Hanover Park woman paving the way

Maureen Asvoel, 53, from Hanover Park.

Ms Asvoë* and her three siblings were raised by their grandmother in Kewtown. She attended Norma Road Primary School and Bridgetown High School.

In Grade 10, however, she was forced to drop out of school because her grandmother’s pension fund could no longer sustain the family. She had to look for a work to bring in money for the family.

When she was 17 years old, she started working at Kaidel’s bedding company in Maitland where she worked as a machine operator, and was later promoted to a team leader.

She had her first child later that year, 1981, and her second child in 1985. In 1991, however, the company liquidated and Ms Asvoë* lost her job.

When she first started working, she applied for a house from the City of Cape Town in Hanover Park and moved there in 1994. A year later, she started working as a quality control inspector at Polyoak Packaging in Diep River and in 1996 she had her third child.

Ms Asvoë* ’s life, however, took a nasty turn when she got married in 1997. Her husband was unemployed so she helped him get a job at the same company she worked at, hoping that things would be okay, but then he started abusing her.

“I had a higher position than him and that made him jealous. I was always well dressed, outspoken, and worked closely with a lot of people because that was the nature of my job, but he didn’t like that. He physically abused me, called me names, swore at me, even while I was pregnant, and I never told anyone,” said Ms Asvoë* .

Her marriage ended in 2004, when she took her children and ran away to a friend’s place. Her husband at the time came to look for her but she hid with her children in a bedroom and he became angry when he could not find her.

A week later he pitched up at her work with what she said looked like a knife and threatened to stab her. Her colleagues called the police and he was removed from the building.

“I told myself I can’t continue with this marriage. He wanted to shoot me as well. In 2004, I filed for a divorce and became a single parent again,” she said.

Ms Asvoë* ’s community work started while working at Polyoak. The company used her as a storyteller, where she facilitated workshops within the community to assist children and families affected by HIV/Aids and drug abuse.

But fearful of her ex-husband, Ms Asvoë* asked the City of Cape Town to transfer her to another house in Hanover Park, where she currently lives.

In 2006, her transfer was confirmed and she moved into her new house with her three children. But tragedy struck again when she discovered that both her son and daughter were addicted to ecstasy. This after she noticed things going missing from her house.

In 2007, she resigned and decided to focus on her children. The company paid for various rehabilitation treatments for her children but they relapsed soon after they came home, she said.

“I started a support group for my children here at home and all their friends supported us. I asked them what was going on and what they were addicted to,” she said.

In 2008, she started the Hanover Park Wellness Organisation, facilitating workshops on social issues such as drug abuse, and HIV/Aids, for children and their families.

A year later she became the chairperson of the governing body of Crystal High School in Hanover Park, and received an award in 2012 from the provincial Department of Sports and Recreation for work being done in the education sector.

In 2009, Ms Asvoë* thought she had found her soul mate when she remarried.

“He was a very dominant man. Things were okay until the abuse started soon after we got married. He would argue with me all night until the next morning. He verbally and emotionally abused me and often accused me of cheating on him.

“He didn’t like how closely I worked with the community but before we got married, I told him that I am very involved in my community and always busy and he said it is fine.

“Every year he would go visit his family in Kimberley and I prepared things for him when he went. I never had a problem with it – until last year when I found out that he was cheating on me. I then filed for my second divorce and once again became a single mother.

“He tarnished my name in the community, and spoke bad things about me but they (the community) stood by me. I told myself I would not stand for abuse again. He took advantage of me and manipulated me. I was very disappointed in him,” she said.

At the age of 40, Ms Asvoë* completed her matric at Intec College and graduated with a Diploma in Education in 2013. This year she received two awards from the City of Cape Town for her excellent work in the community. She was also elected as a participant in the 1 000 Women’s Trust and fund-raising organisation in South Africa.

She is currently involved in a clean-up project for the City of Cape Town, themed “Women rise above their adversity”, together with 40 other women.

“Together with these women we will clean up the streets of Hanover Park, with all its social issues such as drugs, abuse, stone throwing and shooting. Enough is enough,” she said.