In 2019, many women across the country took to the streets to protest against the surge of gender-based violence (GBV).
Among these women were thousands of students who marched in response to the murders of fellow students Jesse Hess from the University of the Western Cape and Uyinene Mrwetyana from the University of Cape Town.
Katy Lund, a second-year law student at Stellenbosch University (SU), felt especially triggered by the murder and rape of Mrwetyana, as they shared mutual friends who were also deeply affected by her death.
“After Uyinene's death, I felt angry and frustrated about what happened. I took part in the protests against gender-based violence but realised I was an awful protester and I came away feeling useless. Protests play such a huge part in bringing about change, but I realised that there were also other things I could do," Lund recalls.
After seeking advice from various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Western Cape and especially her high school history teacher, Lund decided to start the non-profit organisation (NPO), Guard Our Girls, which raises funds to purchase and distribute pepper spray canisters in especially disadvantaged communities across Cape Town.
Lund works very closely with the NGO MOSAIC in Khayelitsha that helps her NPO to distribute the pepper sprays and facilitate workshops to educate women on how to use them.
“There were some ideas on distributing pepper sprays on campus and I am often asked why I don't just distribute on campus, but I think that there is an undeniable poverty that plagues South Africa. I feel there are many communities that have been left behind and it is our duty to go back in those communities to help them."
Guard Our Girls also sells necklaces and bracelets made in collaboration with Stellenbosch company Jabali Handmade to help raise the funds to distribute more pepper sprays.
So far, Lund has received help and donations from James Kilgour, the man behind Linvar (Pty) Ltd where she sources the products, as well as Flexi Air, Fire and Engineering Services.
According to Lund there is so much that people can do to help combat the many issues in the country. “Many people have discussions about the issues affecting their communities, and walk away feeling frustrated and angry about it, but people should actually mobilise that anger and use it to effect change.
“I really didn't start with much; I kind of jumped into the deep end, but sometimes it is important to just get involved in projects, to learn about them, and not be afraid to ask for help and advice. I am very grateful to all the people who has helped Guard Our Girls so far. There is still much to do, so I hope I can collaborate with more NGOs and organisations to help the fight against gender-based violence."
For more information on how to donate or get involved at Guard Our Girls, visit their website at http://www.guardourgirls.com/.