When Moriedah Dien was stuck in her abusive 22-year marriage, she was scared that if she left she would find herself lost.
Instead, she found the strength to carry on once she broke free and also started to help others deal with trauma and domestic violence.
Ms Dien founded the Dews of Quietness NPO to support abused women in Steenberg and surrounding areas.
The organisation, registered in 2012, was the recipient last week of the sixth annual Pennies for Princesses Women’s Day fund-raiser, hosted by Cape Community Newspapers (CCN), which publishes the Southern Mail.
Ms Dien received a cheque for a whopping R88 400 at the glitzy event held in the Table Bay Hotel’s Ballroom on Friday August 12.
CCN raised R48 400 from ticket sales, while Sun International’s Table Bay Hotel and GrandWest donated R20 000 each, making it the most the event has raised to date.
Ms Dien said there is a desperate need for a safe house in Steenberg and Retreat for abused women and children.
She said they are trying to find suitable premises to start one.
“Abused women come to us, but because there are not many safe houses, in the Cape, we have to send them home, back to that volatile situation where the husband may not have calmed down, after the abuse. We often find that they come back more traumatised than before. It can lead to more violence and even murder,” said Ms Dien, who added that there are no safe houses between Wynberg and Simon’s Town.
“We have Philisa Abafazi Bethu in Wynberg, Sisters Incorporated in Kenilworth and Happy Valley Shelter in Simon’s Town. So we are desperately looking for a facility to build a safe house in our area,” said Ms Dien.
Dews of Quietness hosts group meetings for women every Wednesday at the Retreat Community Hall.
Ms Dien, who has been a trauma counsellor at Steenberg police station for 16 years, said she has seen many men and women come through her doors looking for help. She listens to their story and said she has a policy to “never to let anyone leave without feeling sorted”.
Ms Dien has a passion to help women because she was also in an abusive marriage.
“I know what that person is going through when he or she walks through my door, because I’ve been through a life like that myself.
“I got married at the age of 21 and had a husband who put me through all kinds of abuse. I was living a life where I would watch his face to see what mood he was in. It was the norm for me to run to a neighbour or my grandmother for help,” said Ms Dien.
She had five children, one daughter and four sons, during her roller-coaster marriage.
Then one day her life changed for good. She had called the police once again because of her husband’s abusive behaviour.
“I phoned the police, who were already familiar with my situation. That same night a police officer told me to leave. I thought about it, and made a decision to walk and I never looked back since,” said Ms Dien.
She said she had worried what would happen to her if she left her husband.
“I used to think I would be lost if I should ever leave, but I changed, like a flip of a switch after I left. Through faith I knew that something would change for the better.”
Soon after that, she heard that Steenberg police were looking for volunteers to be trained as trauma counsellors.
“I went for training at the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), where I learnt a lot.”
Her healing process was through helping others.
“Today, I am at a point where I won’t be affected by what anyone says to me.”
She continued with her counselling but one evening she found that she was unable to sleep.
“I woke up and wanted to do more for the abused women,” said Ms Dien.
It is a long process to get women in to safe houses which puts them under even more stress.
“I sometimes have to make up to 20 calls to get the women in a safe place. If there are abused children then they need to know there is a safe haven. So, we are still working towards getting that facility close by.”
Dews of Quietness does not yet have a permanent office and they have to move around to different venues. They are also starting to focus on younger women, especially high school pupils.
Last year they treated 20 Steenberg High School pupils, boys and girl aged 16, to a debutant ball.
“If we focus on youngsters we can still teach them to rise above their situations. We groomed them and took them for ballroom lessons. The ball was held in the Townhouse Hotel in Cape Town. They will never forget that,” said Ms Dien. “You need to see there is life beyond their situation. Boys were taught to respect women. The boys were opening doors for the girls, to show their respect.”
Dews of Quietness also has an anti-bullying campaign at primary and high schools.
“We will be busy with the Grade 6 and Grade 7 girls and groom them and it will be called stepping out from a child to a young woman. We supply them with sanitary towels and toiletries as well. If they don’t have sanitary towels it may lead to bullying. For example, we had girls who refuse to go to school, because they have their periods but can’t afford pads. We have encountered several times other children saying that the girl who doesn’t use a sanitary towel, stinks. It will be a few weeks’ programming to educate them.”
Ms Dien said Dews of Quietness goes as far as offering pupils information about hygiene “when a girl becomes a teenager”.
Due to escalating crime in primary school, Dews of Quietness has also shifted their attention to those pupils.
“We will be going around to primary schools soon, to offer our services,” said Ms Dien.
For more information about the organisation, contact Ms Dien on 078 400 0801.