Lavender Hill survivors write life stories

Naema Moses, Kim Pillay, programme manager; Veronica Kroukamp, Lorna Snyman and Mary Bam. Not pictured, are, Sheila Jacobs, Margaret Arendse Sheila Jacobs and Valerie Adams.

Seven Lavender Hill women have taken the brave step of speaking about the trauma experienced in their lives.

Their stories have been recorded in a book called Women Surviving Lavender Hill. which will be launched at NGO New World Foundation (NWF) in Lavender Hill, on Wednesday May 31.

The book is the result of a two-year writing project by NWF with women from Lavender Hill and was facilitated by Kim Pillay.

Ms Pillay said: “The group started with more women and than reduced eventually to seven women which are the seven life stories you will read about.

“NWF’s intention is also for communities to understand what the plight of women is in Lavender Hill and how they struggle with violence against women with minimal help from their community that sees (this violence) as normal.”

Ms Pillay said it is a community ridden with gang violence, drug and alcohol addiction, domestic violence and the list continues.

Women Surviving Lavender Hill. * started as a healing process for women to start to address the traumas they have endured, and more particularly the violence against women and girls, she said.

Southern Mail spoke to some of the writers and they gave a short summary of what they wrote.

Mary Bam, 60, was born in Constantia and first moved to Retreat, then to shacks on the corner of Military Road and Prince George Drive, in Lavender Hill.

She was the fourth child of 11 children. “It was tough times but we never had any lack of love and food. My mother would feed us as well as the community. I take after my mother because I also work in the community.”

Ms Bam said she ran away and married a man who she was with for 27 years, but he accused her of cheating.

“I am a qualified trauma counsellor and work with rape survivors and
abused women. My advice to women is that they must speak out when they are abused.”

Lorna Snyman, 69, was born in Caledon. She was a country girl who ran away from the farm after working there from the age of 11.

“I got married very young but my husband died at sea. I then decided to run away to Hermanus and worked in a fish and chips shop. Not long after that I ran away again. You can call me the run-away girl,” she smiled.

Ms Snyman came to Cape Town to live with her brother and cousin. “I never thought of coming back until my second husband died 32 years ago, but never went back to my mother in Caledon.”

She said the reason for this book is to help women heal. “I sometimes get emotional but I am over the worst.”

Some of the challenges were when
her children were bullied at school.
“My children had a country style accent, and the kids made fun of them. My one daughter didn’t want to go to school any more.”

In the book she expands on her life with her children and what paths they chose in life. She said she loved writing her life story with the other women, while Ms Pillay coached them.

Veronica Kroukamp, 62, said she was born in Retreat and grew up in Grassy Park. She moved to Lavender Hill when her mother got ill. “I couldn’t finish primary school because I had to look after her.”

Later in life she found herself raising children in the gang-idden area of Lavender Hill. “I lost my son, as he was shot, and I had to bury my son in 2011.”

Naema Moses, 49, is the youngest of the women. She was born in Bo-Kaap, then moved to Salt River when she got married.

Ms Moses said she was an activist in her youth and lived through the years of uprising.

She moved to Lavender Hill 20 years ago. “I moved out of the area a few times, but moved back after my divorce.”

She wrote about her childhood. “I told my family I wrote about my upbringing. I remember wanting to become a police officer, but my dad would say no. I wanted to be a lawyer, but my family also refused. Then one day I decided to tell them I wanted to help people. And my family didn’t say anything.”

Today she helps the youth at the mosque.

Ms Pillay said not only did the women write about their lives, they also learnt how to use a computer.

“As they were going through their stories, the women would reflect on their lives and they would break down crying. They break down because someone else’s story spoke to them. The women also did meditation, body mapping and mind mapping in between the writing.

“All the women were very clear on this selfless effort and some even write in their stories that they wrote their stories to help other women who could get strength and healing from stories in Women Surviving Lavender Hill.”

The women will be telling their stories on the day of the launch, which takes place from 9.30am to noon.

Books must be bought through the writers or NWF and a book signing will take place. All are welcome to attend. RSPV to Kim Pillay on 021 701 1150 or email