Vanita Daniels, 44, is the director at Rise Up Against Gender-based Violence, which focuses on developing, implementing and piloting innovative strategies to prevent GBV. The work she and two others do changes people’s lives. The team works with the most vulnerable people, particularly women who live and work on the street, providing direct support in the form of dignity packs, protection such as pepper spray, blankets, clothes and food during winter and at Christmas time.
The organisation started an emergency evacuation service during the Covid-19 lockdown level five, and continue to do this work. Women and children in immediate danger of being assaulted or killed have been rescued. Vanita says their greatest achievement is their programme, Tavern Dialogues. This two-year programme is run in Gauteng (Diepsloot, Soweto, Orange Farm and Evaton), KwaZulu-Natal (Umlazi and Inanda) and the Western Cape (Delft, Nyanga and Langa). They talk to people in taverns about preventing gender-based violence. The Canadian government has recognised the organisation’s work, awarding it a South African and a Southern African Development Community award.
Vanita, 44, who grew up in Blackheath, Cape Town, has a post-graduate diploma in social security administration and is completing a BCom in law. She says her most valuable lesson has been to learn to listen to many voices, even when she doesn’t agree with them, to understand where people are coming from.
“We need to learn from each other and help each other and have empathy for each other.”
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
Learn to say no and take time to take care of yourself as well. You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
I surround myself with women from all walks of life because it is important to have many voices influencing us and it is for this reason that I am active in Call to Action, one of the biggest gender-based collectives in the country. I believe in educating not just women but men as well about gender-based violence and the detrimental effect it has on our society.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
I would ensure that men and women can work together to end gender-based violence by listening to each other and having empathy.