Local Heroes 2022: Siphokazi Mpofu offers space for victims of abuse to speak up, share and heal
Siphokazi Mpofu hates seeing those around her suffer.
“I love people, it’s painful — I’m not doing this for the sake of being loved, I’m helping the boy child,” she said.
As one of the 12 winners of the 2022 Daily Dispatch and Johnson & Johnson Local Hero Awards, Mpofu, 35, from Selborne, has been counselling victims of sexual abuse and violence through her Izibazana Women’s Association NPO.
For more than 10 years, Mpofu has made herself available to listen to and counsel victims of abuse and those with mental health struggles, at any hour of the day.
“I’m just the kind of person who wants to give of my own space and time,” she said.
Mpofu has made herself available at all hours to offer her counselling services to victims of abuse but focuses on creating educational awareness for young boys around the subject of consent and rape.
“I do hour-long sessions on many issues, from family matters to rape. Even at 11pm, I get WhatsApps from people asking to talk. Sometimes I get comments on Facebook from people who saw my comments giving solutions to problems.”
Mpofu, a rape survivor herself, said she understood how darkness and depression could leave a person feeling lost and hopeless.
“My first 11 years I was beautiful and bubbly.
“When I go back to when I was raped, aged 11, it was the moment my life went wrong.
“The Izibazana Women’s Association is a part of my healing process.”
She said she understood the different stages of abuse and wanted to help victims who were still traumatised by their experiences to process the emotional steps needed to heal.
“Sometimes I say that being a strong person is your enemy because you have to heal.”
She also hoped to change the stigma around talking about trauma as a tool for healing.
“Most say it’s the first time they’ve received counselling.
“Many people don’t believe in counselling; from our grandmothers to mothers, to us, people don’t talk about their problems.”
Mpofu was the first woman to write an isiXhosa book, titled Zajik’ izinto, or The Turning Point, about the Xhosa rite of passage, ulwaluko, when young boys become men.
The novel follows the story of two teenage boys of different races who challenge the cultural and racial boundaries of initiation school by wanting to attend together.
After her book was published, Mpofu started her NPO to create a space for mothers to come together and support each other through their sons’ initiation process.
There is baggage that mothers carry with the ritual. There is abuse, distress, and help is needed. Some families don’t have the necessary things needed like blankets or clothes. We help where we can.
“There is baggage that mothers carry with the ritual. There is abuse, distress, and help is needed. Some families don’t have the necessary things needed like blankets or clothes. We help where we can.”
The NPO has visited schools and spoken exclusively to the male students, who Mpofu said were generally overlooked when talking about sexual violence.
“There are many projects that deal with girls but not with boys. As mothers, it’s our duty to talk to these young boys and men to make them understand what rape is because we are the victims.”
Mpofu said that she encountered issues as a woman speaking about initiation, which is traditionally only for men.
“I have a lot of problems because I’ve entered into the space of men, it’s a cultural thing. Ulwaluko is a transitional period to take a boy child into manhood, in Xhosa culture it was meant to be a changing school, to change a person into a responsible young man who is going to be a father one day.”
The NPO hoped to educate young boys on the dangers of going to the bush, which traditionally includes a ceremony of circumcision, which if performed in an unsafe environment can be life-threatening.
“Our children are dying, my cousin died in the bush, so to me this is very personal. I know how it feels to have a member of your family die in the bushes when you thought you were going to have a ceremony. ”
Thabile Manentsa said he had nominated Mpofu for her outstanding work counselling young adults.
Manentsa said: “Izibazana hosts events that speak to the traditional culture of young men who attend initiation school.
“Siphokazi helps a lot of young people in the townships to uplift themselves out of the situations they have found themselves in.”
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