The Vaishnavi Ministry of South Africa has been reaching out to honor and serve the Vaishnavi community during Women’s Month, by providing counseling, spiritual support, and care packs during difficult times.
Every August, the country of South Africa marks Women’s Month, during which tribute is paid to the more than 20,000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on August 9th, 1956 for equal rights during apartheid. August 9th itself is billed as National Women’s Day, and is a public holiday in South Africa.
For over a decade, ISKCON in South Africa has been holding programs in August for the Vaishnavi community. At the Sri Sri Radhanatha temple in Durban, it all began when, during one year, Women’s Day fell on the day before Janmastami. Since the grounds were already set up with a stage, tent and all facilities, the temple management decided to host a Women’s Day event.
The resulting program was a resounding success. Its message, “Join us for the Women’s Day tea party at the Hare Krishna temple,” drew 300 to 400 women, both from the Vaishnavi community and from the greater community.
“We presented Krishna consciousness in a very simple, attractive manner,” says Vaishnavi Minister Krsangi Radhe Dasi. “The program included thoughtful panel discussions about Vaishnavis in our society, discussions about women’s health issues, and a Vedic fashion show. Every year since then, we’ve hosted an elaborate program on Women’s Day.”
In 2020, the program went virtual due to the pandemic. This year, with South Africa in its third wave of the pandemic, and the recent civil unrest, the Vaishnavi Ministry decided to reach out to provide much needed emotional and spiritual support to Vaishnavis in a variety of ways.
“While everyone has been exposed to the pandemic and here in South Africa to the same riots, women have just been affected in so many different ways,” says Krsangi Radhe. “As moms, coping with working from home, homeschooling our kids, job losses, and holding things together in the home. So in the process of trying to step up our game, and having to care for so many different facets, we neglected ourselves emotionally and spiritually.” Vaishnavis also lost family and friends to Covid-19.
To provide emotional support for stress, trauma or grief, the Vaishnavi Ministry connected women in need to professional counselors within the Vaishnavi community, such as Krsangi Radhe herself, who is a certified NLP coach.
For those in financial need, volunteers delivered hamper bags containing toiletries and personal care items.
And for spiritual support, there was an online sanga and prayer group. “If you needed some spiritual strength, or you were just feeling low, you could connect with a buddy to chat to, and get the sisterhood you needed,” Krsangi Radhe says.
She adds that the approach was twofold. “It was ‘How can we help women?’ and ‘How can women help each other?’” she explains. “We had people contact us and say, ‘I’ve experienced grief during this time,’ or ‘I’ve lost a loved one.’ And on the other hand, we also had Vaishnavis contact us saying, ‘I’m a counselor,’ or ‘I’m a yoga instructor and I’d love to do an online yoga class,’ or ‘I’m in the medical field, and would like to help.’ One woman sent me a message and said, ‘I’m not a professional, and I’m unemployed. But I’d really like to help somebody by just praying for them. How can I do that?’ It was so special.”
Krsangi Radhe says that the initiative was well-received and deeply appreciated. “I think we’ve built relationships and created bonds of love,” she explains. “And this campaign showed me that service can be very deep and very fulfilling. I hope it inspires others around the world to be creative in their service and to share that love, share that support, and help in whatever capacity they can.”
Although the campaign ended in August, the effort to offer support for Vaishnavis is open-ended. To support the Vaishnavi Ministry of South Africa, please email email@example.com
For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/Iskcon-Vaishnavi-Ministry-of-SA-104013621455799
Jan 23, 2022
Anandini Tikunov (8th-grade student)
Jan 22, 2022
Sunanda Das, tovp.org