As South Africa commemorates the 1956 march of thousands of women to the Union Buildings to protest against pass laws, today’s young women continue to show resilience and compassion in their own ways. The Daily Vox spoke to SNENHLANHLA MZONELI, a 23-year-old social work student at UKZN and co-founder of a non-profit organisation called Anopa, aimed at empowering young women and girls.
I grew up around women. I was raised up by my grandmother and mother in KwaMashu. I have always been passionate about working with people and changing lives. University opened me up to the bigger world and I discovered people had much bigger problems than mine. Naturally, this made me want to help.
My mother passed away in 2006 when I was doing grade 8 and I had to go and live with my father’s family. This was a very big family and because of that, everyone had to fend for themselves. I think this taught me how to become strong and independent.
Anopa is all about empowering women. We realised that we firstly face the world’s problems as humans generally – financial strains, sicknesses etc. But right after that, we are subjected to further challenges that are only specific to women. Some of these challenges cannot be controlled as they are natural but some of these can be controlled. The most simple and evident of these challenges are menstruation and pads. It is natural that women and young girls go on menstruation every month and nothing can be done about that, but surely something can and should be done about young girls who can not afford this necessity. It has been talked about long enough now and I doubt there are some who feel otherwise.
The government needs to step up and provide free sanitary pads just like how condoms are distributed. But as we all know that we can’t trust this government to spring into action as soon as it should, we have decided to start the mission on our own.
Anopa is not just about sanitary pads, but a women empowerment organisation focusing on many issues that affect women and young girls. On Women’s Day, we went to Nhlakanipho High school in KwaMashu and held a successful development programme. We had a talk with the grade 10, 11 and 12 students. We talked about issues of self-image, sanitary pads and taught them about tampons, rape, violence, sex and relationships. Afterwards, we gave gifts to the girls who were top performers in their classes. This we did because we wanted to encourage the importance of education and taking studies. Importantly, we then gave out condoms and pads and also CAO (university application) forms for the matriculants.
We hope to carry out more events like these as we believe in their impact. Our biggest challenge by far as an organisation is that we do not have any form of sponsorship besides our parents’ support and money from our own pockets. We have also had an issue of people who we present ideas to, thinking they can assist but however they turn to take the idea and make it their own.