The abuse from a loved one only made Josina Machel stronger than before. Now she helps other women find the voice that men tried to take away from them.
Josina Machel is an activist and the founder of non-profit organisation Kuhluka Movement. The organisation helps women who are survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) find their voice and the courage to walk away from abusive relationships. Kuhluka also calls for the end of GBV in the country.
The organisation was started by Machel after she experienced GBV in a relationship that left her blind in one eye. She said having experienced this kind of violence and surviving it made her want to help other women who find themselves in a similar position. “The abuse was meant to break me, but instead it made me stronger than ever before,” she said.
Coming to terms with what happened to her gave her the strength to rise up, tell her story, and in the process, empower others.
Besides helping survivors, Machel said the organisation fights the endemic GBV endemic and structural patriarchy that continue to oppress women. She says that women are treated “horrendously” in South Africa. Millions of them are fighting for simple things such as access to clean water, while they have to be the head of their households and raise their children.
This situation is precarious indeed. The only way we can change this is to join together in solidarity, with the understanding that we need each other, in order to affect change. We cannot value our independence, our abilities, our success and achievements without acknowledging other women.
Machel says it is only when women join together in common purpose that they will be able to garner the strength to look at their oppressors and say, “no more”.
She finds her inspiration in everyday life occurrences: sunrises and sunsets and the ability of human beings to create new life, carry it and bring it forth into the world. She is always amazed when she thinks about how her children have grown and developed right before her eyes.
“As a mother, I am always in awe when I think about how my children have grown. How they change over the years as they grow up, claim their independence, learn to reason, and even to push back when they don’t agree with something. They started off as a small seed, and through the miracle of life, they are here, and they are growing every day.”
She says since her abusive incident, she struggles to walk in the dark, but she does not let that stop her from trying. Her disability has had a great impact on her life, but she is determined to be the very best version of herself regardless.
She lives by the words of Edward Teller: “When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught to fly.”