18-Years of Freedom – In Pursuit of my African Dream . . .

“Freedom” – am I “free” . . .  or am I “dom”?

 Recent newspaper headlines:-

  • Rape accused is a member of SANDF (The Citizen: April 24, 2012: pg3)
  • Family murders on rise – stressed men are not willing to seek help (Sowetan: April 24, 2012: pg 2)
  • Women rape accused out on R1,000.00 bail – chaos as court officials put families of victims and suspects in the same room (The New Age: April 24, 2012: pg 2)
  • SA won’t be free until it’s women are truly free (Business Day: April 24, 2012: pg 11)

 Violence against women is at “crisis” levels, South African Minister says – The South African Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana recently called for Southern African countries to develop a comprehensive, holistic and integrated approach to end gender-based violence (GBV).

 At a recent 3-day summit (April 23 – 25 2012), organised by Gender Links under the banner “365 days of local action to end violence and empower women”, our Minister said that South Africa’s cabinet approved last November (2011) the creation of the National Council against GVB, chaired by the Deputy President. The Council’s official launch is scheduled to take place in August 2012.

The violence against women and children continues . . .

On 27 April 2012, we commemorate 18 years of freedom on National Freedom day – the national theme is “Working together to build unity and prosperity for all”.

Our Constitution (Chapter 2) under the Bill of Rights (paragraph 12) ensures us that we can expect to enjoy “freedom and security of the person” . . .

 How come I still don’t feel free? How come, as a physically disabled female, I still feel so enormously vulnerable, a soft target for any able-bodied person (male or female) out there?

How can I even think of celebrating 18 years of freedom when I still don’t feel totally free? Not going out after dark is not the only fear. I don’t even feel safe in broad daylight – let alone at night. My fear is two-fold : not only am I vulnerable and at risk because I am a female, I am also at risk because I have a physical disability which means that I am more vulnerable to being overpowered by someone even remotely stronger than I am – physical harm that could put me in a wheelchair for the rest of my life – if I survive, that is. Is that considered to be “freedom”?

Our government has done a wonderful job of putting all sorts of wonderful legislation in place. Our Ministers and other influential people are very vocal in terms of “we condemn any acts of violence” – especially when it comes to women and children, but, at the end of the day – what is being done about implementation of those policies and other forms of legislation?

In spite of wonderful training initiatives, our Police service still don’t know how to deal with a woman who has survived Gender Based Violence/Abuse/Rape etc. Many of them (mostly the men) still feel the women are to blame and brought their “misfortune” upon themselves. We still have church clergy who believe that an abused woman needs to go home to her husband and “turn the other cheek”. I could go on . . .

Why is it that I still don’t feel “free”?

 . . . and I think to myself: what a wonderful world . . .

Don’t forget to visit: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za


In pursuit of the African Dream . . . changing our world!

Change is good – but will changing your views and opinions change the world? Mmmmm . . .  I think it was Mahatma Ghandi who said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

What do we need to change in our own lives in order to change our perception of the world as we see it today?

The late Michael Jackson believed that it starts with “the man in the mirror” – when you look in the mirror what do you see? What or who looks back at you? Are you happy with what you see?

Before we can change the world, we need to change ourselves. Changing ourselves could lead to a ripple effect. If we start by changing ourselves, then one person at a time and if each person we change could change one other person, then soon we could see the fruits of our labour.

Remember: Change – it begins with ME!

What are you doing to change the world?Image

My African Dream – does it exist?

With reference to the recent rape of a 17-year old young lady by boys aged 14 – 20 – what is the answer? How do we stop this violence against women (not forgetting the children as well)?

Our Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (specifically set up for the purpose of representing women, children and people with disabilities) claims to have difficulty in fulfilling its mandate because they are short staffed, underfunded, and ill-represented at provincial level. Question: What is being done about this?

Is this just another rubber stamp of government that says to international donors (who are now getting tired of pouring money into a big black hole) that government is concerned about everybody except able-bodied adult men?

 Our government has proposed introducing a Gender Equity Bill – a Bill which has been rejected by a number of civil society organisations working in the area of gender equality, because it serves to duplicate existing legislation; there is no budget for such a law; and it is unclear who will be responsible for implementing it. The fact that the Women’s Legal Centre feels this Bill would be ineffective has not hampered government in trying to get this Bill passed.

 In 2010/11 66 196 sexual offences were reported. Many civil society organisations estimate that between one in five and one in nine women report their rape. If we use the conservative figures of one in five, it means that 330 980 sexual offences were actually committed in 2010/11.

More simply: 330 980 rapes per year is 906 rapes per day. This is 37 rapes per hour or one rape every two minutes. So in the three hours that the department of everyone and everything took to tell us about their lack of implementation and monitoring capacity, 90 sexual offences were committed (source: http://mg.co.za/article/2012-04-18-new-gender-equality-bill-wont-solve-rape-crisis)

My view is that the men who are raping are doing so because they feel powerless and rape is the only way to exert that power right now. If we look more closely at those who are raping/sexually assaulting, you will find that they are mostly unemployed (young or old), come from very impoverished backgrounds (besides the “blue collar” ones happening behind closed doors that the media does not find out about). Men are tired of sitting around at home, unemployed and not able to put food on the table for their families. They are tired of living in someone else’s backyard not able to afford or provide a roof over their heads for them and their families.

Putting someone like this in jail is actually bliss because at least in jail they have a roof over their heads, meals 3 times per day and they don’t have to worry about not being able to provide for their families. Having a criminal record is no longer a problem because most of our current MP’s have had a criminal record at some stage of their lives and they are now “living the good life” as an MP.

I could go on forever about this but I think you know where I’m going with this?

We need to find ways of changing the behaviour and attitudes of these men (like Sonke Gender Justice who have introduced the “One Man Can” campaign). I think we, as women need to link up with this campaign and ask them “how can we help you?”. Sonke Gender Justice is doing a wonderful job and I think more programmes like this is needed to change existing attitudes and behaviour.

We also need to push Government to work on the unemployment, housing and poverty problem in this country. Until these issues are addressed, I’m afraid that the situation is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

You cannot preach to someone who is hungry, who does not have a roof over his/her head and who is fighting for survival. Part of our human dignity comes from having a job to go to each day, having the satisfaction of knowing that you have earned enough to put food on the table and to provide for your family. Give a man this dignity back, and he will give women the dignity they deserve.

Social grants are not the answer either. A very well-known and overused quote which I feel is so close to the truth says: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for the day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” People in South Africa need jobs . . . a “hand-up” rather than a “hand-out”.

Many of these men who rape are not really monsters. If they are treated with dignity and respect, they could possibly also respect others (including women).

Rape is not about sex. It is about a man exerting his power over a woman because he knows the woman is weaker than him (physically) and less likely to fight back – hence the reason why a man will seldom rape another man.

 Here I sit . . . searching for my African Dream.

Also see: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za

In pursuit of the African Dream – a young woman is gang raped

In pursuit of my African Dream, a 17 year old young lady is gang raped by 7 boys aged 14 – 20.

The rape is captured on a 10-minute cell phone video and spread via viral media. It is alleged that “the girl could clearly be heard crying and pleading with her attackers, who repeatedly rape her. The boys apparently offered her R2 to keep quiet. The video allegedly showed several acts of penetration as well as the boys joking around and encouraging each other while talking about whether the victim was crying or not”. (News24.com).

According to website: http://www.rape.co.za/

• It is estimated that a woman born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.

• One in three of the 4,000 women questioned by the Community of Information, Empowerment and Transparency said they had been raped in the past year.

• A survey conducted among 1,500 schoolchildren in the Soweto township, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that ‘jackrolling’, a term for gang rape, was fun.

• More than 25% of South African men questioned in a survey admitted to raping someone; of those, nearly half said they had raped more than one person, according to a new study conducted by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

• It is estimated that 500,000 rapes are committed annually in South Africa. • A 2010 study led by the government-funded Medical Research Foundation says that in Gauteng province, home to South Africa’s most populous city of Johannesburg, more than 37 percent of men said they had raped a woman. Nearly 7 percent of the 487 men surveyed said they had participated in a gang rape.

My opinion . . .

• Rape is not about sex it is about power and control over the survivor/victim so a sex change/castration for perpetrators is not the answer.

• I would question males between the ages of 14 and 20 still being referred to as “boys”. By the age of 14 they are well on their way to manhood and can surely not still be referred to as “boys”?

• Rape is learned behaviour – not something we are born with so the question is: “where did they learn this behaviour?”

• Survivor – her life will never be the same again. Innocence lost (actually stolen from her) possible mistrust in the opposite sex for an indefinite period (if not for the rest of her life? Problems with all future relationships? Problems with sex and intimacy in future? Self doubt, feelings of worthlessness and shame? The list is endless.

My personal opinion is that too much time and energy is being spent on trying to “punish” the offender (who is generally male). Punishment means loss of or diminished power which will only make the male more determined to exert his power i.e. he will continue to rape until his so-called “power” is channelled in a different way i.e. behavioural change. What are we, as a society doing to change male behaviour?

Poverty, poor socio-economic standards, unemployment, overcrowded houses or lack of proper living environments all add to the sense of worthlessness and frustration. As long as these conditions exist, we will find it very hard to change the behaviour of those who cannot see light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

In South Africa we have a government department specially designated to deal with Women, Children and People with Disabilities. However, instead of helping to curb the violence against women and children and to provide resources to change the behaviour of perpetrators, the department over spends on administration – largely travel and accommodation expenses. The Minister claims (Pretoria News: April 18, 2012: pg 2) that her department’s role was advocacy, monitoring and institutional support, rather than implementation, which was up to the government departments themselves.

So where is the support for the institutions, NGO’s and other organisations fighting hard to survive so they can support women and children who have survived abuse? Where is the support for organisations who are trying hard to implement programmes which would contribute to the change in behaviour of men? Why is it that most of government money and most of the Lotto funds go to funding events rather than provide tangible assistance to those who need it most?

Here I sit . . . waiting . . . for the African Dream . . .

The hashtag #rapevideo is currently the top trending topic on Twitter in South Africa

Also visit: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za

Still in pursuit of the African Dream – where has the money gone?

In pursuit of the African Dream, I have a problem understanding why so much money is being wasted in this country. In one of the latest issues of Mail and Guardian Online, it was reported that  Life Line counselling service may have to close down due to Lottery funds which are not coming through. On the other hand, it has also been reported that the Lottery fund is going to provide R40-million towards the youth festival, the balance will be funded by Treasury.

The Lottery fund does not have money (supposedly) to pay legitimate causes like Life Line (and others), but they have R40-million to fund an event for the youth – not to mention the millions paid to the lucky winners each week. The mind boggles!

According to the National Lotteries Board website, they are obliged to pay 45% of funds to charities, 22% to arts, culture and natural heritage and 5% for miscellaneous purposes. What about the rest of the money? Why not reduce the prize money and give more to the charities that need that money to survive and who provide a much needed service to the community?

Why do we spend so much money on events? surely cheaper venues and other service providers can be found? Why pay R300 per person for a meal when one person cannot possibly eat R300.00 worth of food in one sitting?

The mind boggles . . .

In pursuit of the African Dream – pathetic customer service

Today was yet another day I tried to contact the Telkom shop in Kenilworth Centre and, once again, “all consultants are busy with walk-in customers, please leave your contact details and one of our consultants will call you back.” Yeah, right. I’m still waiting for my call . . .

Will things ever get better? Mmmmmm . . .

In pursuit of the African Dream – the slow and steady death of languages

Many years ago when I was at school (the dinosaur age, according to my sister) we learnt that in the English language you never started a sentence with a conjunction (joining word). If I remember correctly, conjunctions are words that join two parts of one sentence like “and” or”but”.

Everyday, whether reading the newspaper or a magazine, I find sentences starting with the word And or But. Sentence structure and grammar . . .  let’s not even go there.

Afrikaans – my Afrikaans teacher would be turning in her grave now if she could hear the Afrikaans being spoken today. English words turned into Afrikaans . . . the mind boggles. You just need to watch programmes on TV like 7de Laan and you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

IsiXhosa and IsiZulu are both so mixed that one does not know whether the person is actually IsiXhosa speaking or IsiZulu speaking. Even the elders in rural villages are complaining that they can no longer understand their Westernised children and grandchildren because they speak a different language now to what is spoken at home.

Spelling . . .  I’m not even going to attempt this one. Print media, electronic media, business correspondence, sub titles for TV programmes – have dictionaries become extinct? Why is it that few people seem to know the difference between “advice” and “advise”? or program (such as a computer program) and programme (event programme, TV programme etc)? When you have spelling errors in newspaper headlines, you know there is a serious problem. What happened to our proof readers? If they still exist – do they know the language they are proof reading?

An old song immediately comes to mind “where have all the flowers gone? long time passing . . . ” My version would be: “where have all the teachers gone? long time passing . . . “

In pursuit of the African Dream . . . Suffer the little children

April is Child Abuse awareness month.

Remember child abuse happens, it’s not something that just happens in “bad neighborhoods”. It happens everywhere at anytime and can happen to any child regardless of race, religion, location etc. The worse thing you can do is pretend it doesn’t happen.

Remember: “Our lives begin to end the day we become SILENT about things that matter.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

What are you doing to protect our children in our communities?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

Visit: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za