Food garden gives women a second chance

Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.

Women who have struggled free of abuse are learning how to survive on their own and finding a way to heal, thanks to a food-garden project.

The project, run by non-profit organisation Mhani Gingi, teaches the women how to plant and sell vegetables, so they can make their own money and avoid returning to abusers they were financially dependent on in the past, according to Bernadine Bachar, director of the Saartjie Baartman Centre for abused women and children. 

The gardens use recyclable materials such as wood and plastic and are accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Last Thursday, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu visited the centre in Athlone where Mhani Gingi has established the gardens.

Mhani Gingi founding director Lillian Masebenza said the project had moved to the centre from Pinelands two years ago.

Women at the centre, along with disabled people and student interns work in the nursery, growing organic vegetables and herbs which are used in the centre’s kitchen and also sold at markets. The women also learn how to make soap, which is sold to shops.

“When they leave here, they actually have skills so that they can go out back into the community and don’t have to go back into the job market as their only option but they have skills that they can run from anywhere — their homes, churches, or mosques,” Ms Bachar said.

“A lot of the women who are here have been emotionally annihilated through the abuse, so skills-development gives them a sense of self worth, as you are teaching them something and telling them that they are worthy, that they can go out and provide for their families and become a productive part of society.

“Working with your hands in the garden is very healing and within the soap factory as well.”

Ms Zulu, said government could help the women with marketing opportunities.

“These people have the capacity to do it; they just need help doing it. If they had more land, they could plant more and sell more. They have gone through pain and are pulling themselves out of struggle, and they need to be given the opportunity.

“It’s not always that you need to go and find a job. If you can do this on your own and get the market, it will be successful, and that’s why we need the Department of Small Business Development to come on board.”