VOICE TO THE YOUNG GIRLS AND WOMEN OF AFRICA!
I was so excited about visiting the project “Raising Voices of Young Women and Girls” funded by the EU and implemented by Soul City, Masimanyane and Women’s Net.
As a woman, I always feel it is my responsibility and my right to be part of such an important topic: gender equality. As we come to the world, we women face several struggles and discriminations on a daily basis all over the world which are constrained by the society we live in and determined by our gender.
I have to admit that learning about such issues through mass media is one thing and stepping into certain realities is something completely different.
Most of the projects that I visited here in South East Africa aim to achieve gender equality and end gender-based violence. From the stories I listened to and the people I met, I personally believe that most of these issues are rooted in a strong and unhealthy cultural anthropology which provides dysfunctional beliefs. So as a result of this, communities fall into wrong patterns and end up violating the human rights of individuals. Given this scenario, women and children are the most vulnerable categories and therefore it is necessary to advocate campaigns and support projects in order to protect them.
SOUL CITY: THE ORIGINS
I was very excited to meet some of the young women trained by the project in Mpumalanga.
Most of the girl members of the RISE CLUBS have, in the name of justice and gender equality, decided to transform their struggle into power and now fight inequality together, side by side.
Here are some of the amazing young women and girls I had the pleasure to meet that are working on the project.
Soul City, established in 1992 during the democratic change in South Africa, was initially a health promotion organisation. Launched in 1994, the Soul City television drama series was part of a multimedia health promotion and social change project by the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication (SC IHDC). The show has been mirroring over the past 21 years the social and development challenges faced by poor communities everywhere and merges health and social issues into real-life stories.
The Drama has also been broadcast in many other countries to millions of viewers. Designed to keep people talking about the issues raised in the drama: Soul City takes these discussions to other supporting mediums such as: RADIO, PRINT and SOCIAL MOBILISATION.
What I find extremely remarkable, and absolutely brilliant, is the choice of wanting to speak about social and health issues via the media which obviously leads to a high level of engagement from the public.
(Have a look at the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqR3aUulqMQ )
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: A HUMAN RIGHT
Freedom of speech, has played a massive role in this because it has allowed women to come into the spotlight and let this issue be addressed as a violation of rights.
Along with the radio and the social mobilisation, the print media had a massive and positive impact as well, in fact more girls have been raising awareness about these topics also thanks to some magazine such as RISE CLUB for example. The magazine facilitates interaction in the clubs and spreads information between the young women and girls.
In this magazine, young women learn about different issues and most importantly spread the word within the community. I find reading such a powerful skill that can empower whoever is willing to learn, with no discrimination of age, race or social status.
SOUL CITY: A SOCIAL JUSTICE ORGANIZATION
So as previously mentioned, Soul City started as a social justice organisation, focused on health communication (tv series, radio programmes and magazine) but has recently been transformed into a Social Justice Organisation. The main focus is Young Women & Girls and of course the communities they live in. The organisation ensures that young women and girls have equal access to resources that enable them to fulfil their ambition, reach their full potential and take their rightful place in society. It is an organisation that promotes a just society and ensures equal treatment and respect for basic human rights.
And one of the latest thing that Soul City has done is form clubs: RISE clubs.
RISE CLUBS: WHAT ARE THEY?
RISE clubs are spaces where girls can hang out and talk about different topics, share stories and raise awareness about their human rights. The clubs spread across the country, more precisely in 7 provinces, are facilitated and led by young women themselves who provide assistance, support and raise awareness about different issues. The meeting point for these clubs are schools where girls between 15-25 years old receive support, knowledge and assistance.
EU FUNDING THE PROJECT
With the help and the support received by the EU, Soul City came up with a project and selected 40 young women from 3 provinces who are becoming social justice advocates. These young women have been trained on human rights, social and cultural issues and community mapping.
This specific groups of girls look at their communities and map out what are the issues that are affecting young women and where are the areas of discrimination.
Once these issues have been identified, they gather as much information as possible around these issues, community based monitoring, and look out for different areas such as Heath and Justice. They then pick one issue they want to focus on and put together an advocacy campaign that is submitted to the Parliament in their province and the Cape Town National Parliament.
(The lady in the picture with me is Ms Hlanga Mqushulu, Advocacy Coordinator at Soul City)
This smiley girl is Prudence, one of the volunteers of the EU project.
Prudence told me that she feels very grateful and that she has been learning a lot about her own empowerment and other women’s thanks to this amazing initiative funded by the EU.
(From LEFT : Gugu Ndolovu – Administrator & Nobuhle Mkhtoza – Field worker, helping the volunteers keeping everything organized and in place)
And this is Harry Lehungwane, from LOVE LIFE which is an organization that has been improving the lives of many young people, through prevention of HIV infection and now including holistic youth development”.
While talking with Harry, we both agreed that as well as empowering young women and girls it is very important and necessary to educate young men and boys in order to achieve gender equality.
I think it is absolutely wonderful what this project is doing. It is so motivating and inspiring to see young women and men, understanding the importance of these issues and empowering each other while fighting for change.
And as I woman I am not afraid to say it: “WOMEN HAVE NO FEAR OF OWNING YOUR OWN POWER AND THE RIGHT WILL COME WITHIN”.