By Nerissa Card
She is little more than a girl herself, but she is not prepared to sit back and watch the scourge of gender-based violence tear apart the country’s girls and women.
Nottingham Road’s Katy Lund, a 19-year-old second-year law student at Stellenbosch University, has started a non-profit organisation called Guard Our Girls.
It raises funds to purchase and distribute pepper sprays in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
I met up with the former St John’s pupil to find out more.
“I started it in response to gender-based violence (GBV), particularly in the Western Cape, because that’s where I am based.
“There was a lot of media coverage about Uyinene Mrwetyana’s murder. I am friends with some of her friends, so it was a very emotional time.”
Mrwetyana, a University of Cape Town student, was raped and murdered last year by post office worker Luyanda Botha.
He was sentenced to three life terms for his crimes and five years for defeating the ends of justice by the Cape Town High Court.
“There was lots of awareness about it on campus, many talks and protests, but I found myself frustrated just talking about it and not doing anything to try to prevent it.
“Also, I am really bad at protesting. I am just no good at it. I feel out of place, so I came up with idea of pepper sprays because I believed it would be a way for me to help people in Khayelitsha.
“I felt that if we were feeling vulnerable on campus, imagine how terrified the people who live there must be.”
Katy credits her former history teacher, Marilyn Evans, with helping her to set up the organisation.
“She has done a lot of community work, so I organised to meet her in September, told her my idea and she told me to go for it. She advised me to register it as an NPO.
“With her help and contacts I got advice on the channels to go through.”
Guard our Girls is partnering with Khayellitsha-based NGO MOSAIC, which seeks to eradicate violence against women, to distribute the sprays.
Katy sources the products from Linvar Pty Ltd and Flexi Air, Fire and Engineering Services. Both companies and James Kilgour, the man behind Linvar, donated sprays to Guard Our Girls.
As far as fundraising to further the project, the organisation sells wrist bands, which are imported and bear the Guard Our Girls name, and beaded necklaces, which Katy makes. The bands and necklaces cost R50, the cost of a spray. Further fundraising is by donations on her website at www.guardourgirls.com.
“St John’s is also selling bands and I would like to get into other KZN schools.
“The bands are a great way for boys to show support because although many of them are aware of GBV, they seem not to want to talk about it or don’t know how to help. This way they can assist,” says Katy.
This amazing young woman has also had a meeting with Thuli Madonsela and is hoping Guard Our Girls will become part of the many community organisations the former public protector supports.
The NPO held its first distribution drive, in conjunction with MOSAIC, in Belhar at the end of January. At a workshop there, Katy handed out pepper sprays and did a short training exercise to show the women how to use them safely.
This is such an incredible cause, made even more so by the fact that it was started by such a young woman.
Please support Katy in her quest to guard our girls and follow the organisation on Instagram @guardourgirls.