Brown Lekekela is doing the work required to deal with gender-based violence where it’s most needed. He runs the Green Door shelter in his backyard for women and children in the Diepsloot informal settlement in Johannesburg. He set it up in 2013, after volunteering as a trauma counsellor at the Diepsloot police station.
Lekekela is driven by the knowledge that someone needs his help. He advises young people to identify their unique skills and talents and work on them. He began volunteering at the Vuselela HIV organisation as a peer educator and later served as a lay counsellor. From there he coordinated lay counsellors from Diepsloot, Midrand, Ivory Park and Rabie Ridge. One of his proudest moments was being selected as Lead SA Hero of the Month in January 2016.
Lekekela was raised by a single mother amid inequality, poverty and crime, and never received a postgraduate education. He says community workers do not receive the same recognition for the work they do as people with doctorates but the work they do is just as valuable and necessary.
To his younger self, Lekekela says:
“Make your existence felt, you are more to the world than what your community sees of you.”
His vision for the effect he wants his work to have, Lekekela says: “South African men need to respect women more than protect them.”