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 UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and How You Can Help Achieve Them

Young reporters from the Pikin to Pikin Tok project in Sierra Leone. Photo credit: Child to Child.

The Circle member Shannon Hodge looks at the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how we, as active citizens, can maintain the momentum, push for further progress and achieve these goals by 2030.

On 1 January 2016, the United Nations’ long-awaited — and extensively-researched — Sustainable Development Goals came into effect. And just like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that came before them, they will last for 15 years.

This time around, there are 17 goals to reach. They are much broader and more inclusive than the eight MDGs were, and include specific targets and indicators to reach the overall goals.

And while the MDGs were largely focused on lower-income countries, the SDGs are designed to apply to all countries, no matter their income.

Proposed goals include ending poverty in all its forms everywhere, taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, ending hunger, and reducing inequality within, and among, countries.

However, the most important Sustainable Development Goal to The Circle — and one which we strive to achieve in everything we do — is Goal 5: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Specific targets within Goal 5 include eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls, including trafficking and sexual exploitation, eliminating harmful practices including forced marriage and female genital mutilation, and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

To see how The Circle is working towards specific targets and indicators within Goal 5 and how you can help, keep reading…

5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

Many of our projects focus on preventing violence against women, including Nonceba: a shelter for survivors of violence and human trafficking in Western Cape. The centre has a shelter for women who have survived domestic violence or have been victims of human trafficking. Most women in the shelter are also HIV positive, struggle to access healthcare, and have limited education and training. By supporting this project, Nonceba can provide these women with a place to stay for a whole year, where they can access counselling, legal support, healthcare, educational programmes and victim empowerment groups.

The Circle also supports a UNICEF project in Nepal which conducts research to gain a deeper understanding of the roots and causes of child trafficking, and offers direct services to thousands of girls who have been affected, including shelter, medical care and counselling.

5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life

Be a part of giving women the chance to learn their rights — and worth — with the leading lights of Myanmar project. In the run-up to the country’s elections, Oxfam worked with local partners to create women’s groups, who informed their communities about their right to vote, ran successful campaigns, gave women the skills and confidence to become local leaders, and taught them how to build their skills and run effective election campaigns.

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

The Scottish Circle and the David Williamson Rwanda Foundation have been busy working with vulnerable youth in Rwanda on subjects including gender equality, domestic violence, STDs, teenage pregnancy and business skills. At the end of the four-week-long workshop, all 150 children had been provided with medical insurance and were more familiar with their sexual and reproductive health and rights.

5.A. Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws

In Sri Lanka — and many parts of the world — men own a much bigger proportion of land than women. They also own most of the agricultural equipment, even though it’s often women working in the fields. However, our Planting Hope project with Oxfam is enabling women to take control of their own small business enterprises, support each other by setting up a cooperative to improve their earning power, and raise their status in the community.

A more recent addition to the list of projects we support is a Women Cooperative in Rwanda. With the assistance of Oxfam and a local partner, sixty women (eighty per cent of whom are widows) will create a farming cooperative.

Each woman is given a pig and learns about pig rearing, cooperative management and development of sustainable income-generating activities. Once their pigs give birth, each woman gives a piglet to another woman in their district, thus doubling the number of families benefiting from an increased household income.

To help us continue to work towards achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls worldwide, sign up to be a member here.