GenderWorks held its first inaugural workshop in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, from 15-16 September 2017 with a group of dynamic and inspiring women and men from the community of Helenvale. This community of 18 leaders, activists and Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) facilitators experienced the depth of healing, forgiveness and liberation that came with sharing their stories with courage and compassion.
“We shared our life stories and what was bothering us and what we bottled in our hearts. When we shared in both small and big groups the feeling of support and understanding helped me to see that I am not going through my pain alone as I can relate to other people’s experiences and life journey. The healing was overwhelming,” said one participant.
The safe forum of the Gender Reconciliation process was a transformative space, much needed in the Helenvale community. “We need more of these workshops because we are a broken community. We are prisoners of our own selves. If more people could heal from the inside we would be a better community,” said one female participant.
In partnership with the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA), GenderWorks is honoured to have introduced this important work, and we look forward to developing the collaboration. This sentiment was also shared by several of the participants, requesting more Gender Reconciliation workshops in schools and in their community. One male participant shared that he felt listened to in the workshop, which was so different to his experience in society where he often feels ignored. “I’ve learnt to forgive,” he says. “To understand women and men and to listen to them with a heart of care”.
We are grateful to Shena Lamb-du Plessis and George Jerry for organising the workshop and inviting us to Port Elizabeth. We remember and are honoured by the poem that was read to the women in a ceremony put together for them by the men:
I did you wrong
Instead of protect
Were my fears
Were my hidden tears
I give my man
To you women
Shall I blame
For my pain
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