communities like these, where generations of people survive without decent housing, services and facilities, safety or security, exposed to lack and abuse at every level. According to statistics, more than half the residents are unemployed and living in abject poverty. Criminality, gang violence, alcoholism and drug abuse fester and thrive. Young children growing up in this environment have limited prospects ahead of them as young adults.

As well as all this, there are inordinately high levels of reported rape and violence against women and children. An estimated ONE in THREE children living in Khayelitsha have suffered serious sexual abuse by the age of 18. The lack of effective community emergency intervention facilities, with an over-burdened police force and an under-resourced state welfare system, results in an inability to tackle the burden of child abuse and domestic violence.

In an effort to respond to this terrible situation, the Nonceba Family Counselling Centre started from very humble beginnings in 1997, as a two-room consulting practice run by volunteers from the community.
In 2008, the organization received a major financial boost to create a new purpose built centre —a residential safe house able to accommodate 21 women and children with a play therapy room, counselling suite, training facilities, community hall and offices.

On a recent visit to Nonceba, I witnessed some of the wonderful work they are doing first hand.

On my arrival I was greeted at the entrance with a warm hug and lots of laughter from Pauline, who runs the centre and is an awe inspiring women and children’s champion!

(From left to right) Annie, a former service user at Nonceba and Pauline.

She introduced me to members of the staff team who were working that day, while she showed me around the centre. Nonceba truly is a small oasis of safety, security and healing for women and their children in the midst of a consistently dangerous and threatening environment.

 

 

The range of services Nonceba offers is comprehensive and holistic. Social workers are available to help women seek and receive the support they are entitled to, and counsellors help women and children deal with the traumas they are faced with. There are play spaces and simple bedrooms in the safe houses, where mothers can stay together with their children. Child care is provided. A crèche is run, so mothers have a safe and caring place to leave their children whilst they are at work, and the community hall is a place where past and current service users, as well as staff, can come together for support, encouragement and laughs. Once the women do eventually leave Nonceba, continued support is available after their stay.

Going into the child’s therapy room was a poignant and sobering experience, realising as I did that the children who come here have been hurt and traumatised by adults in an inconcievable way.

Pictured above are some of the dolls used in therapeutic sessions with children who have been sexually abused, so the therapist can gauge a better assessment as to what has actually taken place in a non-invasive way. These dolls really brought the sadly disturbing truth home to me as to what is happening to so many children.

Nonceba understands the need to deal with the underlying issues and give the women the skills and resilience to manage once they leave.

 

It was wonderful to sit quietly in a yoga class, where women could partake in a gently healing session of breathing and stretching their bodies through this beautiful practice with a qualified and experienced teacher. Having opportunities like these are uncommon in townships to say the least. This was a heartwarming and deeply touching moment for me.

Once the class was over I introduced myself and spoke about The Circle and our shared purpose, in the need for respect and empowerment for women everywhere in the world.

Like so many grass-roots NGOs the need for these services is overwhelming, yet funding is neither guaranteed or sufficient to respond to the full requirement.

The SA government contributes towards costs for a woman and her family to stay in the facility for up to three months while receiving shelter, counselling and trauma healing, but this isn’t really a long enough time frame for lasting transformation to take place.

On one wall at Nonceba there is a specially sculpted “tree” where they hang “leaves” with the names of donors on them. It was wonderful to see The Circle leaf.

I feel so proud that The Circle is making a significant contribution to Nonceba and the women and children of Khayelitsha, in helping to respond to some of the desperate need, and offer support in a situation where there is so little to be accessed.

To find out more about Nonceba and donate, click here.