The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign takes place annually from 25 November to 10 December. We chatted to Josha Daniel, the founder of Rise Up Movement, about the work that he does.
It takes someone special to dedicate their life to making the world a safer place. In our community, that person is Josha Daniel. 20 years ago, he started Rise Up Movement, an NPO that has since grown into a movement that works tirelessly to address poverty, gender-based violence, human trafficking and child abuse. Two decades later, Josha remains at its helm, and despite seeing some of the worst behaviours of our society, he remains completely committed to helping others.
Josha grew up in Chatsworth in a home deeply affected by gender-based violence and alcoholism. “My mom stayed in her marriage because she had no assistance,” he explains. “I saw and experienced emotional trauma.”
Josha leans heavily on empathy in his work today. “It’s easy to tell a woman to leave an abusive man, but it’s not that simple,” he says. Determined to lead an honourable life, Josh worked hard to change his circumstances. “Your situation doesn’t determine your future – it’s your mindset,” he says. “With the little we had, I tried to make do.” He managed to finish his studies and in 2003, got his first teaching post.
While teaching maths and physics at high school level, he started Rise Up Movement. In the early days, Josha began by supplying school children with stationery and food for lunch, which he paid for with his own salary. As a teacher, he always tried to teach life skills to his students. “You can have very little in life, but if you have moral values and a good character, that will take you somewhere,” he says. From there, this work grew to a point where Rise Up Movement required more time and in 2015, Josha left teaching to commit himself completely to the cause.
Josha says because there was no help available for his mom and others, the Rise Up Movement safe house, which is currently being worked on, is his biggest priority. “There is currently no facility like this on the North Coast,” he explains. “We’ve been allocated land, but are facing a challenge of funding. We appeal to community members for help.” Besides providing a safe location for victims of abuse, Josha says the aim of the project is to give these women their dignity back. The safe house will give women access to an on-site facility where rape swabs and DNA testing can take place, as well as the chance to choose their own clothes and makeup. “We understand that every person is different. We want to help women through the process,” he says.
Josha and the team at Rise Up Movement, many of whom are volunteers, work hard on awareness campaigns, as well as skills development, education workshops, support and counselling. “We have an awesome team at Umhlali SAPS that partner with us,” says Josha. He encourages others to become involved wherevers they can. “Safety is a shared responsibility. If you see something, say something. Get proactive. Get involved with your community – know your people.”
For this year’s 16 days of activism, the Rise Up Movement will be running workshops at faith-based organisations about gender-based violence and what to do in the case of crisis.; as well as silent demonstrations, flyer distribution and other community engagements. Josha is also working on launching a 24-hour call centre where people can speak to trained counsellors. “With the festive season approaching, we just want to ensure the safety of our community,” he says. “I believe that the Dolphin Coast is the jewel of South Africa. We have phenomenal security companies, neighbourhood watches and community businesses that are ready to help. That creates peace of mind.”
It’s difficult to see people struggling with abuse, but Josha simply can’t walk away from his work. “There’ve been times I’ve thought about throwing in the towel, but this is the choice I made,” he says. “You don’t have to be a politician to make a difference. Start at home. Check on people, ask if they’re ok. Small acts of kindness can help build our community.”