Kwanele is a survivor movement, which is incubated at Embrace Dignity, and is led by survivors. The movement was established in 2017 by predominantly poor black women from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds who live in South Africa. The word Kwanele means Enough or It is Enough in isiXhosa and isiZulu.
The movement’s primary focus is to mobilise survivors of the system of prostitution to create a public survivor voice and speak about the harms of prostitution in order to transform societal mindset and attitudes. It also endeavours to provide support and assist survivors and prostituted persons to exit the system of prostitution and access the relevant exit support services and/or programmes.
The movement does not regard or recognise prostitution as work but rather as a means of survival when there are few or no other employment options. Additionally, it perceives prostitution not as a choice but as a result of many factors, including the injustices brought about by South Africa’s colonial past and Apartheid, as well as a patriarchal system, persistent inequalities, poverty, unemployment, past sexual and physical abuse, pimps who take advantage of the vulnerable and the men who buy women and girls in prostitution. Therefore, the movement is neither in favour of total decrimininalisation nor regulation as a solution for unemployment and poverty. Instead, it supports and advocates for the enactment of the Abolitionist Equality Law on prostitution in South Africa as the only promising legal framework to end prostitution.
Kwanele is present in seven provinces with 347 active members. The movement, which was previously led by the founder Miss Nomonde “Mickey” Meji, has undergone leadership change and is currently led by an elected three-person steering committee with effect from 12th March 2020. It currently manages the affairs of Kwanele with the guidance and support from Embrace Dignity. It was resolved that the committee will lead the movement for a short period until the Annual General Meeting in June 2020 where a new leadership will be elected.
The following individuals were elected as steering committee members:
Babalwa Puthumo hails from Stutterheim in the Eastern Cape. She is a healthcare practitioner and a qualified phlebotomist, human rights activist, a radical feminist, and a survivor of the system of prostitution. Her work will be in communications and public education in making sure that survivor voices are heard and educating the public about the harms in the system of prostitution.
Sphindile Cele comes from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. She is a human rights activist, Black Consciousness feminist, HIV rights activist and a survivor of the system of prostitution. Cele will focus on mobilisation and capacity building for Kwanele. She believes that the Abolitionist Equality Law is the only law that will set women free from the cruel and harmful system of prostitution.
Hildah Tlou hails from Mbombela, Kabokweni in Mpumalanga. She is a survivor of the system of prostitution. She is a founder of a non-profit organisation called Impumelelo Yethu Foundation, a women’s empowerment initiative aimed at empowering and capacitating vulnerable women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. She founded the organisation to advocate for individuals whose human rights were violated, specifically vulnerable women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds who have experienced sexual exploitation and were silenced because of it. Tlou is also an abolitionist and social activist and her work will be centered around advocacy for the Abolitionist Equality Law.