With offices in Soweto, Orange Farm and Lenasia, the Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development, which was launched in 1994 by a group of dedicated women’s rights activists, is able to help women who suffer domestic violence.
As well as free face-to-face help, it also offers free counselling services through phone and email, enabling it to extend its reach beyond these Joburg areas. Nisaa has a particular focus on helping women who have experienced gender-based violence at the hands of their partners.
It aims to help women living in poorer areas of South Africa such as townships and informal settlements who do not have the resources necessary for them to take full control of their lives. Nisaa is committed to community-based women’s development.
The organisation offers an array of services to victims of violence and to others who want to take part in addressing the issue of the abuse of women. These services include public awareness and advocacy, training and counselling. Additional assistance to women includes help finding legal assistance in custody battles and divorce, applying for protection, obtaining legal documents such as birth certificates from the Department of Home Affairs, and making applications for grants.
“I think that our country has done a marvellous job of putting policies and legislation in place but these are not translated into implementation, with the consequence that women do not receive substantive justice. I also think that patriarchal attitude and practice is extremely rife among stakeholders working with issues of violence against women. This prevents women from being empowered and makes them fearful of engaging the criminal justice system,” explains Zubeda Dangor, Nisaa’s executive director.
Nisaa also advocates at the Department of Housing to help destitute mothers and children acquire priority status in terms of housing allocation. Its projects have benefited a large number of women in Johannesburg, and have helped them deal with the emotional trauma resulting from abusive relationships and rape.
“We are encouraged by the transformation that women are able to make in their lives given some assistance. Our passion and commitment for the safety, protection and empowerment of women inspires us to remain engaged actively. Also, we are aware that there are just so many South African women who are either not able to access help or receive justice.”
Nisaa’s training programme provides these women with life skills such as parenting, crisis intervention, and decision-making, as well as marketable skills and ways for them to start generating their own income such as card-making, sewing and beaded jewellery making.
One of the women who has been helped says: “My heart was so full of problems that I couldn’t talk… but in coming to Nisaa I got such comfort that I felt I could talk, and I started to feel like a person, a human being.”
Counselling for children who are caught up in the middle of the conflict is also available through Nisaa, which helps them deal with issues that they may be too young to grasp on their own. Support is offered through educational outings and activities as well as assistance with school work and play therapy.
A number of different campaigns are aimed at public awareness of gender-based violence, and advocacy in tackling the ever-growing social issue. One of these campaigns is Consent is Sexy!, which carries a vital message about the importance of consent before sex, mutual respect, and open communication between partners in a relationship. “Sex is always better when both partners want it.” The long-standing Date Rape campaign targets high school students. It uses a workbook to teach them about the reality of date rape, which also prompts them to debate the issue among themselves.
Nisaa also has a radio series called Change the Tune, in partnership with Channel Africa. Each of the two series consists of 26 episodes and each episode is about 30 minutes long. They have reached more than 6.5 million listeners across the continent. The radio series was produced to raise awareness and encourage honesty around subjects such as gender-based violence, as well as give people access to information.
Thousands of women in Gauteng and beyond have been helped through Nisaa, which hopes to make a difference in the lives of even more women. “It is a humbling experience and fills you with a sense of gratitude and motivates you to persevere and forge ahead proactively despite the many challenges,” Dangor says, explaining what drives her to keep helping as many people as possible.
If you or anybody you know could use some assistance from Nisaa, or perhaps provide some yourself, or if you just want to find out more about Nisaa, visit its website or contact it via the information below:
Nisaa Institute for Women’s Development
Physical address: 19 Link Street, extension 1, Lenasia, Johannesburg 1820
Tel: 011 854 5804/5
Soweto: Nicro Community Centre, 752 Roodepoort Rd, Mofolo, South Soweto 1852
Tel no: 011-984-8928
Orange Farm: TPA Offices, Orange Farm
Tel no: 011-850-0637