Union of Jewish Women helps Hanover Park moms

Back, from left, are Fatiema Ismael, Sharon Wessels, Kashiefa Mohammed, Fowzia Williams, Rashieda McDavids, Kim Manuel, Debbie Silver and Washiela Samuels. Seated: Nolene Barnes, Jasmine Karriem, Glenda Mark.

The Union of Jewish Women of Cape Town, a Sea Point-based NGO, is aiding mourning moms in Hanover Park with the agony of losing their sons to gang violence.

The UJW has volunteer social workers who counsel bereaved moms and enable them to support other mothers in their community.

“I met the Union of Jewish Women in 2017 after my son was killed. They have given me great support through this time and because of their support, I started my own organisation in Hanover Park,” said Kashiefa Mohammed, 58.

Ms Mohammed’s NGO, Cycle of a Woman, recruits mourning moms to attend therapy sessions with therapists where they can express their pain. The women also support one another when they go to court or challenge the police.

“I’ve been with them for four years now. At home, the family doesn’t understand the pain you go through. We are free to express ourselves and we feel much better when we leave here,” said Washiela Samuels, 64.

“My son was killed nine years ago, and while it seems like a long time ago, to me, it feels like yesterday. This group, I joined them a few years ago, helps me to feel better and they taught me I cannot hold on to the anger. And what I have learnt here I take to the ladies in my community,” said Fowzia Williams, 56.

“Whenever I hear of a murder, I always get flashbacks to when my son was killed nine years ago. The Union of Jewish Women has given us the tools to deal with mothers like us, so I tell them if you want to cry, cry, if you want to shout then do it, if you want to be alone then be alone, it’s a really tough thing to go through,” said Jasmina Karriem, 62.

The empowerment campaign has been running for 15 years, and Debbie Silver, 69, a social worker, said she and fellow social worker Glenda Mark, 68, had visited hundreds of women from all across the Cape Flats.

“It’s not just counselling, it’s about empowering women to help themselves and then to help others in their communities. We wrote a programme called Who Am I, and it’s about women discovering who they are and to grow stronger through their hardship,” said Ms Silver.

“When we began talking to these ladies, we found that they all shared loss due to gangster violence. So our programme is about healing these bereaved mothers and also empowering them to help mothers like them,” said Ms Mark.

Karen Kallman, chairperson of the Union of Jewish Women of Cape Town, said they ran several programmes to help women from diverse communities.

“Debbie and Glenda work under our banner, they are social workers and they are volunteering their services, they are counselling these ladies, but at the same time, they have given them the skills to help others,” said Ms Kallman.