DURBAN – As most girls, I grew up reading Disney books and anything romantic. By the age of 10, I already knew what dress I’d wear, decor colors, sitting arrangements and of course, the diamond ring. It was inevitable that I got married, it’s what I was called for. A woman is only complete when she is a wife of a very handsome man.
A fairytale or nightmare
I imagined a prince rescuing me from the dragon and evil witch. He took me to a breath taking castle where we wed. A very beautiful fairytale wedding it was indeed, with horses in the country side…I had finally found my prince and we would ride through the sunset together and live happily ever after.
I thought I would be safe there, nothing could harm me anymore because he was there. Little did I know that the dragons and witches I have been avoiding all my life, lived in the castle. My prince was the dragon and there was no one to save me from him.
A meeting with reality
My name is Aphelele Gumede, Co-founder of an organization called Hope4All. I’m the first born child of 5 siblings. I come from a small town called Mtubatuba, a very enchanted place, that is rich with culture and Ubuntu. Tradition and religion are the normal order of the day. I was taught that a woman’s place is to be submissive and obey her husband. She must be devoted and sacrificial. That, a man is to work hard and support his family. He is in charge and his is the only voice that matters.
I was practically raised in the church and obeyed all the governing laws. It was only normal to find myself in a relationship at an early age, to experience love in all its glory and splendor. Little did I know that love meant being dragged across the room while heavily pregnant. Or, being slammed against the wall, chocked and even pushed out a moving car every time I used my voice.
Each day that passed I felt my voice sinking deeper and deeper inside. My prince had become dragon. He lived in my nightmares. I was filled with fear and despair, but the thought of being alone scared me even more. Where I come from, a woman is not woman, without a man. I was willing to be treated as less than human, so that I can belong. I had to hold onto that diamond ring. Each day I wore that ring, I felt my voice being trapped inside it.
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Diamond Ring Vs Grit
Until one day my savior came. It wasn’t a man on a horse carriage. She came on heels. She reminded me of who I was before the ring, she removed the spell. I saw the world differently from that point on. The darkness that once surrounded me, suddenly disappeared. But as I looked closer in the mirror, I could barely recognize myself.
The years had taken a toll on me. Although I was free from the clutches of the dragon, what I had lost, what I had to give up, parts of myself that had to break to achieve that, will affect me for the rest of my life.
Because of the ring, I was unable to look myself in the mirror. I walked around with only a shadow in the place where my heart was. Because of that ring, I couldn’t love, trust, freely give myself away nor be vulnerable. I may have freed myself from the clutches of the dragon, but that ring still restricted me, it held me captive.
My voice had to be set free, I needed to fight and this time with myself. I had to take control of my life, remember who I was before I wore the diamond ring. I had to be complete in myself. This was the biggest challenge for me because it was difficult to stay true to my own voice, when everybody wanted me to do something else. But the day I remembered who I was and how to love myself, the ring broke and freed my voice.
Why we have Hope4All
We spend all our lives searching for that perfect prince, we prepare ourselves for him. We feel that we are not complete without him. But, let me tell you from personal experience, the prince you are searching for has been right inside you all along. My tragedy has been a catalyst for saving others. I am not victim of abuse, I survived it. Hope4all is a non-profit organization that exist empower young women to find their voice and escape from the bondages of abuse.
We tackle issues such as Sustainable Development Goals 3 (SDG) which is for good health and wellbeing. SDG 5 is for gender equality, we also help people with GBV…. Gender-based Violence (GBV), as well as Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR).
We don’t offer counseling, but we can link people to the relevant service providers. Our main focus is on behavioral changes for young people. We teach them about sexual health and gender Identity. They get information that allows them to make more informed decisions.
Hope4All advocates for human rights and create an enabling environment for young people to thrive.
Read Part 2 of this story – Subtle Signs of an Abusive Relationship