As we head into Women’s Day on 9 August, issues around widespread violence against women continue to be at the forefront of our society. In a bid to contribute to highlighting and addressing the extremely high rates of gender-based violence (GBV) that permeate communities across South Africa, Sindi Ngongoma, a mother of two girls, has released a song called “Sanctuary”.
The song emphasizes the horror so many women in our country are going through, with the words, “I’m born into war, I’m born into sexual slavery, I’m battered, I’m bruised, I’m shackled, I’m stripped of my dignity, I’m drugged, I’m raped, I’m beaten, I’m killed. Is there a sanctuary for us who are born in war?”
“Sanctuary”, currently available on YouTube, Spotify and iTunes, was written by Sindi in response to the various challenges faced by women in our land, often at the hands of the very people who are meant to protect them.
Sindi, a Financial Manager, has always loved singing as a hobby. While growing up in Embo, a small community not far from the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu-Natal, she enjoyed singing as part of a choir at church, school, and weddings. To play her part in bringing down our high rate of GBV, she decided to use her talent to write and sing a song to conscientious people about the damage caused by women’s abuse.
“I actually wrote the song in 2015 but was motivated to record it after seeing how distressed my daughter was over the rape and murder of a young woman in August last year,” says Sindi. “I felt I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. I wanted my daughter to see her mom responding to the situation and doing something to tackle the brutality that large numbers of women face.”
After putting together a melody, she workshopped the song with her musician friend, Louis Mhlanga, a guitarist, who further assisted her in finding artists to play the instruments on “Sanctuary”. Haunting and heartbreaking, the song consists of Sindi’s powerful words together with the stunning sounds of drums, a bass guitar, and keyboard which are played by Rob Watson, Michael Phillips, and Randal Skippers. Garrick Van Der Tuin engineered the song.
“Sanctuary” is a wailing song, a cry for help,” explains Sindi. “With this song, I am crying for the women who cried, but were not heard, who pleaded but their pleas fell on deaf ears. I am wailing on their behalf so that the nation does not forget the excruciating pain that is felt at midnight, the sobbing that happens at twilight, the horrors that are left for us to pick up in the morning and the arresting fear that grips us by day.”
It is Sindi’s hope that “Sanctuary” highlights to listeners that they are not helpless in the face of GBV but can take a stand and do something about it. “I hope “Sanctuary” sparks conversations about what communities can do to tackle violence against women and inspires them to act,” says Sindi. “We can all play our part in whatever way we can to address the rape, murder, and abuse of women. We all have a voice. We can all make a difference in various ways such as having discussions at schools and in the broader community about the long-lasting damage caused by abuse as well as what it means to have a healthy relationship and be a proper man. These conversations can open up a platform to talk about issues openly and honestly, engage with challenges, find solutions, and hopefully change attitudes and behaviour for the better.”
Other interventions Sindi suggests are having workshops where community members are trained on healthy ways to deal with conflict. “In some communities, violence against women is so common, people are used to it and so regard it as normal. We need to stand up and say, ‘no, it is not normal.’”
The crime statistics recently released by the South African Police Services state that sexual offenses have increased over the past year and that about 58 people are murdered a day in South Africa. It is so important that we intensify our efforts to pull together to battle our violent crime scourge.
“In marking Women’s Month, we are reminded of what the former brave women who walked this land did for us,” says Sindi. “With this song, I would like to remind South Africans that today women, in particular, in this emancipated land are murdered, are trafficked, are forced into prostitution and young girls go missing. Let this song play, let it be engraved in our minds, let this Women’s Month be not only for those who stood against the evils of apartheid. Let it also be for the women who were and are murdered in this emancipated land that the former brave women fought for.”
Going forward, Sindi would like to perform “Sanctuary” at events that build awareness around GBV. To book Sindi, you can email her on firstname.lastname@example.org