*Trigger warning: this article talks about violence against women and children.
A Polished Man beneficiary for 2019, South Africa-based Mothotlung Network provides shelter and counselling to victim-survivors of violence against women. This is the story of its founder, Lebogang Bogopane, an award-winning community activist.
After surviving both a childhood and a marriage plagued by violence, Lebogang Bogopane took it upon herself to help women and children living in abusive households.
Lebo launched the Mothotlung Network in a northwest province of South Africa as a centre providing shelter and counselling to victim-survivors of violence against women.
Since the Mothotlung Network was founded in 2008, the centre has continued to grow and is now run by a staff of twenty committed volunteers, many of whom are trained trauma counsellors. To date they have supported 1200 women and 3000 children by providing them with a safe place to live, specialised therapy, and upskilling to increase their employment opportunities.
By partaking in Polished Man in October 2019, the funds you raise will help support the work of Lebo and her staff.
What made you want to start the Mothotlung Network?
Even though my past was the main reason of starting the Mothotlung Network, another reason that made me quit my job immediately without notice was when a local eight-year-old girl was raped and infected with HIV in the process. The situation made me angry, and reminded me of the time when I was a child and was raped and felt helpless.
The incident was more motivation than I needed to do something to prevent this from happening. At the time, nobody in my community had the courage to address the issues faced by women and children. I had to do something to prevent the scourge from continuing, and to create a strong support system for those women and children who have fallen victim to abuse.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions around domestic violence?
Where I’m from, some men think that because they paid the Lobola (bride price), he owns his wife and can abuse her however he wants. Other men will say they were provoked into violence, or that it’s the fault of alcohol.
What do you hope to achieve with the Mothotlung Network?
The organisation is a safe haven for women and children who have been abused, but we’re also working tirelessly to prevent abuse of women and children from occurring in the first place. We strive to ensure that our beneficiaries are treated with the respect and dignity that they rightfully deserve.
We need people to understand that the Mothotlung Network is a place that offers second chances to those women and children that have experienced trauma in their lives. Our aim is to ensure that even though our beneficiaries come to us as victims, they will leave as victors.
What kind of services do you offer?
We offer trauma recovery and support which covers psycho-social support; accommodation at our 24-hour crisis centre; joint interviews/mediation; access to medical assistance; court support; referrals; and skills development, training and job creation. We also focus on prevention, and so run awareness campaigns, training, encourage dialogue and organise presentations.
One income generating activity we offer is a community bakery where women who are survivors of domestic violence are trained and skilled on baking bread, and on starting small and medium businesses to sustain themselves. The income generated from the sales of bread is reinvested back into the organisation.
Do you have examples of women that have come into the network and had their lives turned around?
There’s a video on YouTube called ‘Against All Odds’ with Mpho Lakaje. It tells the story of a woman named Dorah Menoeand, and speaks of the assistance she received from our centre.
What can an average person do to help end the cycle of abuse and domestic violence?
Know the signs. Domestic violence can happen to anyone. It has no class, colour or social status. Lend an ear. Listen and ask how you can help. Be there for someone who is going through domestic violence – don’t judge. And most importantly, don’t ignore it – report it immediately. Your intervention can help save a life.
When joining the Bank Australia fundraising team this October we’ll chip in $10 once you raise your first funds, and an extra $10 when you raise $100.
If you are worried about unhealthy, abusive or violent behaviour in any of your relationships, or or someone you know, contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au for online chat counselling, information and referrals. This service is free, confidential and available 24 hours, 365 days.
In an emergency, call the police on 000.