By: Lwazi Nongauza
In 2019, Fashion designer and Activator, Ditiro Mashigo was tasked with the project to design costumes for the Soweto Gospel Choir, she employed over 15 women to help her complete this project. These women were involved in the entire manufacturing process of the costumes, including the hand beading of the accessories and the printing of the textiles.
This was a deliberate and conscious endeavor. Since she started her business, Mashigo has always dedicated a large portion of her business to employing and empowering women. She has a very “firm and keen understanding of the different backgrounds that women come from and how an income can really make a difference”, explains Mashigo. She believes that when one employs one woman, one is feeding a family of five, and that drives Mashigo to create employment and empower women so that they don’t fall victim to gender-based-violence. “Women should never rely on a man for their sustenance so they can avoid falling into the trap of an abusive relationship”, she explains.
‘’A woman is killed by her intimate partner in South Africa every six hours. This is the highest rate (8.8 per 100 000 female population 14 years and more) that has ever been reported in research anywhere in the world.’’
That is one of many findings that were revealed by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) in 2018.
According to the PMG, one in five women in low-income areas has experienced physical violence, and the country has among the world’s highest rates of rape. Still today, the South African government, the corporate sector, and civil society formations are not responding satisfactorily to the crisis.
In a bid to financially liberate those women who are trapped in abusive relationships purely because they are dependent on their partners for survival, Limpopo born young multiaward-winning fashion designer, Ditiro Mashigo, is proactively using her social status brand to empower young women to create and develop self-sustaining businesses.
‘’I know that gender-based violence knows no social status or race, but I believe that one of the best ways of fighting gender-based violence in a romantic relationship setup is to empower women with skills that make them not to depend on men for their survival. That is exactly what I do with all the South African and Democratic Republic of Congo women that I am working with,’’ says Mashigo.
That is one of Mashigo’s proactive domestic gender-based violence fighting projects. Now and again, she runs educational workshops for young convicted boys in various prisons in and around Pretoria. According to Mashigo, this project is intended to empower young offenders with life sustaining skills and self-discovery opportunity progressive hobbies.
Besides empowering disadvantaged women, Mashigo is also involved in various Coronavirus fighting initiatives. Her recent projects saw her partnering with other women owned multinationals. They designed a million masks for underprivileged people throughout the country.
Fellow Activator, Hlubikazi Sanqela, congratulated Mashigo’s proactive contribution to the GBV national fighting agenda.
Although all of Mashigo’s gender-based violence initiatives might not be conducted in a formal setup, the Gender and Health Research Unit (GHRU) of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), endorse it.
GHRU Director, Professor Naeemah Abrahams, pleaded with all South African public and policy decision-makers to strengthen collaboration with all progressive gender-based violence activists like Mashigo. Professor Abrahams also encouraged the powers-that-be to invest more resources in order to help them to better understand current gender-based violence issues, including the role of gender inequality and its impact on women’s lives.
This is a story from the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Network. A network of over 4200 diverse young people driving change for the public good across South Africa. Members of this network, Activators, are connected by their passion, skills, sense of self, and spark to address tough challenges.