Ntethelelo- mastering the art of forgiveness.

25 Feb

Creating the ultimate sounding board for the voiceless.

In many spaces, activists have been seen and named as being the voice for the voiceless. We have now moved into a new phase where platforms are created so that those in need are given a safe space and encouraged to express themselves, as they know best. One powerful game changer who is practising this is Thokozani Ndaba, the founder of The Ntethelelo foundation.
I met Thokoazni almost two decades ago. We were both two lost souls looking for healing and try to navigate a plan to be the change in the world. We started our activism friendship/journey way back in around 2003 where we both joined POWA and went through the three-month intensive training courses and workshops. Since then we have been actively campaigning for the rights of women. Thokozani took it further.

Who is Thokozani?
She is a former Ford Foundation Fellowship recipient who completed her Master’s Degree at NYU’s Steinhardt Educational Theatre. This powerful warrior holds a BA in Applied Drama and Theatre from the University of Witwatersrand. She specializes in facilitation and teaching. She does excellent work on social justice issues using Theatre of the Oppressed techniques and a range of other applied theatre methodologies. She uses theatre as a facilitation tool in communities and as an educational tool within the classroom. Thokozani has also worked with the University of South Africa (UNISA) Psychology & Research Department where she uses theatre of the Oppressed to create safe spaces and enable dialogue with different marginalized communities with the hope of bringing about behaviour/social change, healing and personal growth.
She is the founder and director of Ntethelelo Foundation in Johannesburg, where she works with disadvantaged youth with the main focus on self…self-love and self-respect.

Ntethelelo means forgiveness- In her explanation of how the name came to fruition, Thokozani says, that Ntethelelo is her daughter’s name. She emphasizes the importance of forgiveness, forgiving ourselves first, then forgiving the people who hurt us. In order to move on with our lives, we need to break the chains that have been placed on us by abusers. These pains then hold us down and thus stop progress.
Their core values are of the foundation as based on community building.
Building a community through behaviourial change thus to influence social change. The aim is to bring healing and personal growth by using applied Drama and theatre. Thokozani focuses techniques of The theatre of the oppressed.

I had the opportunity of visiting the ladies at the Ntethelelo Foundation. The location is in the Northeast part of Johannesburg, in an informal settlement known as Sitjwetla. The community is made of shack​ dwellings, the community do not have access to proper​sanitation​n and safety and security is a major​ concern.
The ladies who have joined all live in the same area. As Thokozani, says, they have to come from that area as they all have suffered and experienced the same amount of trauma and understand and live in the same dwellings and demographics. The other criteria for joining are that they have to be between the ages of 12 and 19 years old. They have to understand that once part of the group they will be expected to follow the programs values, mission, and aims.

They weekly routines.
On Mondays from 15h00 to 17h00, they have literacy class, where they spend their time reading. Often tutors avail themselves for extra lessons in English, Maths etc.
On Tuesdays- They have a group Yoga class. This is to emphasize grounding and thus helping with effectively dealing with trauma.
On Wednesday, they have an open talking session. This day is reserved for outsiders such as guest​ speakers or parents. The mothers of the girls are often invited to come and share their challenges in a safe space. This space and time are also reserved for musicians who teach a class through music.

I was invited on a Wednesday to speak to the ladies. On my arrival I was introduced to the group through a series of dance and singing exercises, this is done in groups to establish focus amongst the participants. We start the exercise by one person dances in a circle, announcing who we are and then they choose another participant to follow the chain. I then engaged with the young ladies as we sat in a circle as we began to share our stories. At first, they were reluctant but then opened up about their harrowing life challenges.
Thokozani has brilliantly and carefully created a safe space for them to share their journeys as a medium to talk as well as space for comfort. One of their strict rules is that if the ladies do not follow the rules, the group will make a decision and if agreed the person will be asked to leave the group.
The focus on the foundation is to create a platform for young ladies to know that they have a voice, teach them about listening to each other and creating camaraderie amongst themselves. The aim is to create and maintain the knowledge that their present circumstances do not define their future.
Their testimonies were real, hard-hitting but essential.

The program does not only deal with open discussion and workshops on self-love, but Thokozani has also partnered with the Market Photo workshop on photographic training.
The ladies have access to cameras where they are encouraged to take self-images. These images are a reflection of their daily life stories. They use photography, using themselves as the mirror of the community. Using the lens as a tool to tell their stories.
At the end of the program, their work will be exhibited in a gallery space in Auckland California. Where only black women photographers are hosted. Thokozani has also secured a space at the Human rights festival which will take place at Constitutional Hill, in Johannesburg.

The foundation is made up of two directors plus Thokozani and two board members. Currently, they survive on donations.
I call you all corporates to try and lend a hand either through assistance with lectures on Wednesdays. Thokozani also ensures that she has a light meal prepared for the ladies at the end of every session, so food or water donations are welcomed. This is essential as many of the ladies​ go for days without a proper​ meal.
Due to the high level of poverty, often the ladies lack basic toiletries and necessities such as soap, menstrual cups or pads, deodorant etc

The reality of living in Sitjwetla

How can you help?

Use the banking details below to make a deposit directly into our bank account:
Bank Account Name: Ntethelelo Foundation
Bank Account Number: 62710646342
Name of Bank: First National Bank
Address of Bank: Rosebank
Town/City: Johannesburg
Country: South Africa
Reference: Your name / organisation / phone number

To find out what the foundation’s current needs are, Please e-mail them,

2 Responses to “Ntethelelo- mastering the art of forgiveness.”


  1. Africa, we are the protector of the Gods | rosiemoteneblog - February 27, 2019

    […] ← Ntethelelo- mastering the art of forgiveness. […]

  2. Womxn get Sh*t done. | rosiemoteneblog - August 5, 2020

    […] The Ntethelelo foundation.Thokozani Ndaba is the founder of the Ntetheleo foundation. Due to the lockdown regulations, this community has been significantly affected and is need of many resources from sanitary ware for the ladies, basic household necessities, data for the children to get their homework. Their contacts details arethokozani@ntethelelofoundation.org.zaMore on their work – https://rosiemoteneblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/ntethelelo-mastering-the-art-of-forgiveness/ […]

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