This Women’s History Month, we’re sharing the stories of remarkable women who are part of the global movement to end the use of orphanages for good by strengthening and supporting families.
Today we hear from Lourenza Foghill, our South Africa Country Director. Lourenza reflects on International Women’s Day, the power women hold to create change and the need for governments, services, social care provisions to give women the support they need to thrive.
What year did you join Hope and Homes for Children?
I joined Hope and Homes for Children in 2008 as a Communications Officer. Very soon, I became much more involved in programmatic work, leading the Witbank project in the Mpumalanga Province, which was funded by the mining community.
As a team, we implemented the ACTIVE Family Support model in communities in South Africa, focused on strengthening families in Malenge, KwaZulu-Natal (deep-rural); Moretele Hammanskraal (peri-urban) and Witbank, Mpumalanga Province.
I left Hope and Homes for Children in 2011 to pursue personal interests and was then approached by the organisation in 2015 to lead the South Africa Care Reform work. I am now Country Director for South Africa.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you, as a leader of an organisation working to ensure every child has a safe family home in South Africa?
International Women’s Day is a celebration of the power, resilience and courage of women working every day to keep their families safe, strong and happy in the face of ever-decreasing socio-economic and socio-political well-being.
In my work across Africa, I have focused on highlighting the countless selfless acts of courage I have seen from thousands of women. These included orphaned girls dropping out of school to care for their younger siblings, young mothers working two or three jobs to keep food on the table, and older women steadfast as the anchor of their families.
In South Africa, women of all ages are at high risk of abuse and murder, usually perpetrated by their partners. In a largely patriarchal society, it is even more difficult for women and girls to realise their inalienable, constitutionally guaranteed human rights.
What’s more, ‘choice’ is not given to women in South Africa, and beyond. Millions of women have to bear the brunt of choices made for or imposed on them by others. Yet they survive and thrive, creating warm, loving and safe homes for their families, even under the worst living conditions.
Personally, International Women’s Day serves as a reminder of the responsibility I have to give meaning to the sacrifices and hard work of the many generations of strong women whose blood flows in my veins.
I have the opportunity to make a real difference – to catalyse change in a country that many have described as a failing state.
For me, my role is more than a job. I believe it is imperative to work and lead on critical systems change and to advocate for a four-way partnership between communities, NGOs, government and businesses to support children and families.
This path is the only way forward in order to open up critical development pathways for children and women in South Africa. Through this, we can give meaning to the realisation of human rights.
What is your biggest achievement or proudest moment as a leader since you joined HHC? How did this make you feel?
There are many ‘critical moments of change’ that I am very proud of and that give me the courage to continue on this journey.
If I had to select the two most meaningful moments of change, these would be the design and implementation of the AFS-KHUSELA Community Prevention model that places agency back into the heart of communities, and the opportunity we had to share our learnings on influential global childcare reform platforms, including the invitation to participate in the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung webinars and working groups.
The Hanover Park AFS-KHUSELA project is another huge moment of change. We were able to prevent 89 families from separation in one of the most violent and marginalised communities in the country where even the police and government officials are afraid to enter the community. I find this achievement hugely inspirational and motivating.
The strong working relationship that we have built with the government is also a proud moment; able to withstand robust debate, but always working together to achieve the best interest of children.
Why is it important that women’s voices are included in decision-making around childcare reform in South Africa?
Women are the architects, nurturers, carers and backbone of society in South Africa. Therefore, collectively, they have to hold the primary right to participate in all actions to catalyse systemic reform in South Africa.
How do community services and access to childcare help break the glass ceiling for women in South Africa?
Women, as the primary caregivers and nurturers of children, are often caught up in the web of responsibilities and ecosystems characterised by the lack of basic services and specialist support.
But, it is the legislated and constitutional duty of government to provide good quality basic service delivery, like housing, water supply, sewage reticulation, power supply, law and order, education and primary healthcare to families living in communities.
Additionally, government and NGOs should, in terms of the childcare legislation, provide early childhood development centres, respite care and other childcare support services in local communities. This provision will enable mothers to access further training, and education and to enter into formal employment. Without these critical support services, millions of mothers will remain trapped and unsupported; sustaining a pernicious cycle of generational poverty and family breakdown.
What message or words of encouragement do you have for aspiring women wanting to make positive change in the world?
Nothing is impossible – you have the resilience, entrepreneurial skills, wisdom and heart needed to follow your dreams and make these real. Focus on what you want to achieve and do not be deflected from your vision and pathway.
Lourenza Foghill is National Director of One Child One Family – Hope and Homes for Children's programme in South Africa.