In a nutshell
Through the Mhani Gingi Trust Restoring Dignity Project we aim to restore the dignity of previously abused women by partnering with a home for abused women in the Western Cape to achieve the following three key objectives:
- To promote and restore Social Justice by educating abused women on their rights and responsibilities;
- To build financial independence through the establishment of a soap manufacturing, Social Enterprise. This small business will empower beneficiaries to generate the financial means to support themselves and their families;
- To give abused women the knowledge, skills and self-confidence to break free from their abusive relationships and restore their dignity by becoming both emotionally and financially independent.
What we do
The RESTORING DIGNITY PROJECT embraces moving women from dependence to independence and restored self-esteem through using the practical soap-making as a therapeutic medium towards healing from their traumatic experiences and provides the opportunity to optimise their own vision through the acquisition of life skills.
How we do it
In 2016, Mhani Gingi secured funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to sponsor a two-year Restoring Dignity women’s empowerment project, hosted at Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children.
Using the soap-making as the therapeutic medium to self-development, we initially recruited 5 beneficiaries to be trained to produce and package natural liquid soap that could then be marketed and sold to local clinics, community centres, B&B’s and shops to promote health and hygiene.
Each of the original 5 women were given 2 new beneficiaries to train and mentor. When these beneficiaries were equipped with the required knowledge and skills to continue with the existing soap production and packaging, the original team of women were ready to move onto Phase Two, where they are able to start their own small business, or were skilled to move to employment.
Earning a stipend, whilst gaining skills, makes the women less vulnerable, as it ensures their financial independence and prevents them from returning to their abusive situations.
By using mostly organic ingredients with medicinal properties, this liquid soap can be used to combat various skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions.
Being environmentally conscious, re-fills are available where the bottles can easily be re-filled.
What we have achieved
Four of the women are now employed at major retail businesses and are successfully moving forward in life.
Two of the women are now skilled and able to take on the role of trainer and mentor within the project, and, although they have had employment offers, are passionate about this programme and that of empowering others who find themselves in similar situations. As role models, they are able to motivate and instil hope in women walking a similar journey, and show that change and restored dignity is within their reach too.
“We are survivors of abuse – no longer victims. Our pain has become our strength. What we thought was a setback, has become our comeback. With a VISION, HOPE and an OPPORTUNITY, WE CAN ALL SHINE.”
The soap-making process is also an analogy for the journey the ladies have been on – through all the challenges, a beautiful natural product emerges – and they are washing away the past.
Using the A2B occupational intelligence continuum ( A2B OI continuum), we are monitoring the movement of the ladies from A levels – dependence, to B level – independence.
We are all under construction and these ladies are an inspiration as to what can be achieved – overcoming so many obstacles and now standing tall.
What we have learned
- Peeling away the defence layers and the process of change is a long journey that takes real commitment and a determined “one step at a time approach”. Reverting to the default setting behaviour patterns is sometimes perceived as easier than the change process.
- Providing on-going “just right’ challenges that encourage the, “I CAN” moments, is of critical importance to developing the sense of self and building resilience and trust – TRUST being a major stumbling block and challenge after their traumatic experiences.
- Developing a self -vision and exposure to a broader range of experiences, as many of the beneficiaries have remained within their particular area and do not have any knowledge of the ‘world out there,” is another important facet of the process of change.
- Overcoming the social stigma of abuse. This has been most evident in the marketing of our product in some circles.
- Developing a sustainable market for our product to ensure that this project can continue and impact many women has been a major challenge. We are discovering our niche market, but it has taken longer than envisaged.
- Their stories must be used as an inspiration to others and we are actively perusing platforms for them to share and connect with other victims. It is in their telling that they inspire hope in others.