Our mission is to assist in creating safe havens for women and children of violence in developing countries, providing information to educate them about HIV and supporting them in restoring dignity, hope, and healing.
Tough Angels’ mission is channeled through two core programs: The Wedding Ring Project, and Wings of Hope.
Both projects focus on the safety, support, and education of survivors of gender based violence (GBV) by creating safe havens where women and children are able to access medical, legal and spiritual resources, protection, and immediate/ongoing support services.
Before sharing more details about our programs, it is important to grasp the current landscape of the complex situation for children and women in these geographic areas where Tough Angels has focused their efforts.
The 2011 drought and subsequent famine in the Horn of Africa and Kenya, recently declared the worst in 60 years, which resulted in an estimated 12.5 million people facing a severe food crisis and in urgent need of emergency assistance.
While violence against women and children is often associated with war and economic disaster, natural disasters can bring equally severe risks. The impact of drought and subsequent poverty and displacement heightens vulnerability to gender-based violence among women and children.
In particular, breakdown in physical and social systems for protection during crisis – like the recent drought and famine – increases vulnerability to sexual violence and exploitation.
In Kenya, every day five children a day are defiled. One out of every two women are raped at least once in her lifetime. These numbers are conservative because according to FIDA-Kenya, only one in 20 women will report a rape, and only one in 6 women will seek medical assistance.
Interpol reports that South Africa ranks as number one in the world for the most rapes against women and children, in addition to having the fastest accelerating rate of HIV.
A rape occurs every 17 seconds in South Africa but it is estimated that only 1 in 9 rapes are ever reported to the police. Incredibly, few rapists are ever convicted and the sad reality is that rape statistics for South Africa in particular are on the rise especially for children.
It is estimated that one in every two women would be raped in their lifetime at least once. Between 28% and 30% of adolescents reported that their first sexual encounter was forced (information provided by Rape South Africa).
Vast work is required around unraveling a tribal myth that advocates purification or a cure for AIDS can be obtained by having sex with a virgin child. One local politician suggested that under apartheid, African men were stripped of power and prestige, and their revenge has been unleashed on women and children.
Mysticism around women and girls holding magical healing powers offers further insight into how rape became associated with a cure for AIDS, now a pandemic in South Africa. A girl born in South Africa is more likely to be raped than she will learn to read, according to CIET, the Community of Information, Empowerment and Transparency.
Wrangling the Beast
Of immediate concern is the absence of safe havens for women and children of violence in a patriarchal society. Too often, a child victim was rescued only to discover the safe houses were filled to capacity. Frequently, the lack of alternatives forced the child to return to the place where the initial crime occurred or staying on the streets, which often led to further abuse or child trafficking.
Acknowledging that safe houses are merely an answer to an immediate need, the long-term goal of education holds the highest hope of shifting the mentality of South African males. Education is a luxury few in the townships will ever attain and it addresses so many problems for children in Africa. Education is often the catalyst for improved health and offers them hope to lift themselves out of extreme poverty, danger, hunger and hopelessness.
“I am acutely aware of the lack of understanding most of us in the United States have around this complex dilemma but I also believe once informed, people are compassionate and will want to be part of the solution. We can no longer afford to ignore the truth. Until every child is protected and safe from harm, this responsibility belongs to every living adult, no matter race, creed, residency, or socioeconomic standing.”
~ Patricia Melnice, Tough Angels
Wings of Hope
With discussions that began in 2012, Tough Angels, together with Servant Forge Foundation (SF), an affiliate organization of Strategic Applications International (SAI), UNICEF and International Rescue Committee (IRC) have formed The Kenya Gender Based Violence Partnership to respond to the pandemic of gender-based violence (GBV) in East Africa. A resource/transitional center called Wings of Hope will be built in Lodwar, Kenya, the host community to the refugee camp, Kakuma – with a groundbreaking scheduled for 2013. Wings of Hope facility will be designed to serve women and children of violence, providing a range of services and programs including safety, health support services, education/training, sustainable agriculture, identification cards and multiple therapeutic approaches such as art, music, yoga and meditation.
Financial contributions for Wings of Hope will go directly to the program development, building design and construction expenses.
In the future, Tough Angels will be coordinating donation efforts for clothing, school supplies, art materials, as well as volunteer opportunities. Stay tuned for more ways to participate in the creation and running of this safe haven for women and children.
The Wedding Ring Project
The first Wedding Ring Project was launched in 2009 during Patricia’s first trip to Africa, when she experienced the transformative value of selling her wedding ring to finance the building of a new home for a Zulu woman named Lady Fair. Lady Fair rescues at-risk children from the streets and takes them into her home to protect, feed them and insure they are enrolled and attending school. You can read more about the story of how the Wedding Ring Project came to be in Patricia’s Journals. Today, in her new home, Lady Fair serves 16 children which is nearly double the number of children who were in her care in 2009.
Based on this experience and during her most recent trip to South Africa and Kenya, Patricia toured several primary schools in South Africa. Tough Angels channels efforts and funding into educating at-risk children. Patricia identified one school in particular whose enrollment consists of disadvantaged children. This school is in need of electricity, a working kitchen, reconstruction of some of the building, tables, and new functional school supplies. Teachers use what they can and don’t turn the students away, however there are more children who could be served under improved conditions.
Donors can send in their unwanted, broken, or repurposed jewelry, which will be exchanged with it’s total value delivered directly to the school in need which supports street children and orphans. In this way, your donation provides educational funding which would contribute to enabling more children to be enrolled in school, removing them from the streets where they are at increased risk for rape and child trafficking.