Women ready to WOW their community

A group of women are ready to sort out social ills in their community.

Calling themselves the Women of Westlake (WOW), these 12 women want to make a difference in their community.

Spokesperson for the group, Asanda Mpendu said the Community Strengthening Programme is part of the City of Cape Town’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

But not just anyone could join the programme. “We had to send a CV (curriculum vitae) and go for an interview.

“They were looking for people who have experience with children,” said one of the women, Alicia van Schalkwyk.

The eight-day training programme, held in February, covered counselling in drug abuse, therapy, massage and “phys fun”, similar to Pilates.

Now they have a four-month contract to show their worth.

And with 12 women bringing ideas forward it looks like they have a busy time ahead. “We all live in Westlake and we know the problems here, domestic violence, sexual abuse, rape, drug and alcohol abuse, children not in school.

“We want to run a centre where we can focus on doing programmes that will help our community with these issues,” said Ms Mpendu.

This first reconstruction and development programme (RDP) area in the country, many people who initially moved into the newly built houses of Westlake Village have lifted themselves out of poverty.

But many others have not.

Many parents have jobs but struggle to find an aftercare for their children. This is where WOW comes in. They have approached Westlake Primary School with a plan to run an aftercare service from 1pm to 5pm.

Asked for comment, Landie Diamond, principal of the school, said that aftercare is always a good idea but it is early days.

“We need to discuss the logistics of this with staff and the governing body before a decision can be made,” she said.

Other programmes WOW anticipate running are around child protection and domestic violence.

During the school holiday they will run a workshop for teenagers on sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/Aids and teenage pregnancy.

They also plan an information sharing day for parents, including how to have healthy relationships.

“What happened in Tokai has been a wake-up call.

“We want to stand up and be strong for community and that of the family of Franziska,” said Ms Mpendu, referring to the rape and murder of Franziska Blöchliger in Tokai Forest.

Mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development, Suzette Little, said Strengthening Families is an ongoing project which forms part of the social development and early childhood development directorate’s substance abuse programme.

It is one of several interventions aimed at addressing the root causes of social ills like gangsterism and substance abuse.

“This internationally recognised programme has been found to significantly reduce problem behaviours, delinquency, and substance abuse in children and to improve social competencies and school performance, while enhancing parenting skills,” said Ms Little.

The pilot phase began in September 2014 with 63 families from Scottsdene, Elsies River, Manenberg, Lavender Hill and Bonteheuwel attending an eight-week course.

Facilitators addressed topics such as communication, family values, peer pressure, parenting skills and respect, among others.

In addition, 29 of the mothers who attended these sessions se- cured employment through the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme.

WOW initially worked from a room in Westlake United Church Trust (WUCT) but their dream of creating a space which would be open for their community members to come and get help recently came true in the form of a container.

Across the road from WUCT, the container was old, run-down, surrounded by rubble, litter and overgrown vegetation.

The women worked hard to clear the site, with the help of one man and in between going door-to-door in the community to offer their services.

Now they are asking people to donate items to make their centre a place with all the things they need to run it, tables, chairs, bookshelves, stationery and toys (for children). “We want the centre to look caring and open to the community,” said Ms Mpendu.

If you can help, call Asanda Mpendu on 078 388 4983, or Anthea Thebus on 084 469 2210.