I walked with the most inspiring young woman yesterday who in the space of twenty minutes blew me away with her story. I know 'inspiring' is an overworked word, but the fact that she was smiling with an inner peace after all she has been through in her short twenty three years, I found amazing and humbling as well as inspiring. A story of resistance. She was one of just over 200 young women from The Chrysalis Academy who walked along the promenade from Mouille Point to Sea Point to raise their voices against gender based violence. They sang, they held hands, they carried their banners high, stuck message flags in their hair - and they made a powerful statement that undoubtedly impacted all the dogwalkers, runners, pushchairs and leisure crowd out for a Saturday morning stroll.
They were led by two other inspiring women - Lucille Meyer, CEO of The Chrysalis Academy and Marlene le Roux, CEO of Artscape - and in conjunction with WoW - Western Cape on Wellness, they were fighting fit and ready to get the word out there.
As much as the walk itself and the motivation behind it, what also impressed me was hearing about the course the girls (or women rather aged 18 to 25) are undergoing at the Academy. From 'vulnerable' communities all over the Western Cape, from Oudtshoorn to Stellenbosch, to the Cape Flats and townships, they have been recruited to do an intense three month personal training programme that takes them through orientation and self-esteem building, a range of skills - firefighting, welding, cookery, youth development and environmental awareness, leadership and the value of volunteering. Bonding and interpersonal skills are clearly integral.
At the end of the walk, time to gather together for a quick pic to mark the occasion - joined by the feisty Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies who know all about the value of putting one foo in front of the other. So thanks for the walk and huge congratulations to all the team and young women at The Chrysalis Academy. And especially love to my young friend and fellow walker who has found perhaps more than she hoped for during this course. I wish her well - and look forward to seeing her on the journey.