In the midst of the annual 16 days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, police statistics have shown that one South African woman is murdered every three hours.
Puseletso Mbhele, a social worker turned criminologist, said the figure was staggering and the justice system in the country was not coping with the tide of violence.
She has close experience of many cases in her former career as a social auxiliary worker in rural Gauteng.
It prompted Mbhele to create a community campaign called #ICantBeNext, offering free self-defence training and boot camps to local women and university students.
“People think self defence is about fighting back but it’s actually about being able to get away from bad situations and having the tools and awareness to keep safe,” she said.
“There was so much rape, child abuse, and domestic violence against women in that place. I’d refer the cases [to the police] but there was never enough evidence. I realised it was too much for me, I couldn’t take the emotional strain. There was a lot happening out there but not enough help.”
The 34-year-old mother of three said she believed that there was a lot that could be done to assist victims and this propelled her to study criminology.
In 2015, she registered her company Lifeshield Home Security Projects in 2015.
“It started as a response to what I saw in my community…four children were killed and a woman. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be able to conduct investigations and make sure the victims don’t see people who are responsible for rape back out in the community.”
She added that since 2015, her company has grown to 31 staff with five clients, operating in Randfontein, Westonaria and Krugersdorp.
She also said that she plans to continue growing the business after recently completing the two-year SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme, a business support programme run by business incubator Fetola.
Her team provides guarding services, training services for security officers, access control, CCTV and electric fence installation, and retail and event security.
“Our work is to fight crime — working hand in hand with SAPS — and to create jobs,” she says.
Lifeshield is fully accredited under the Private Security Industry Regulation Act and the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority, to provide training through its security academy, as well as home and commercial protection services.”
She said being a female CEO was extremely challenging, especially in a male dominated industry.
“Most of the time when I make presentations… people say I’m not able to do protection and security work as a woman. But I believe women are some of the best protectors — if a child falls, a woman will be the first person to jump [to the child’s aid].”
Mbhele said she hopes her example would inspire her own children, as well as other young people in the community to take action, regardless of their gender, financial resources or educational background.
“I have a family I need to provide for and a community looking up to me. I have no choice but to force myself out of bed,” she says. “ But I am proud of the progress I’ve made and how much my company has impacted my community.”
-ANA, editing by Emsie Ferreira