James House honours their women

The men were hard at work in the kitchen preparing meals for female James House staff.

It was a day of relaxation, pampering and enjoyment last week as James House rewarded 35 female staffers for their dedication and continued efforts to make the Hout Bay child and youth care a success.

The annual “Floral Affair” event, held at James House on Friday September 7, was particularly significant this year given the closure of the STARS (Systematic Treatment of Adolescents with Challenging Behaviour in Residential Setting) programme earlier this year. (“A house in dire need,” Sentinel, February 9).

James House’s Alene Smith said staff had been under tremendous pressure, and the event was used to give the women the opportunity to unwind and inspire them to greater heights.

The centre’s male staff prepared all meals and waited on the women hand and foot. Free massages and beauty sessions were also provided by Zulfa Davids and Latifah Latief.

Mickey Meji, of Embrace Dignity, a Cape Town women’s empowerment NGO, told of her journey from prostitution to becoming a powerful voice for women’s rights in South Africa.

Explaining that the NGO’s goal was to abolish patriarchy, she said women were still in the unfortunate position of being born without privilege.

She asked a member of the audience to stamp on a R100 note and explained that even though the money had become dirty, it still had value. That, she said, was a lesson more women needed to learn: that no matter what they had been through, they needed to embrace their own self-worth.

“I want to run for president in 2024. The men have been in charge all these years, but something is wrong. I think the time has come for women to take over,” Ms Meji, who identifies as a radical feminist, said to rapturous applause.

“But there is also something that we need to acknowledge. The reinforcers of patriarchy are often women themselves. In Xhosa culture, we are made to wear makoti (young bride) attire. The men don’t have to. But if you don’t wear your doek, guess who it is who scolds you? It’s the women. Women are experiencing the worst forms of abuse from other women.”

She encouraged mothers to raise their children differently, and that the same rules should apply to boys as girls.

“If I say be home at 7pm for dinner, that means everyone must be home at 7pm. Also, learning to cook and clean, that doesn’t come pre-installed with a vagina. Whether you have a vagina or a penis, it doesn’t matter. Everyone will cook and clean.”

She said men were born with privilege, but she did not want to take that away; “rather men and women should be able to share that privilege.”

After her speech, the women were entertained by singers from the Harvest Youth Project, Shadley Isaacs and Chad “CJ” van Rooyen, who brought the house down with their moving ballads.

The women were also asked to share amusing anecdotes about their lives, with the best stories being awarded spot prizes.