Learning to be Truthful to What I Believe in and Intentional in All I Do.”

“What I love about this WVL Project with KZNVAW is that we work WITH the community and not just FOR the community. I have learnt that working in this way means that this project will not just come and go, because it is transforming the way the community itself works. “

I remember my first encounter with WWSOSA. I just could not believe that there was a faith-based organisation that went deep with pastors into how the message of the Word of God can be interpreted in many ways. That is what the faith sector needs – something that will be a point of reference for our pastors not to minister just whatever comes to their mind, but a Word that has been scrutinised and unpacked by multiple minds together. The most interesting thing is that, after everyone has made sense of a Scripture by interrogating it within their own diverse experiences, a deeper truth begins to emerge that we can all relate to.

WWSOSA is even doing this with pastors around GBV – most people are afraid to touch such topics in a church setting. But to teach pastors how to approach such topics with sensitivity to different perspectives and experiences… I admire that a lot. This has helped me in my work with survivors and in the community. It frees people to trust their own faith understandings to help them work through their challenges and not be condemned by one person’s interpretation just because he is a pastor.

Phindile joined Phephisa Survivors’ Network in 2017 as a rape survivor with Nompilo Gcwensa and has been working in the leadership of the Phephisa Survivors’ Network since 2018. Through Nompilo, Phindi has become involved in working in partnership with WWSOSA in 2019 and working with KZNVAW and the WVL project as a volunteer since early 2021. She has learnt a lot from Nompilo, both in Phephisa and in this project.

Phindile sums up her own growth as follows, “Through involvement with WWSOSA and KZNVAW and this project, I have learnt to be sensitive, to not judge. I have also learnt that nothing is permanent and have learnt to adapt to change. I love more, smile more and open up, get to know new people and I have learnt to understand that not everyone will be happy about you, but in all that, you learn to be strong, learn to be honest, and open about how you feel and what doesn’t work for you. I have also learnt that it is OK to say NO”

Daniela corroborated this when she expressed that Phindi’s warmth and smile and her non-judgemental approach means that she offers a deep hospitality that allows people to feel accepted and relax more easily.

I admired how much time and effort and love Nompilo put in helping and making a difference in our support group. When I joined, I was filled with fear, judgment and stigma, but Nompilo’s openness about her own situation helped us all participate. I do not know how she does it, but she has the gift of making you so comfortable that you end up sharing more than you had planned, and even joining in activities more than you ever thought you would.

Phindile has observed that the different stakeholders in her community are more willing to collaborate, especially when they receive the correct information that helps them to understand the different service providers. In particular, Government officials and civil society organisations seem to be growing in trust relationships. Previously, many people in the community have criticised officials working in offices providing GBV services, accusing them of being ‘lazy’ or unhelpful. But through growing the RRTs and referral networks, people are realising that many Government officials are really committed and passionate about helping people, but are hamstrung by red tape and structural inefficiencies in the system or staff shortages and work overload. And Government officials are growing in respect for the vital and professional support systems offered by communities-based organisations.

This, Phindile says, is part of her learning and her sharing with other women in the community that “you don’t have to be taught everything – you can teach yourself”.