In the context of Kayamandi, life for a young, single mom can be a difficult one. Kayamandi, like many townships in South Africa, is plagued by generational cycles of poverty, fatherlessness, and substance abuse among other issues. Typically, women of color are the members of society who bear the brunt of racism and the repercussions of apartheid. When they become pregnant, their vulnerability to the circumstances around them increases. Resources that many of us do not have to worry about, such as transportation or access to a working computer, are daily concerns for these young moms.
Yet, even when it seems like the world is set against them, these mothers can absolutely thrive. And that is the vision of Her Voice, one of East Mountain’s partners. A vision to lift up, empower, support, and encourage these amazing women, moms, and heroes of Kayamandi as they strive to flourish and raise their children who themselves represent the future of South Africa.
We’re a sisterhood of women who’ve decided to allow our unique stories to make us better than the world we see around us.
Her Voice started when Alex, a native Southern Californian, moved to Kayamandi in 2010. She worked with young people while learning Xhosa before marrying a local from Kayamandi named Odwa. They now have three children, run Her Voice, and own a coffee shop and arts space called Amazink for the purpose of unifying people and creating space for racial reconciliation in the township context. Her Voice specifically was started when Alex and several others saw the need for a ministry to reach out to young women, especially moms. What began as a small group of women gathering every other Sunday has now quadrupled to a weekly Sunday meeting of anywhere from forty to seventy moms. If you were to stumble upon one of these gatherings, you would be dazzled by the array of colors as women pass by in their Sunday best. Sleeping babies are slung into towels and blankets for warmth while other children dart between chairs and people alike, screaming with delight. The full, rich sounds of Xhosa, Sotho, Zulu, and Tswana reverberate around the room in between bouts of outrageous laughter as the ladies catch up with one another.
Mingling with the ladies are the Her Voice staff, comprised of Xhosa, American, and Afrikaans women. Each of them brings unique passions and gifts to the table that enable them to provide invaluable support. However, it is the Kayamandi moms themselves who are the true owners of Her Voice. They are the ones being challenged and encouraged, and they are the ones who are going out to change the world they live in because they have the strength and potential to do so. They are the leaders who are supporting one another and taking opportunities to share the hope and support that they’ve received. Her Voice simply acts as a safe and empowering space where the ladies can thrive in a supportive, loving community.
There are several ways that Her Voice equips and empowers the women who attend. First, with each session that is attended, the ladies earn points that they can then spend using a catalogue that Her Voice constructed. Popular items to purchase with points include nappies (diapers), wipes, and baby foods. Points can also be used for visits to the doctor or dentist. Staff from Her Voice help with transport and payment so that the ladies have options in the medical care they receive, but still take ownership of it by paying with points. At the Sunday sessions themselves, the ladies meet in small groups to catch up, pray for one another, and go over either a Bible passage or material from workshops. The workshops happen on a bi-weekly basis and cover a variety of relevant topics from nutrition to Godly parenting to self-defense skills. In between workshops, the ladies meet in small groups in homes throughout Kayamandi. The groups are led by some of the Her Voice ladies who have shown commitment and initiative. As they lead the groups, they are simultaneously being invested in and mentored by the Her Voice staff.
An arm of Her Voice that has recently started is a birthing ministry called Ubomi (means “life” in Xhosa), started with the help of East Mountain staff member Rachel Conley and her amazing team of doulas. The doulas are local Xhosa women who have trained under Rachel and are now taking up the task of being doulas for women in their community. Rachel started attending Her Voice in 2018 with a desire to work in a township context and joined the leadership team soon after. One of the main goals of this ministry is to celebrate new life. Becoming pregnant in Kayamandi, especially as a single mom, can carry with it an element of shame and fear that is derived from the local culture and sometimes even church. Her Voice desires to instill hope and celebrate new life, no matter the circumstances. The journey of motherhood, however difficult or even unexpected it may be, is a beautiful one that bonds mothers together while breaking down barriers of cultural or racial biases and prejudice. Read more about Ubomi in an upcoming post!
In the end, as so many different women come together each Sunday from a wide variety of languages, backgrounds, dreams, and worldviews, the Spirit of Christ and the powerful experience of being a mother unites one and all. Though challenging at times, the culture of Her Voice is a rich and beautiful one. With each passing year, month, and weekly session of Her Voice, it becomes ever clearer that these mothers from Kayamandi are not victims of circumstance. Rather, they are everyday heroes who defy the barriers that they face together in an effort to change their own lives and the lives of their children. East Mountain is thrilled to partner with an amazing ministry like Her Voice that builds up local leaders and communities. We are especially excited for Rachel and her team as they step into this new birthing ministry to further the cause of new life and motherhood.. For more info on Her Voice, check out their website and Instagram page: