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Dr Nobs Mwanda

Dr Nobulembu Babalwa Mwanda is a medical doctor and a pioneer in the field of prevention and holistic management of child abuse, a deep-rooted problem that is under reported in South African society.

Having seen the devastating effects of child sexual abuse and the severe lack of resources and skills to deal with this difficult medical and social problem, Dr Mwanda decided to look at ways to prevent the scourge in the first instance but also to provide medical assessments and social support for the victims as well as their families.

She came to the conclusion that victims and related family members as well as perpetrators must be developed as individuals with a contribution to society. They must be given social skills, a sense of worth and the capacity to elevate themselves from impoverishment and helplessness before they get caught up in a cycle of abuse.

In 2000 Dr Mwanda established a not-for profit organisation, Zamokuhle Community Upliftment Programmes, later called COPESSA (Community-based Prevention and Empowerment Strategies in South Africa), primarily to prevent child abuse and neglect through community development and capacity building within a local community.

The objectives for COPESSA were set to first and foremost prevent child abuse and neglect from happening. But once it occurred the impact must be reduced by nurturing healthy families and communities and to discourage victim status. Safety nets must be created in the communities for all children through training and support.

The organisation opened its first child abuse and neglect centre, COPESSA, in 2004 in Protea Glen, Soweto, Gauteng. It was a first for Soweto and offered medical assessment of children who have been sexually abused, intense counseling and social support services all-in-one.

Since opening the centre a huge amount of what it has set out to do was achieved. Apart from the healing and counseling it has been awarded for developing a safe children's park in Protea Glen Soweto. Local women were involved in sewing and a large vegetable garden project which generates income. Several people from the local community have been trained as lay counselors and it has also exposed young social workers to a problem which is rife in the community.

Over the past few years they have supported at least 34 orphaned and vulnerable families with monthly food parcels, some of who gradually progressed to sustaining themselves by growing their own foodin the community gardens. A library has been opened for the local children and several holiday clubs are run to keep the children occupied.

Dr Mwanda would like to see the project being replicated in other parts of the country and COPESSA has received a donation of a large area of land that they hope to develop into a multi-purpose community centre. It has also started a brick-making project in Waterworks Informal Settlement, Westonaria.

Dr Mwanda pioneered this very successful project with vision and very little help but a great deal of perseverance and selflessness giving hundreds of victims of child abuse the opportunity of a better future in South Africa.


 

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