Empowering women through mentorship

Two powerful women who fought to overcome the challenges of living in adverse conditions in Lavender Hill have encouraged other women to join a radio talk show introducing mentorship programmes that may help them find empowerment as well.

Public relations officer, Abigail Klaasen, a former Lavender Hill resident who now lives in Muizenberg, said the international radio show was started in Lavender Hill in October last year, to create a platform for women to share their life stories.

When Ms Klaasen fell pregnant when she was 19 years old she said she felt her “dream was derailed”.

“But I went back after 14 years to enrol for my first year at UWC in 2014. Not knowing how, I still managed to complete my undergraduate degree in political science and public administration in the shortest possible way.

“I moved on to my Honours degree. As a working single mother, I needed to complete this degree. And today I am finalising my Master’s degree. Anything is possible even for a single mother of two boys. I am a proud product of Hillwood Primary and Lavender Hill High School, and standing tall as a Master’s student.”

Ms Klaasen said although her journey had been a tough one, she had managed to make sure she focused on her goal.

“We moved to Lavender Hill 40 years ago when I was one years old,” she told Southern Mail, adding that she had many good memories about growing up there.

But when gang violence became intensified it became challenging, she said, because “I was robbed at gunpoint once in 2009. I was also robbed in high school”.

“I moved out of Lavender Hill in 2009 and moved back in 2014 until I completed my studies in 2017. At the beginning of 2018 I looked for a safer place to live.”

Ms Klaasen said in 2019 a group of five women from America visited SA for a women’s conference and “I was one of the hosting and planning team where I met Mandy Hill, founder of Mandy the Mentor International (MTMI).

“It turned out to be a phenomenal event. All women came out there transformed, healed and encouraged.

“Mandy left an impact. She had an intense love for women of Cape Town. They had workshops also at Lavender Hill and surrounds as well as mentoring programmes. When she got back to America, she connected with me via social media and asked me if I could be on the PR team for SA as she was impressed with the biographies I wrote about women’s stories.”

Ms Klaasen said the programme helped her with her healing process. “It taught me that I can lean on another woman for support. This is what women in Lavender Hill need to know. If things get difficult you can reach out to other women.”

Her advice to other women is to “join a programme like Mandy the Mentor and get in line with women who are available to assist you going forward and strengthen you. It has worked for me and surely it will work for you.”

Beverley Jonkers, was abused as a child.

Lavender Hill resident Beverley Jonkers, the South African representative for the Mandy the Mentor International (MTMI) programme said her mother, who was an alcoholic, had left her and her three siblings when she was only five years old. “My parents were fighting all the time, to the point that my mom decided to go and leave us behind.

“At the time, we were with our dad who was also an alcoholic. He abandoned us and we ended up staying with people, not family.

“Things were so bad for us we ended up having to hustle and find our own ways and means of getting food,” she said.

After that the kids were moved from one house to another and then they ended up with a family member in Steenberg who “made us feel rejected and eventually things went from bad to worse and the kids were moved to Retreat” to another family member.

However, things were not much better there and Ms Jonkers found solace in going to church.

She recalled that when she was about 13 years old, she had developed a friendship with the caretaker at the church. “I would pop in at the back and help him, clearing the church hall and he would give me a cool drink or snack.

“But one day this guy grabbed me and started touching me. And because of my brokenness I thought it was fine for him to do this. All I was interested in was if I did not allow this guy to do this, he is not going to feed me.

“He molested me – and for some reason I thought it was okay.”

She said it happened a few times but then she stopped going to church.

Ms Jonkers moved to Lavender Hill after high school and it was only when she was an adult, she said, that she realised that what had been done to her was wrong. “I felt embarrassed about it and went for counselling,” she said.

Ms Jonkers never married and said she had made peace with her mother. “I forgave her, but she lives up-country now. Although my siblings do not live very far, we are not close.”

Ms Jonkers met Ms Hill when she came to South Africa three years ago. “I immediately connected with her,” she said, adding that her life had changed for the better after she become involved in the mentorship programme.

“We help women in the workplace, to take care of their health and we walk with them until they are better.”

Mandy Hill, founder of Mandy the Mentor International (MTMI)

Ms Hill said their slogan was “Grow so you can go” and that they teach women spiritual principles and how to apply them to their daily life. They encourage mentees to take what they have learned and teach others.

“We have weekly group empowerment sessions where the women from America and South Africa join Zoom calls collectively, and we speak what I like to call “Life to the soul,” which are words of encouragement and empowerment”.

Ms Hill said: “My heart goes out to South Africa. Here in the USA people identify Africa with poverty and lack due to what we have seen in the television commercials. I see power when I think of Africa. The Lord gave me a vision and showed me the women of Africa running for him with so much fire and zeal.”

You can tune into the Mandy The Mentor LIVE South Africa Show every Thursday night on Blogtalkradio.com/mandythementor at 7pm SAST or you can contact Ms Klaasen on 72 351 9139 or Ms Jonkers on 083 589 3547 for more information.