Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 2002
Ikhwezi Women Support Centre


This profile was prepared when Esther Cossie was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Esther is engaging South Africa's traditional and conservative rural population in addressing violence, particularly violence against women. Incest, rape, murder, and HIV infection are often hidden within local cultures, thus making outside interventions extremely difficult. Existing mechanisms to deal with these issues are largely urban and therefore inadequate to address the needs of women in closed rural communities.
Esther sees that young people have the ability to make the largest positive impact on these communities. By identifying cultural value systems that are no longer functional and developing healthier options, young people are leaders of change. Esther trains young men and women to go out and raise awareness about domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, and all forms of abuse common in traditional rural communities. They break the silence that allows abuse to go unchecked. Esther has developed a sound and effective organization under difficult circumstances in an impoverished, isolated area. She has thus developed a model that rural communities all over South Africa will find helpful.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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