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Discovering what’s “Beyond the Shadow” for International Women’s Day

Telling their story for the first time, “Beyond the Shadow” gives a voice to abused women.

Violence and abuse is a large problem in South Africa, but eight women have documented their recovery to raise awareness for International Women’s Day and to help others who still suffer from oppressive and abusive relationships.

The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children released its film, “Beyond the Shadow” after three months of filming and a year of editing. In the 50-minute film, women staying at the Centre describe their own abuse as well as the abuse of their children, using the form of a digital diary to tell their stories.

Synoov Skorge, director of The Saartjie Baartman Centre, called it an encouraging film. “It’s so courageous and heartwarming, because these women have been through so much themselves and they don’t just think about themselves but wanting a better life for all. It’s quite incredible.”

Skorge will use the film at a National Gender Conference in Norway in April with a two-hour workshop on DVD to raise awareness on the issue, and also highlight the therapeutic value that the video provides for the women featured in the film.

“This is the first time in their lives that they have had the chance to tell their story, and also it was empowering to have this way of expressing themselves,” Skorge added. “They felt very strongly about helping other women, wanting them to learn from their experiences and have a better life.”

The film will be strongly used as an advocacy tool at workshops, conferences and for the media and government. From the film, the Centre will begin to develop counseling techniques to understand the stages of abused women and how this form of therapy can be powerful to the healing process.

“We feel for advocacy work to feel real and powerful, you need the actual survivors to tell their stories,” Skorge said.

The Centre provides a comprehensive range of services for women to step out of abusive relationships from job-skills training, specialized counseling services and legal assistance. They also provide 24-hour emergency shelters, short and medium term residential care, and childcare services.

“Society at large is very unsupportive around gender-based violence. And that’s the world-over, but we’re particularly patriarchal in South Africa, we’re particularly unsupportive of women,” Skorge said. “We need to do more for gender-based violence.”

To learn more about the The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, or the services they provide, please check out their website. Photos by Clare Louise Thomas.
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