Female activists gather in Cape Town for four-day reflection and writing retreat

Nonhlanhla Skosana and Precilia Chuloi, of Sonke Gender Justice, were recently part of a group of 21 women civil society activists who gathered in Cape Town over four days – from 27-30 May 2016 – for a reflection and writing retreat.

The group was a cross generation of women ranging in age from 18-70 years and came from a range of civil rights sector organisations working in gender, health and education.

They reflected on the current political developments and debates taking place in the country, shared experiences about their activism work and created a space for writing to document their challenges and successes.

“Firstly, I want to thank Vuyiseka Dubula of Treatment Action Campaign for organising and inviting Sonke to the retreat. I must acknowledge that I learned a lot from it. I had a chance to network, reflect on my life, share my work and my particular daily work challenges in the community. This work includes supporting and encouraging my community members to deal with some of their personal frustrations and socio-economic stresses. It is easy as a community worker to be burnt-out because of the constant struggles confronting the people whom we aim to help because we hardly take the time to reflect and document the work that we do, and how we do it, to both learn and share with others doing similar work,” says Chuloi.

“Secondly, the women’s retreat evoked my deep-seated personal challenges, and hearing others share their stories, I gained strength, courage, healing and inspiration. I also realised the importance of self-care among other things. Despite my busy work schedule, I will from now on try to keep up reflections through writing,” she concluded.

For Skosana, the retreat was empowering. “I feel developed as a woman”, she says.

One of the writings that the participants came out with at the end of the retreat is a poem, which we share below:

I am not alone
My pain is our pain
Our songs, our healing
Realise importance of self-care
A woman is by other women
Lost, gained energy, self-value, possibility, not alone
I am beautiful, relieved, inspired woman
We are women of strength
Omama mabafunde ukubhala ngokuhlukunyezwa kwabo
Omama bakhuphe intlungu yabo bangafeli ngaphakathi
Beautiful strong women with strength to carry on
Phambili ngamalungelo omama
Phantsi ngokuhlukunyezwa kwabafazi abaphila neHIV
Break the silence, inspire, challenge gender based violence
Never, never again that I shall be silent
Our healing is our power, no turning back
Wathint’abafazi, wonderful group, forward together
Siyaphambili Sibambene

[Collectively written by Ncedisa Ngcobondwana, Ntomboxolo Giyose, Fredalene Booysen, Theolina Jaba, Nolubabalo Bulana, Nonhanhla Skosana, Precilia Chuloi, Shamim Meer, Vuyiseka Dubula, Theo Rozana, Yvette Raphael , Portia Mdingi-Ngcaba, Mandisa Mhambi, Phumeza Notshoba, Natasha Kibido, Vuyokazi Ntshuntsha, Nonzaliseko Ntwana, Nonyameko Ntiyo, Mzikazi]