Alma Kritzinger – South Africa

Alma Kritzinger – South Africa

Date: July 1, 2012
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I am a survivor of sexual abuse; when I was growing up, I was repeatedly sexually abused and once raped by my brother. In the community where I grew up, rape was not openly discussed; it was only when I was 29 years old that I had build the courage to discuss the issue with my family. Unfortunately, they were not at all supportive. I tried to seek legal recourse from my brother’s harassment, but my parents went as far as trying to get a court order to stop me from talking about the abuse I had suffered at the hands of my brother.

Still, all the attempts by my family to keep me from talking didn’t stop me on my mission to seek justice. What I wasn’t prepared for were all the frustrations and challenges I had to go through when accessing justice in South Africa. It was a horrific ordeal that left me with no contact with my family, and no faith in the justice system.

I am a former social crime officer for the South African Police Service, so I had regular interventions with children and adults who experienced the same frustrations with the justice system. I never dreamt that one day I would be in their shoes.

Today, I am the focal person for HIV and AIDs, disability, gender, and the elderly in the Mossel Bay municipality. I work to mainstream these components in all the programs in the municipality, both internally and externally. When I first encountered Gender Links, it was like meeting a long lost family member. My first meeting with Ntombi Mbadlanyana was like meeting with a long lost cousin, since I had had many telephone conversations with her and had heard so much about Gender Links and the work they were doing in transforming lives. But what struck me most was Ntombi’s confidence and patience, which made it easy for her to reach out to the workshop participants.

I really admire Ntombi; she has a rare gift of patience as I remember well how she helped one of her workshop participants to understand different cultural dynamics. It’s so important to be sensitive to people’s beliefs. For example, in our workshop, there was one participant who was very religious, and interpreted the Bible literally to claim that women were inferior to men. She handled the issue so skillfully. Ntombi wanted to emphasize that we do not necessarily need to be submissive and always put men in authority as we have equal rights. This lady was very upset, and kept insisting that God put men in a leadership position and women have to be submit. This woman was isolated in a rural area, and had not come into contact with people from other backgrounds and beliefs. Ntombi however, used her experience to guide her through a range of different cultures and beliefs and the session ended with everyone being more understanding of different cultures.

With the knowledge I’ve built through Gender Links, I feel empowered, and feel that I can make a difference. For the first time I believe that change is possible.

My first assignment at the Mossel Bay municipality was to develop a five year plan that speaks to GBV. Because of my unpleasant encounters with the justice system, I was afraid the exercise would be a waste of time. I really didn’t have any hope that things would change. However, when Ntombi started taking us through the different aspects of GBV, and the specific provisions of the SADC Gender Protocol, I realized that it’s not the system that is the problem, but the implementation of the measures already in place. This changed my approach.

I used the knowledge and skills I acquired working with Gender Links to work through the challenges that victims in my community experience on a daily basis. As we rolled out our GBV programs and helped people in the community, it was a healing experience for me as well. Now I know that there are mechanisms that can help people. There is hope for a victim to stand up and be a survivor.

Through the training I received, I came to realize the importance of education, capacity building, and empowerment in the community. Mossel Bay has 14 wards, with a total population of 130,000 people. I want to use my own personal experience to make sure that nobody in my community will ever have to go through the same thing I went through, struggling with my parents and the justice system. Every one of us have dreams inside. We all have a passion to serve, to empower, and to build bridges. Gender Links provides the tools to make these dreams a reality.



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