About us

Brown History

Brown Lekekela (36) has dedicated the last 15 years of his ‘best years’ to improving the quality of life in his community. Born in Botshabelo, a small town in the Free State Province, Brown moved to Gauteng in 2007 in search of employment as per his family’s expectation but that was not his calling. He wanted to become a community volunteer. So he began his human rights work as a volunteer at Vuselela, an organisation championing HIV/AIDS prevention and control, where he fulfilled the role as a peer educator and went door to door in the community, teaching at local clinics and schools on virus protection.

It was during this time that Brown was exposed to the deep rooted and entrenched patriarchal beliefs that led to the marginalisation of women in South Africa, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to disease and violence.

Deeply moved by these stories, Brown began volunteering at the Diepsloot Police Victim Support Centre in 2011 in his quest to achieve justice for victims of gender-based violence. During his time working at the police station, Brown witnessed first-hand how an increasing number of incidents of domestic violence and sexual abuse went unreported. In a sprawling township of an estimated 700 000 people, one police station exists to service an entire community where almost 50% of men have admitted to or have the desire to rape (Wits/Sonke Gender Justice, 2016). There is a shortage of police resources and many victims are fearful of further victimisation (on their way to the police station or at the station itself). Other victims are conditioned to believe that they are deserving of the abuse, and do not seek justice.
Brown saw a great need in the community for a centrally-situated place of safety where vulnerable people can report crimes straight away, receive immediate counsel and support and medical attention, if necessary. In 2013, Brown formed Green Door shelter – launched in conjunction with government’s ’16 Days of Activism’ campaign following a series of brutal child rapes and killings in Diepsloot.

The shelter

The shelter consists of a wendy house and two brick rooms that are located on Brown’s property in Dieplsoot. The offering is basic, but it is the only shelter of its kind in the entire community. For many vulnerable women and children in Diepsloot, it is a lifeline.

Those who seek help from Green Door come from all over the Diepsloot township and its surrounds – simply because it is the only shelter of its kind that exists in the area. They arrive at all times of the day and night, with the clothes on their backs and most of the time, not a cent to their names. They may arrive with their clothes torn, bruised and bleeding, while the scent of their perpetrators remains.

Brown sees around 20-30 victims per month, all of whom are traumatised and damaged physically and emotionally and desperately need love, guidance, care and support. The cases vary in levels of abuse and sexual assault. No matter the time of day or night, or the availability of resources, Brown will always provide help and support to those who arrive at Green Door shelter. He offers a place of safety, dignity packs to clean up, emotional support and counsel, and advice on opening a case against their perpetrators. If the victim is dependant on their abuser, Green Door will provide a food parcel so that they are able to survive while getting back on their feet.

It is Brown and Green Door’s goal to see perpetrators of violent and senseless acts against women and children held accountable by the justice system, and for vulnerable individuals to find hope for a better life.

Brown’s fight for gender justice also extends to advocacy and awareness in the township. He visits bars, taverns, churches, community and centres where he talks to men about gender roles, and changing what they were taught. He educates children on GBV; how to respond to it and how to prevent it. Brown also regularly holds support groups and dialogue sessions to extend support to the community and to help those impacted by GBV to process and deal with their traumas.

All of this is achieved without ANY funding from government or corporate South Africa. Brown relies on the goodwill of individuals and small businesses to keep the services of Green Door operational. Unfortunately, without sustainable funding, the shelter is at risk of closing its doors.

Fighting the pandemic of GBV in South Africa is not for the faint hearted. Brown has made immense sacrifices, and risks his own safety to provide support to victims, and to ensure that they receive the justice that they deserve. Despite these challenges, he continues to do this critical work for the community.