Skip to content

GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series: Advocate Tarisai Mchuchu

Advocate Tarisai Mchuchu is passionate about putting an end to gender based violence.

The executive director of MOSAIC has been tirelessly working to make the lives of women and children safer. She designed the SAFE programme currently being piloted by MOSAIC. SAFE is a programme that seeks to strengthen the effectiveness of the protection order system by bringing together public and civil society stakeholders at a local level to co-create a coordinated community response to Domestic Violence for collective impact. SAFE aims to create multi-stakeholder platforms at local level to coordinate mutually reinforcing activities for victims of Domestic Violence and ensure that they feel SAFE in their communities; that they are assured that there will be a response if they need it; and that there will be accurate information available from government, community leaders and service providers.

You’ve been an activist since you were a student. Can you talk us through your journey to Mosaic?

Tarisai: I was the President of the Black Lawyers Student Forum at UCT and in my penultimate year, we partnered with the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons as they were recruiting law students to consider working for them. We visited Pollsmoor Juvenile Section (now Child and Youth Care Centre) in 2006 and I got to see first hand how young people lived in the prison. We also had a chance to talk to the young people, and ask questions. Most of them told us how they ended up in prison, and most of the reasons were linked to trusted adults letting them down, abuse in the home that led them to negative friendships etc. and this really made me upset that children were being setup to fail, and I wanted to develop programmes that were preventive and responsive and over the years. I then joined Young in Prison and built the South Africa branch, where I designed the Siyakhana-Building Each Other Programme, a holistic and ecological rehabilitation and reintegration model for empowering youth in conflict with the law that is centered on child rights, justice and protection. The aim is to engage boys and men and prevent violence. The Programme has been codified by the EU and is used by Young in Prison International.

After seven years at Young in Prison, I transitioned to becoming the Deputy Director of Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect and the to Fight For Peace International. These organisations helped me grow in connecting my first experiences of working with children and youth in conflict with the law and the need to have strong violence prevention programmes. One of those is in the homes that children grow up in. I realised that many young people are growing up in violent homes, where they witness inequality, that often manifests itself through seeing their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts being abused. I realised when we dismantle that, and empower the adults in their lives, we also ensure that they grow up in a more equal society and will pursue non-violent lives as adults. As a woman, mother and daughter, I was attracted to MOSAIC because it is an organisation that embodies values of empowerment and ensuring that violence ends in our society, particularly GBV and Domestic Violence.

Picture: Advocate Tarisai Mchuchu, Supplied

For those who arent’t familiar with the organisation can you tell us what services are available at Mosaic and about the organisation?

T- MOSAIC is a community based, non-governmental organization (NGO) that offers holistic and integrated programmes aimed at preventing all forms of abuse and violence against women, girls and children, providing high quality response services when incidences occur and support for our clients through the process of healing and rebuilding their lives.

MOSAIC’s aims to end the scourge of gender-based and domestic violence by offering its continuum of care model tailored to support the individual survivor of abuse and violence in an integrated and holistic manner. Abuse and Violence against women is deeply rooted and is at the core of rights’ violation on women and girls in South Africa. It is deeply systemic and rooted in communities, institutions and cultures.

MOSAIC exists to empower survivors of domestic violence and abuse by creating enabling environments for them and supporting them through their healing process and ensuring that they become positive, and active drivers of change in their own lives. Providing psycho-social support services is not enough, therefore our theory of change is holistic. Our theory of change is based on the assumption that gender-based violence affect their life-cycle, in a way that is, mentally, physically and economically debilitating and thus affecting the way the survivor sees themselves, how they relate to others, and how they see their future. Therefore, we focus on personal development throughout our work with women and girls in order to have an impact in these essential areas to ensure true empowerment. MOSAIC creates an enabling environment within which this personal growth and development can take place, through our five pillar model:

Access to Justice – Court Support Services and Thuthuzela Care Centre;

Support and Healing – Counselling Services, Support Groups and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights;

Engaging Men and Boys- Training and Workshops, Support Groups and Counselling for Men

Empower- Education and Skills Training, Rights Training, Youth GBV Life Skills and Community Dialogues

Advocacy and Policy- Advancing rights of women and girls by providing evidence from our services to change the system.

Why do you do the work that you do? Where does the passion come from?

T- I love that everyday I get to be part of the solution as a woman to issues that affect us as women in society, relationships and families. I love that I get to connect people to solutions, I get to contribute to the economy by fundraising to sustain over 60 households that we directly employ, and empower over 30 000 direct beneficiaries and contribute to systems change. I love that my job challenges me to think beyond one thing, but solve problems in a multi-faceted, multi-connected whole society approach. I love that I am young, black and get to solve problems that I faced when growing up and often felt so powerless to even confront. I love that we are rights based and empowering and we do not approach our work as enablers or saviours, but as change agents working with those who have walked the difficult paths and empowerers.

Which woman has positively impacted you in your career?

T- I think I must mention two women here, the former Executive Director of Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Christina Nomdo who is now the current and first Western Cape Commissioner for Children and my own mother Sheila Mchuchu. Christina, helped me become a grounded activist, in that she trained me to be strategic. When I transitioned from Young in Prison, after seven years in an organisation that I had built from ground up as a student, I must admit I needed to be skilled in being strategic, to understand that one can be heard without destroying and she was very patient in allowing me to try my ideas out understanding that I was in a space of learning, unlearning and relearning. She mentored me, and allowed me to fly once I had received the lessons to move on and advance my ideas on prevention of violence. My mother is very important because I had children, she helped take care of my home needs, she and I co-parented so that I continue to thrive in my career and business.

What are the three words that spring to mind when you hear Women's Day/Month?

T- Women deserve better

In your industry or in general, have you seen any more movement to gender equality in the workplace?

T- In the non-profit sector, we tend to see diversity and particularly women in leadership positions. Women lead many movements in the sector. This shows that women continue to be at the forefront of advancing solutions to the problems we have in society. However, the civil society sector exists because there is something fundamentally unequal in our society that needs to be fixed. The civil society sector is a mirror that reflects to all other sectors what we should see, in society in general. We are being shown that women are leaders and can advance society. Unfortunately, we are far from seeing across all sectors. Gender equality is about seeing women physically seating in various positions, leading and contributing and not just accepting that there are certain industries for women. There is a slow movement to women being actively hired, being paid equally, having barriers to work and thriving being removed in many spaces in government and corporates. Further, workplaces must remove burdens that are barriers for women. Most care-work in homes falls on the shoulders of women, thus it is important for companies to ensure that women do nit have to choose between their children and work. Do not create meetings at times you know some will be excluded because of the burdens of care, those simple things go a long way to creating a more equal place for women.

As a woman who looks to inspire young girls that look like you what are some of the measures you think should be put in place to assure young girls have an equal say in society?

T- Well, I think it is amazing that Glamour Magazine is running features such as these to showcase young, black female leaders who have the same backgrounds as most of the young girls out there. It is important to be seen, to know that you belong and the more young girls can see other women succeeding who look like, the more they can believe that they too are worthy, and can achieve anything. It is important to have a strong sense of identity and self-worth and we should do everything we can to empower young girls to develop these characteristics so that they are able to recognise their inalienable right to equality and that they have a right to claim it when its being denied.

Gender Based Violence (GBV) especially women and children abuse has been prevalent in the country for a very long time and there have been various initiatives that speak to this but the scourge of abuse still continues at a large scale, what would you advise as a solution going forward? And who should be involved?

T- In South Africa, a woman dies every eight hours because of intimate partner abuse. The latest SAPS quarterly crime statistics show that assault survivors opened 50 124 cases with the police. This, sadly show that when you strike a woman, you don't strike a rock. GBV is a pandemic and if we intend to change this terrifying lived reality for women, we need all of society to act every day against GBVF and our governments to ensure that policies and laws are effectively implemented to prevent and respond to GBVF. While I recognise the historically vital role of the women who marched in 1956, the plight of today's women shouldn't only be nationally amplified during Women's month. All of us in society should be consistently chipping away at the systemic barriers facing women. Our attention and efforts on these issues can't be short-term.

We actively campaign and call for 365 activism and advocacy on anti-GBV efforts and these can include

Engaging men and boys through gender transformative and sensitisation education. MOSAIC engages men and boys through workshops focused on unpacking harmful gender norms and stereotypes that drive and sustain high levels of gender inequality and GBV.

Collaborative law & policy reforms: Making strides against domestic violence and GBVF will require an alignment between civil society activism and lobbying along with political will and leadership. This is the kind of collaboration recently demonstrated in the amendment process of the Domestic Violence Act in which MOSAIC contributed.

Volunteer, donate and fund pro-women causes and organisations. For example, brands that run promotions aligning themselves with this month or women's causes can put some proceeds into women's charities and services.

Actively hire and meaningfully invest in women to address the economic inequalities they still face. "From years of working with women, we know that most of our clients remain in abusive relationships because they are financially dependent on their partner.

Picture: Advocate Tarisai Mchuchu, Supplied

Most women are raised to believe that they have to put everyone else first before themselves and this is a part of the cycle of abuse that goes with GBV – how do you inspire confidence in women to leave their abusive partners and help rebuild their strength and identity?

T- At MOSAIC, we recognise this burden on women and this is why our theory of change is based on the assumption that gender-based violence affects a woman’s life-cycle, in a way that is, mentally, physically and economically debilitating and thus affecting the way the survivor sees themselves, how they relate to others, and how they see their future. Therefore, our interventions focus primarily on personal development to ensure that we reset the negative effects of abuse through empowering the individual to work on having an increase in positive self-awareness, increase in capacity to assert themselves and having an increase in positive outlook for their future. Once one gains confidence as an individually, we find that they are able to take control of their lives and start choosing themselves, accessing counselling, justice and skills development programmes to economically empower themselves so that they can leave abusive relationships. We must always understand that leaving abusive spaces is highly complex and it takes time.

With Black Lives Matter being at the forefront and black people calling out racism and transformation, what do you think we can teach the next generation about inclusion and representation?

T- We need to teach the next generation that inclusion leads to everyone being represented, and no-one will be left feeling like a second class citizen in any space in society. This means that there is no room for treating transformation as an option now if we are going to create a more inclusive society. We need to not only see more black people in all areas of life, but we need to ensure that black voices are heard- make room in film, art, books. We need to have stories of black people living life being told and not only stories of slavery and struggle. The history is important and we don’t know enough, but we also need to ensure that young people are seeing what thriving in modern day looks like for their own.

What are some of the great possibilities about being a woman in the world right now, that may not be easy to see?

T- The great possibilities are that we are human beings, nowhere in history has it been more apparent and accepted as a notion that we are human beings and should be whoever we want to be. With this empowering knowledge, we should be able to sit at any table, have any conversation we want and participate in all decisions that need to be made and drive those decisions to implementation. We must not wait, the time is now! This is an affirmation that women and girls should take up, it is something that we can easily forget because for so long our worth was always treated as less, like we are secondary human beings. That has changed.

The imposter syndrome is something a lot of women confess to suffer from or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it?

T- It is very real and this is why women holding each other, affirming each other and helping each other see that they belong in all spaces is important. Find your affirming sister circle that can help you see yourself as you do, gain the confidence that you already have- you just need it to manifest. Imposter syndrome is all in our minds and we must dismantle those negative thoughts and I have found that having mentorship circle really helps.

How would you encourage other women who are in a position to help to become involved with organisatios like these?

T- Women are stronger and successful when we help each other. In our own neighbourhoods, we can start there by ensuring that we are not being bystanders while others are being abused. Be supportive and listen to one another and try to know where people can get help so that you can always point them towards the right direction. I know you do a lot already, especially unpaid work in the home, community etc., we appreciate you and thank you for lifting where you stand.

Share this article: