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Women’s stories

On this page we hope to have some of the stories of women who pass through the Centre, as well as their own writings.

For a start, here are two letters from ex-residents:

A letter of thanks to Saartjie Baartman Centre staff from Zeenat (not her real name), a shelter resident:

I hereby wish to thank you for the wonderful support and hospitality you have shown me as well as to everyone else who was in need of help.

When I first entered your centre, I was destitute and confused – I couldn’t focus clearly and thought that things will never come right for me because of my domestic life that was in a mess. I had no job, nowhere to go, but you opened your doors to me and helped me to the best of your ability. You also taught me ways to control myself – to be more assertive and in the process, enabling me to help those even less fortunate than myself.

During the course of my stay you motivated me to better myself by sending me on valuable courses, which has empower[ed] me as an individual. You gave me new vision and made me realise that I can make my own dreams come true.

I have completed the Home care course and now I earn a salary. You truly showed me that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Therefore, I thank the staff of Saartjie Baartman from the depth of my heart. I will be forever grateful to you for helping me find myself and placing the key to a better life; a better future, in my hand. May your organisation grow from strength to strength.

After spending eight weeks in the shelter, Zeenat secured work through the Centre as a frail care worker. She was deemed to be suitable for the job, as she had completed the home-based care training course and had a very caring nature. She subsequently undertook training in health counselling, an interest that was sparked by her experiences in home-based care work. She also did regular, motivational speaking, addressing other women who experienced gender-based violence.

Extracts from a letter of thanks to the staff of the Saartjie Baartman Centre from Miriam (not her real name), an ex shelter and second-stage housing resident:

My stay at the shelter has come to an end. On the 2nd of August 2004, I stood outside and I looked at this place and I asked myself, “Is this the place I want to be in – a shelter?” But I never looked back from there and I have achieved great things and I really look forward to going into the outside world (a bit scared) but with staff like this what do I have to fear? You carried me through a year and seven months and I really found myself and became strong. I feel I can fight the world… I felt happy and safe – it was like home. My kids never felt so good in many years. It is great to have found my family again and giving them that home that we had seven years ago.

Miriam was employed as a relief night supervisor at the Centre shortly after she, and her children, moved into second-stage housing. After spending a year and two months in second-stage housing, Miriam and her children moved into a separate entrance, which was within walking distance from the Centre. She planned to save money and start a detergent manufacturing business of her own. She had the required expertise and knowledge, as she and her husband ran a similar business before she came to the shelter.