Our #HelpingHandsSGBV campaign looks at how SGBV in South Africa affects children and adults from other countries. For non-South Africans, there can be extra barriers to reporting SGBV – but there are similarities in their experiences too. #HelpingHandsSGBV aims to provide information on how to better understand, report and get help on issues of SGBV in South Africa.
Although Mawuwa’s* story is one of abuse starting in her home country of Burundi, it is also a story of strength. She has never given up on fighting for herself and her children to have a better life.
“In the beginning it was difficult for me to speak up – it was really difficult.” Living very much in isolation in South Africa, not being able to speak English well and having only the father of her children for support – Mawuwa found herself unable to leave her abusive household. Noticing the bruises, a teacher at her daughter’s school began a conversation with Mawuwa around the safety of her and her children. “The teacher asked me if I want to stay – I said I don’t know where to go. I have no family. If I had somewhere to go, I would leave him.”
Ending up in hospital and having her children taken into care was the end of the line for Mawuwa and the father of her children. She did not want to return to the house for fear of her life. “I made the decision not to go back.” This was the point where she decided that she was going to fight for herself and fight to get her children back.
Mawuwa has faced barriers that are common for many people affected by sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), but specifically for people who are not originally from South Africa. Her documentation was used as leverage by her partner and her lack of English meant that her support was very small if it existed at all.
Gaining strength and finding help
After Mawuwa was discharged from hospital, she began approaching different organisations for assistance, finding bits of help from each organisation. She travelled around Cape Town determined to seek out support and assistance. Mawuwa was reunited with her children from whom she had been separated during her discharge from hospital.
Mawuwa accessed counseling services as well as legal services to help move forward in all spheres of life. Although some organisations were not able to help, her case is currently with lawyers who are helping her and her children specifically with their documentation.
Her advice to someone living in a similar situation is to reach out to organisations. There are different services that can be accessed and different forms of help available. You can visit the Scalabrini website to find organisations dealing with SGBV.
Dreaming of a better future
Mawuwa hopes for a life where her and her children can live with freedom from fear. Being able to have the correct documentation would allow Mawuwa and her family to access the rights that they have been fighting for over the last few years. Mawuwa dreams of her children having access to opportunities that she did not have; she wants them to be able to pursue their dreams and to live a life of peace.
*Names and places have been changed