Compiled by Dr. Lesley Ann Foster: Founder and Executive Director of Masimanyane Women's Rights International
Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre was established in 1995 in East London South Africa. It was the start of the new democracy and the centre was the first facility to offer a women-specific service in the Eastern Cape Province. The centre is a grassroots organization that has trained women from communities to provide support services to victims/survivors of domestic violence, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence. While the centre has some professional expertise such as lawyers, psychologists and social workers, it remains a largely grassroots women’s organization that builds on the experiences and skills of women who provide the bulk of the services.
The uniqueness of this facility was that it worked largely in Black/African communities who had never had access to such a support service during the Apartheid years. Black African women were deemed to be sexual predators and therefore not prone to domestic violence or any kind of sexual assault.
Extensive networking had been undertaken prior to the establishment of Masimanyane. As a result, the centre began to receive referrals from a number of organizations such as Lawyers for Human Rights, the Black Sash and others. Great resistance was also evident from organizations that were providing support to women from so-called white communities. Psychologists viewed the facility with disdain claiming that it could not possibly provide a quality service to women as it was not established from a professional base.
What was most interesting about the response to this facility was that absolutely no one was working from a feminist perspective and none of the facilities had anything beyond a rudimentary analysis of women’s rights. The full case study is contained in the attachment below: