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Abused women become confident and skilled workers

Written by Samona Murugan
Since 1997, abused women and children have found a refuge at the Creating Effective Families Centre for Battered and Abused Women in Ridgeway, Cape Town. Often, they leave the centre as confident and skilled people, ready to face the world.

When a woman leaves the Creating Effective Families Centre for Battered and Abused Women, she must be strong, confident and be able to stand on her own two feet to support herself and her children."

This is how Karin Gildenhuys, the director of the shelter and a dear friend to the many abused women of Ridgeview and Mossel Bay at large, continues to inspire women around her. “Domestic violence is rampant, threatening the lives of mostly women and children. In most cases we deal with, substance abuse is a major contributing factor.”

According to Gildenhuys, the biggest problem women are confronted with in violent situations is that of having no alternative shelter and therefore no choice but to stay.

Creating Effective Families (CEF) is a home that offers women a new lease on life. Founded in 1986 as a branch of the Family and Marriage Association of South Africa (Famsa), the project joined with the Mossel Bay Alcohol and Drug Centre in June 2000 to become known as Creating Effective Families. It was the first non-governmental organisation in Mossel Bay to deliver a professional, holistic therapeutic service to individuals and families no matter what challenges threatened their existence. The centre also offers legal assistance to women in abusive relationships.

It can accommodate 25 women and children at any one time, including boys up to 12 years old. Gildenhuys says the centre has helped 1 750 women and children since it was established.

Based in Mossel Bay, the home offers safe accommodation while teaching women basic childcare, baking, phone etiquette and sewing skills so they can qualify for the centre's Home Management course.

Through these lessons, women who seek refuge for themselves and their children can develop skills that help them find employment. To help the centre continue providing for the women and expand their services, the Eskom Development Foundation recently renovated the home’s kitchen and donated sewing machines, a washing machine, two computers, couches, beds and chairs.

“Eskom believes in giving back and assisting with community development, particularly to places of safety for women and vulnerable children. It is our duty to provide assistance to impoverished communities and by supporting community self-help projects like this, we can sustainably contribute to addressing issues of domestic violence in South Africa,” says Haylene Liberty, the chief executive officer of the Eskom Development Foundation.

The centre offers technical skills training to unemployed and unskilled people, education and public awareness on gender equality, HIV/AIDS diseases, dealing with and preventing domestic violence and providing shelter for the destitute. The centre recently extended its services to provide counselling for men as well.

One of the successful projects run by the Creating Effective Families umbrella is a crèche. The project helps parents interact with their children and become involved in their schooling through a series of workshops. “Getting parents involved in their child’s schooling not only adds value but stimulates and strengthens the parent-child bond even further,” says school principle Gaynor Domingo.

One such parent, Dorothy Mayila, whose three-year-old daughter Limyoli attends the school, says the workshops have helped her family a lot. “I have learnt how to communicate with my child, and have also learnt the importance of reading to her. I see she is now more disciplined and has a stable routine.”

Through the centre and school workshops, the project is surely Creating Effective Families to uplift the community.