Conversations with myself: I am Woman . . .

Flowers feed the soul

In South Africa we celebrate National Women’s Day on August 9th each year. Our Government has declared the entire month of August National Women’s month.

In spite of all the new laws and legislation, we still grapple with gender equality in our country. Women who stay home to take care of the home and/or children are classified as “not working” when, in fact, they end up working harder than those who go out to work in the formal employment sector.

Most of the work women do is unpaid labour – what do I mean by this? When the woman is employed in the formal labour sector and gets paid for the work done, she still has work waiting at home for which she does not get paid a salary, for example: washing and ironing clothes, cooking, cleaning the home, taking care of the children. All this is left to the woman to do and she does not receive any additional payment for these duties. Community work – the woman may choose to serve her community in some way by volunteering her time and skills, again, she does not get paid for this work.

Men come home from the office, sit in the armchair in front of the television with their newspaper and wait for supper to be served (by the woman). More and more men are choosing to stay home as “stay-at-home-dads” these days but mostly because they cannot find work – very few do this out of choice.
So where does this leave us? When will the status quo change when a woman will receive acknowledgement for the work she does at home? Let’s take a look at the story below and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.


“What is your job?” asked the doctor.
“I am a farmer” replied Mr Moyo

“Have you any children?” the doctor asked.
“God has not been good to me. Of 15 born, only 9 alive,” Mr Moyo answered.

“Does your wife work?” (doctor)
“No, she stays at home”.

“I see. How does she spend her day?” (doctor)
“Well, she gets up at four in the morning, fetches water and wood, makes the fire, cooks breakfast and cleans the homestead. Then she goes to the river and washes clothes. Once a week she walks to the grinding mill. After that she goes to the township with the two smallest children where she sells tomatoes by the roadside while she knits. She buys what she wants from the shops. Then she cooks the midday meal.”

“You come home at midday?” (doctor)
“No, no, she brings the meal to me about 3km away.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“She stays in the field to do the weeding, and then goes to the vegetable garden to water.”

“What do you do?” (doctor)
“I must go and discuss business and drink with the men in the village.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“I go home for supper which my wife has prepared.”

“Does she go to bed after supper?” (doctor)
“No. I do. She has things to do around the house until 9 or 10.”

“but I thought you said your wife does not work.” (doctor)
“Of course she does not work. I told you that she stays at home.”

(Source: Presented by the Women and Development Sub-committee Ministry of Community Development and Community Affairs, Zimbabwe to Women’s Regional Ecumenical Workshop, 26 June – 6 July 1989, Harare, Zimbabwe).
The Oxfam Gender Training Manual © Oxfam UK and Ireland 1994: 183

Conversations with myself: Understanding Criminal Thinking


This past week I spent two days at a workshop hosted by National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) on the subject of Criminal Behaviour Foundations: Understanding Criminal Thinking.

I found this workshop very interesting and informative because I learnt that criminal behaviour, just like any other behaviour, does not exist in a vacuum. In order to deal appropriately with crime perpetrators, one has to understand the individual in relation to him/herself, the community and the world in which we live.

Some of the key learning for me was:
• How the values, beliefs and attitudes of perpetrators influence their behaviour negatively because of their negative world view and their negative view of themselves.
• The most commonly cited macro-level factors that contribute towards crime are: population structure, rapid migration from rural to urban areas, high levels of unemployment, inadequate education, insufficient welfare services, weak areas within the criminal justice system, large scale illegal immigration, availability of firearms, porous borders which makes crime syndicates, trafficking and smuggling a viable option and inequality and poverty.
• The development of behavioural problems early in life and critical thinking errors in later life also contribute to a life of crime. The eight most common static and dynamic risk factors for youth and adult crime are: history of anti-social behaviour, anti-social personality pattern, anti-social cognition (thinking patterns), anti-social associates/friends, family and/or marital problems, school and/or work problems, leisure and/or recreation choices and substance abuse.
• Brain development – what really stood out for me is that the brain does not fully mature until between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age which means that classifying a person as an adult at age 18 is actually technically incorrect because research has shown that the brain actually only completes development (matures) by age 25 – this includes impulse control, planning, reasoning, thinking before acting, the regulation of emotion, abstract thinking, resistance to peer influence and the ability to delay gratification. Whether a person is mature enough to be classified as an adult therefore needs to be decided on an individual basis.
• Schemas (the way we view the world) – we learnt that there are 5 schemas and there are 18 early maladaptive schemas grouped within 5 domains i.e. disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy/performance, other directedness, over-vigilance/inhibition and impaired limits.
• The link between emotion and cognition and criminals do not necessarily lack empathy towards their victims but that there is a selective application of empathy.
• There are 8 criminal thinking styles or patterns which support or reinforce four behavioural styles i.e. problem avoidance, interpersonal hostility, self-assertion deception and denial or harm (to others).
We also watched a DVD of an interview of a child abuse survivor called Beth. The interview was done when she was aged about 6 years and she vividly remembers everything that was done to her by her father when she was only 1 year old. It was really heart-wrenching to watch her and how she could recall everything without showing any emotion whatsoever.

Here is the link to the interview we watched:

Do yourself a favour and get the movie/DVD called Child of Rage and see for yourself the events that led up to this interview.

We also watched an interview of a young man accused of murder and this was also moving because of the total lack of emotion when he recalled the events leading up to the murder.

There was just so much information shared at this workshop over the two days that it will probably take a while for everything to sink into this little pea brain of mine.

I now see perpetrators of crime in a new light. Where it was easy to judge them before and write them off as the scum of the earth, I now look at them and say “why?” and “what went wrong?”

Don’t forget – you can also find me at:

Conversations with myself: When I grow up, I want to be a Community Paralegal


I’m thinking of becoming a Community Paralegal. Why, I hear you asking?

Paralegals who are less expensive and more accessible than lawyers are able to empower the poor and marginalised in their interactions with Police, Prosecutors and the Courts.

Paralegals are able to deliver a critical service, particularly in the early stages of the criminal justice process. They are able to provide primary legal aid services which no one else is providing, which, in turn, can eliminate unnecessary pre-trial detention, the speedy processing of cases, diversion of young offenders, and reduce case backlogs.

Paralegals can play a valuable role in reducing prison overcrowding by locating the family members of pre-trial detainees and facilitating bail hearings.

Using their knowledge of the law and the circumstances of their client, Paralegals can identify individuals who are eligible and suitable for release from the Police Station, and assist them accordingly. In doing so, they gather and provide information to the Police about whether those arrested fulfil legal criteria for pre-trial release.

Paralegals who work at Police Stations can assist in verifying the identities and location of relatives and others who may assist the one arrested. The regular presence of a Paralegal at a Police Station is also likely to moderate any tendency of Police Officers to mistreat those arrested or to demand a bribe. Police Stations are also the most effective points for identifying and diverting juvenile suspects who might otherwise be classified and processed as adults.

A trained Paralegal who has interviewed an unrepresented detainee before a court hearing is able to advise the person being detained about the right to apply for bail (if applicable) and to gather facts that are relevant to such an application, i.e. the names of relatives who may be able to raise bail or act as sureties. Paralegals may even speak for those arrested at pre-trial hearings or be allowed to speak for an indigent defendant on matters of bail.

Paralegals can improve the quality of self-representation among defendants, especially during the pre-trial phase of the criminal justice process. This can be done through awareness raising and education on self-representation, demystifying the court process through role playing on what to expect in court, and providing guidance on the bail process and the grounds on which judicial officers typically base their pre-trial release/detention decisions.

This could result in accused persons becoming more active players and partners in the administration of justice, resulting in more successful bail applications at court.

Where the accused has not been given or offered bail and are in pre-trial detention awaiting the next court hearing, Paralegals can assist them in preparing and lodging bail applications. Paralegals who work in prisons can either train prisoners individually or offer group workshops in preparing bail applications, court procedures in general, court etiquette and other options for getting representation by a lawyer for themselves.

In addition to this advisory service, Paralegals can also search for relatives of those detained to inform them of where the detained person is and to establish who will be able to assist the detainee in being released on bail.

As part of their prison-based work, Paralegals could also identify pre-trial detainees whose warrants of arrest have expired, who have been in pre-trial detention longer than the statutory maximum allowed, who wish to plead guilty and those who are terminally ill. The Paralegals can bring these detainees to the attention of the relevant Investigating Officers, Prosecutors and Magistrates.

Paralegals can play an increasingly important role in enhancing access to justice for accused persons and criminal suspects.

Conversations with myself: For Whom the Bell Tolls!


Today I have been inspired to write by an article published in The Cape Times (8 March 2013) written by Rev Alan Storey entitled “Churches must break silence about historical abuse of women”. I tried to personalise this article in my conversation with myself so here goes . . .

The article starts off with a little story about the “Silent Bell” – in the tower of the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town is a massive bell weighing three and a half tons. For safety reasons, this bell has not pealed since the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. It was silenced because, when it rang, it shook the foundation stones of the church and surrounding buildings and consequently threatened their structure. It is now known as the “Silent Bell”.

I’m now asking myself the question: are we like this bell, largely silent about promoting equality among women and men? Maybe it’s because we know that making our voices heard would not only threaten the structures of society but would also threaten the foundations of our male dominant structures?

When we do speak out, do we speak out in the tone of male patriarchy? This false sense of superiority is what abuse of women is generally based on. Let’s see . . .

• Eve is jokingly blamed for eating the forbidden fruit and feeding it to Adam
• Some church leaders believe that women should be silent during worship. In some churches women are not allowed to speak from the pulpit
• We are raised to believe that fathers are the head of the household and they are the breadwinners
• We are raised to believe that wives should submit to their husbands, however, we are not told that submission does not mean we have to be his doormat

As women we are often told by church leaders to “go back and forgive your abusive partner” because the Bible says you must forgive, but nowhere in the Bible is anyone told to tolerate abuse. To forgive abuse does not mean you have to tolerate its occurrence, or the conditions that make it possible.

Do we confuse forgiveness with reconciliation? Reconciliation will always require forgiveness, but forgiveness does not necessarily end in reconciliation. Sometimes the journey of forgiveness includes moving on and not returning to the way things were before.

The shame of being abused by one who says “I love you” is enormous. This shame has the power to silence us into submission. We need to break the silence against violence against women and children.

Maybe we need to shake the foundations that support the notion of male superiority and male domination and female subservience which lies at the heart of gender inequality.

Conversations with myself: Has the world gone mad?

Depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them you have to be connected to others. Anonymous.

Since the brutal rape and disembowelment of a teenager recently and subsequent incidents of rape that have come to light, what have I been thinking? While most people have had knee-jerk reactions to finding solutions to rape i.e. castration, death penalty, to educate young men about sex, review childhood socialisation, anger management and conflict resolution skills for young people etc.

 I have done some more thinking around trying to understand the reasons behind the behaviour of the perpetrator. Can a rapist’s behaviour be explained – especially those who brutally disembowel or maim the victim? If so, what could be the possible reasons for such violent behaviour?

 Some people have suggested that:

  • Men felt emasculated because they could not fulfil the traditional role of breadwinner due to extreme poverty
  • Men are angry about the empowerment of women – angry that their jobs are being taken away by women
  • There a no male role models – most rapists are raised by single mothers or by their grandmothers
  • Substance abuse (drugs or alcohol) would not make a man rape but would make him more violent
  • Own childhood abuse

 Last weekend I attended a Trauma and Recovery workshop hosted by Families SA (Famsa) Western Cape, facilitated by the Transactional Analysis Association (TA Association) and presented by Joanna Beazley Richards – a registered trauma specialist from the Wealdon Insistute in the U.K. A profound statement made by Joanna has stuck in my head – she said: when it comes to trauma “the body remembers”. Joanna said it does not matter what the source or cause of the trauma is “the body remembers.” She also made reference to a book called “The Body Remembers” by Babette Rothschild which she encouraged us to read. This book speaks of how your body remembers trauma no matter how long ago it experienced the trauma or what the source or cause of the trauma was.

This got me thinking about the perpetrators of these extremely violent and brutal rapes. I started to wonder whether there could possibly be a connection between childhood trauma (such as detachment by parents) and adult psychopathology.

Now why would I think this? Allow me to generalise throughout this blog post. In most of the cases involving brutal, violent rape, the perpetrator would usually have come from very poor socio-economic circumstances, usually raised by a single mother or grandparent mostly because of an absent father who disappeared the minute he heard the mother was pregnant. Or maybe the father stayed but resented the fact the mother got pregnant and beat her everyday of her life since finding out that she was pregnant. Very often these children would have been subjected to neglect and/or sexual abuse (childhood trauma) which could cause them to develop deep-rooted feelings of helplessness escaping into a world of sexual fantasy which can provide refuge from reality. This fantasy could be fuelled by the child’s own experience of early (premature) exposure to sexual activity, combined with pornographic material (magazines and/or movies), and assuming these children have been exposed to deviant sexuality probably since infancy, it is through modelling and conditioning that they develop their own deviant sexual fantasies. Themes such as power and anger – rather than sexual gratification are central to these fantasies and are believed to be the underlying motivation for rapists to commit their crimes (Groth, Burgess and Holmstrom, 1977). 

Sexual sadism and other paraphilia can cause rapists to engage in bizarre sexual behaviour, such as mutilation, bondage etc. There is even a rapist type (anger-excitation) dedicated to the sadistic rapist in Hazelwood and Burgess’ Rapist- Typology (1987). This means that there COULD be a connection between childhood trauma and psychopathology, however, a closer examination of the facts would be necessary to reach a definite conclusion.  [Thanks to Alexander Becker (Psychologist) for the references and some of the wording used here.]

So how do we deal with correcting this deviant behaviour in a pro-active way rather than being reactive?

Our department of Basic Education has a wonderful curriculum on Sex Education for children from grade 3 to grade 12. The problem here is, those who rape have either dropped out of school or have not gone to school at all. Also, the department curriculum focuses on teaching girls and boys to keep their bodies safe, not to trust strangers, to avoid peer pressure and how peer pressure and the choices they make could affect their lives. What protection does this offer me from being brutally raped and murdered and how does it stop boys from becoming brutal rapists?

Some people have come up with wonderful solutions of what various sectors of society (including Government) can do about the scourge of rape but these are, again, reactive as opposed to proactive solutions. It also still does not stop brutal rapes and murders taking place.

How then do we stop the scourge sweeping through our country? We need to look at the parenting skills and socialising of our children but how do we do this when (again I’m going to generalise), most of these rapists and murderers come from single parent homes where the primary caregiver is usually using alcohol or drugs (or both), mostly unemployed or living off a social grant of some kind or earning so little money they can barely afford the necessities. They often live in squalor (overcrowded houses), sometimes even homeless. How do we teach them parenting skills (new ways of parenting)? Their way of parenting is the way they were raised and because it is the only way they know, they don’t see what the problem is.

Also, how do we approach these parents? We cannot just knock on their door or walk up to them and say “please come to our parenting classes or parenting workshop”. Can you just imagine what sort of reaction we would get? I’m sure the first knee-jerk reaction would be to get defensive (with a few superlatives thrown in for good measure).

 We could also start with those who have just started school and offer parenting skills classes from around grade 8 onwards but that excludes a whole bunch of children growing up and becoming parents in the meantime.

So what do we do? Mmmmmm . . . ???

Facebook (group) : Women Demand Dignity (WDD)

In pursuit of my African Dream – my heart aches!

Big story in Cape Argus Wednesday 27 June 2012: Lady Justice lets down the most vulnerable.

The story revolves around the findings that women who seek protection from the courts for domestic violence and assault must ensure they are at the court by 05:00 (5am) already because only the first 20 people who arrive are assisted on any given day. If you are no. 21 you have to turn around, go home and return the following day.

Hishaam Mohamed of the Western Cape Justice department said there is no such “quota”. He said there is no such limitation at all. Everyone is assisted until the last one or the end of the day, that’s the official policy. He said he would need to investigate this “quota” system and take the necessary action against the relevant official(s).

The Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities will be launching a National Council Against Gender-Based Violence in August this year. Part of its objective is to co-ordinate a national response to gender-based violence and to close loopholes within the system to ensure the safety and protection of women.

In the meantime, what happens to the countless women who are turned away from the courts on a daily basis? What about these women who have to return to the abusive homes they are seeking refuge from? These women are forced to return to their abusive partners without receiving any assistance from the courts. Some of these women are faced with life or death situations and require legal intervention immediately. Delays in serving protection orders undermined attempts to prevent domestic abuse.

According to the spokesperson of the Women’s Legal Centre said 80% of women who visit their offices report that they were turned away from the courts. Most complaints received were about Wynberg, Phillippi, Mitchells Plain, Bishop Lavis, Cape Town, Goodwood, Bellville, Blue Downs and Khayelitsha courts.

The problem with the above mentioned scenario is that Mr Mohamed and the Minister (with all due respect to both) probably have never been in an abusive situation so they don’t have a clue what abused women have to endure at the hands of their abusers. One more day delay means nothing to them but means EVERYTHING to an abused woman or child.

Justice delayed is justice denied . . .

I’m just saying!