Conversations with myself: I am Woman . . .

Flowers feed the soul

In South Africa we celebrate National Women’s Day on August 9th each year. Our Government has declared the entire month of August National Women’s month.

In spite of all the new laws and legislation, we still grapple with gender equality in our country. Women who stay home to take care of the home and/or children are classified as “not working” when, in fact, they end up working harder than those who go out to work in the formal employment sector.

Most of the work women do is unpaid labour – what do I mean by this? When the woman is employed in the formal labour sector and gets paid for the work done, she still has work waiting at home for which she does not get paid a salary, for example: washing and ironing clothes, cooking, cleaning the home, taking care of the children. All this is left to the woman to do and she does not receive any additional payment for these duties. Community work – the woman may choose to serve her community in some way by volunteering her time and skills, again, she does not get paid for this work.

Men come home from the office, sit in the armchair in front of the television with their newspaper and wait for supper to be served (by the woman). More and more men are choosing to stay home as “stay-at-home-dads” these days but mostly because they cannot find work – very few do this out of choice.
So where does this leave us? When will the status quo change when a woman will receive acknowledgement for the work she does at home? Let’s take a look at the story below and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.

MR MOYO GOES TO THE DOCTOR

“What is your job?” asked the doctor.
“I am a farmer” replied Mr Moyo

“Have you any children?” the doctor asked.
“God has not been good to me. Of 15 born, only 9 alive,” Mr Moyo answered.

“Does your wife work?” (doctor)
“No, she stays at home”.

“I see. How does she spend her day?” (doctor)
“Well, she gets up at four in the morning, fetches water and wood, makes the fire, cooks breakfast and cleans the homestead. Then she goes to the river and washes clothes. Once a week she walks to the grinding mill. After that she goes to the township with the two smallest children where she sells tomatoes by the roadside while she knits. She buys what she wants from the shops. Then she cooks the midday meal.”

“You come home at midday?” (doctor)
“No, no, she brings the meal to me about 3km away.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“She stays in the field to do the weeding, and then goes to the vegetable garden to water.”

“What do you do?” (doctor)
“I must go and discuss business and drink with the men in the village.”

“And after that?” (doctor)
“I go home for supper which my wife has prepared.”

“Does she go to bed after supper?” (doctor)
“No. I do. She has things to do around the house until 9 or 10.”

“but I thought you said your wife does not work.” (doctor)
“Of course she does not work. I told you that she stays at home.”

(Source: Presented by the Women and Development Sub-committee Ministry of Community Development and Community Affairs, Zimbabwe to Women’s Regional Ecumenical Workshop, 26 June – 6 July 1989, Harare, Zimbabwe).
The Oxfam Gender Training Manual © Oxfam UK and Ireland 1994: 183

Conversations with myself: Understanding Criminal Thinking

Brain

This past week I spent two days at a workshop hosted by National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) on the subject of Criminal Behaviour Foundations: Understanding Criminal Thinking.

I found this workshop very interesting and informative because I learnt that criminal behaviour, just like any other behaviour, does not exist in a vacuum. In order to deal appropriately with crime perpetrators, one has to understand the individual in relation to him/herself, the community and the world in which we live.

Some of the key learning for me was:
• How the values, beliefs and attitudes of perpetrators influence their behaviour negatively because of their negative world view and their negative view of themselves.
• The most commonly cited macro-level factors that contribute towards crime are: population structure, rapid migration from rural to urban areas, high levels of unemployment, inadequate education, insufficient welfare services, weak areas within the criminal justice system, large scale illegal immigration, availability of firearms, porous borders which makes crime syndicates, trafficking and smuggling a viable option and inequality and poverty.
• The development of behavioural problems early in life and critical thinking errors in later life also contribute to a life of crime. The eight most common static and dynamic risk factors for youth and adult crime are: history of anti-social behaviour, anti-social personality pattern, anti-social cognition (thinking patterns), anti-social associates/friends, family and/or marital problems, school and/or work problems, leisure and/or recreation choices and substance abuse.
• Brain development – what really stood out for me is that the brain does not fully mature until between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age which means that classifying a person as an adult at age 18 is actually technically incorrect because research has shown that the brain actually only completes development (matures) by age 25 – this includes impulse control, planning, reasoning, thinking before acting, the regulation of emotion, abstract thinking, resistance to peer influence and the ability to delay gratification. Whether a person is mature enough to be classified as an adult therefore needs to be decided on an individual basis.
• Schemas (the way we view the world) – we learnt that there are 5 schemas and there are 18 early maladaptive schemas grouped within 5 domains i.e. disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy/performance, other directedness, over-vigilance/inhibition and impaired limits.
• The link between emotion and cognition and criminals do not necessarily lack empathy towards their victims but that there is a selective application of empathy.
• There are 8 criminal thinking styles or patterns which support or reinforce four behavioural styles i.e. problem avoidance, interpersonal hostility, self-assertion deception and denial or harm (to others).
We also watched a DVD of an interview of a child abuse survivor called Beth. The interview was done when she was aged about 6 years and she vividly remembers everything that was done to her by her father when she was only 1 year old. It was really heart-wrenching to watch her and how she could recall everything without showing any emotion whatsoever.

Here is the link to the interview we watched: http://youtu.be/ME2wmFunCjU

Do yourself a favour and get the movie/DVD called Child of Rage and see for yourself the events that led up to this interview.

We also watched an interview of a young man accused of murder and this was also moving because of the total lack of emotion when he recalled the events leading up to the murder.

There was just so much information shared at this workshop over the two days that it will probably take a while for everything to sink into this little pea brain of mine.

I now see perpetrators of crime in a new light. Where it was easy to judge them before and write them off as the scum of the earth, I now look at them and say “why?” and “what went wrong?”

Don’t forget – you can also find me at: http://www.womendemanddignity.wordpress.com

In pursuit of my African Dream – please tell me why?

Today my post is going to be based on an article I read in one of our morning newspapers: The Cape Times, Thursday July 5, 2012 (page 9). The headline of this particular article was:  “A raped child is devastated and suffers unimaginable mental torment”: by Carmel Rickard

A few points in this article struck a cord or two in me . . .

I quote: The two high court judges saw fit to scrap the life sentence imposed on the attacker and reduced the punishment to 22 years on the grounds that . . .

  • The 30 year old rapist was a “first offender”
  • The 7 year old girl who “suffered serious mental anxiety” was not “physically harmed” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor”.

Mmmm  . . .”suffered serious mental anxiety” and was “not physically injured” other than the signs of “forced vaginal penetration” noted by a doctor. What could “serious mental anxiety” mean for a 7 year old?  The 7 year old could possibly:

 

  • Behave out of character? Not want to eat or sleep? Not speak to anybody (be withdrawn most of the time), at times be aggressive?
  • Walk about restlessly or aimlessly, constantly looking over her shoulder as if waiting for someone to come?
  • Be unable to sleep – refusing to answer when asked what’s the matter?
  • Fearful of all strangers (especially men)?
  • Wetting the bed and possibly even soiling herself – not wanting to be left alone (not even to go to the bathroom)?
  • Might insist that all doors and windows be kept closed at all times?
  • Be intensely distressed and deeply frightened?
  • Experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Be “hyper vigilant”, constantly monitoring her environment because of feeling afraid and unsafe?
  • Experience deep emotional pain manifested by “uncontrollable crying”?
  • Feel overwhelmed by fears and anxiety – could suffer from “severe insomnia and nightmares”?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot even begin to imagine what it must feel like to live like this as an adult, let alone as a 7 year old child. Just reading this article has made my stomach churn. Your childhood is supposed to be the best time of your life. You are supposed to be happy and carefree. Children should be able to trust ALL adults they come into contact with, no matter where they are.

I have a 4 year old niece and a 7 year old nephew.  I often sit and watch them while they are playing and try to imagine how I would react if anyone dared to violate either one of them in any way. I will probably have to be locked away in a mental institution for the rest of my life.

I must say that having a physical disability makes me feel as vulnerable as a child because it does not take much force to make me lose my balance which leaves me vulnerable to a whole myriad of possible violations. I could so easily be raped, sodomised, or violated in any other way and I would have very little chance of coming away unscathed physically. All this being said, I avoid going anywhere I’ve never been to before, I avoid clubs and any other “social” places, I avoid going out at night if at all possible and on the rare occasions that I do, I make sure I get home as early as I can. I don’t go to church at night anymore and I don’t even walk around my own neighbourhood for fear of being identified as a “soft target” by some unscrupulous opportunist out there.

I am “hyper vigilant” even when driving my own car. I am suspicious of anyone coming towards me, no matter where I am. Even when at home, doors and security gates are always closed and locked. I keep the curtains shut so nobody can monitor my movements inside the house. My house is so well burglar guarded that the only way in would be through the roof and through the trap-door. When I get up during the night to go to the bathroom I always glance up to make sure the trap-door is still shut and that there is no evidence of anyone trying to get into the house.

This is what it is like for me – a “nearly 50 year old “ adult with a disability, so what must it be like for a 7 year old child? Then again, 7 years of age is not the youngest to be targeted. Here in sunnySouth Africa, even babies of a few months are raped and sodomised by adult men. Babies, who have even less control over their bodies and environments.

My mind boggles at how an adult male can attach himself to a baby a few months old and yet it has happened – not once or twice but too often to mention.

Please tell me why? What happens inside the brain to make any male capable of something like this . . .  I cannot even find a word strong enough in my vocabulary to describe this act/deed.

What has gone wrong with the human race? Even dogs and animals in the wild nurture and protect their own. Have you watched a lioness with her cubs? The lion who provides for his family and protects them at all costs?

 When will this scourge of violence against women and children in our country end? Please tell me when?

Some of the perpetrators of violence will tell you they need help but cannot specify exactly what it is they need you to do in order to help them. I know poverty, hunger, overcrowded homes (in some cases no homes) have a part to play in all this but violence against women and children will not make this go away. After raping a woman or child you will still be hungry, homeless, unemployed etc. So what is the point?

Why do this at all?

 Please tell me why?

Don’t forget to visit: http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za. Tell your friends too!

In pursuit of my African Dream – my heart aches!

Big story in Cape Argus Wednesday 27 June 2012: Lady Justice lets down the most vulnerable.

The story revolves around the findings that women who seek protection from the courts for domestic violence and assault must ensure they are at the court by 05:00 (5am) already because only the first 20 people who arrive are assisted on any given day. If you are no. 21 you have to turn around, go home and return the following day.

Hishaam Mohamed of the Western Cape Justice department said there is no such “quota”. He said there is no such limitation at all. Everyone is assisted until the last one or the end of the day, that’s the official policy. He said he would need to investigate this “quota” system and take the necessary action against the relevant official(s).

The Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities will be launching a National Council Against Gender-Based Violence in August this year. Part of its objective is to co-ordinate a national response to gender-based violence and to close loopholes within the system to ensure the safety and protection of women.

In the meantime, what happens to the countless women who are turned away from the courts on a daily basis? What about these women who have to return to the abusive homes they are seeking refuge from? These women are forced to return to their abusive partners without receiving any assistance from the courts. Some of these women are faced with life or death situations and require legal intervention immediately. Delays in serving protection orders undermined attempts to prevent domestic abuse.

According to the spokesperson of the Women’s Legal Centre said 80% of women who visit their offices report that they were turned away from the courts. Most complaints received were about Wynberg, Phillippi, Mitchells Plain, Bishop Lavis, Cape Town, Goodwood, Bellville, Blue Downs and Khayelitsha courts.

The problem with the above mentioned scenario is that Mr Mohamed and the Minister (with all due respect to both) probably have never been in an abusive situation so they don’t have a clue what abused women have to endure at the hands of their abusers. One more day delay means nothing to them but means EVERYTHING to an abused woman or child.

Justice delayed is justice denied . . .

I’m just saying!

The rocky road to my African Dream . . .

It’s a strange, strange world we’re living in master Jack . . . (so the song goes sung by a group called “Four Jacks and a Jill” many years ago)

As I sit in the sun on my stoep and read my newspaper(s), I’m shocked (but not surprised) by what I read . . .

Service delivery by our government:

• 520 civil servants convicted for embezzling R28million

• the number of parliamentary questions asked last year has increased by nearly 12% over 2010 – from 3,879 questions to 4,333 questions – according to our current Deputy President.

• 6 provinces running short of drugs (HIV/AIDS)

The ANC successfully organises a march in protest of a “painting” . . .

• A 17 year old mentally challenged girl was gang raped and the video went viral. NO ONE MARCHED.

• An 8 year old girl was raped by a 15 year old boy and her eyes gourged out. NO ONE MARCHED.

• Entire provinces are without school text books – it’s almost June. NO ONE MARCHED.

• A man convicted of raping, drugging and intimidating a girl has had his conviction and sentencing set aside because a magistrate had not followed proper procedure in taking the girl’s oath. NO ONE MARCHED.

. . . and still no one is marching . . .

A report compiled by the Department of Basic Education, released earlier this month called “The Annual Surveys for Ordinary Schools for 2009-2010” states that:

• In grade 3 alone, about 109 pupils fell pregnant in 2009 – as opposed to “only” 17 in the same grade in 2008. In grade 4, the number increased to 107 from 69 in 2008, and in grade 5, 297 girls fell pregnant in 2009.

• The highest concentration of pregnant pupils was in high schools, from grade 7 – 9. In 2009, a total of 45,276 girls became pregnant.

• As many as a million children grow up without a father, and many others depend on the extensive social grant network for financial support.

According to Professor Kobus Maree, a lecturer in educational psychology at the University of Pretoria, the grade 3 pregnancy rate is “appalling” and “deeply upsetting”. A large number of these children become pregnant because of rape and abuse.

For all the children who fall pregnant in grade 3, how many rapists are actually prosecuted, charged and sentenced?

Prof Maree continued to say that teachers he spoke to felt that the teaching of Life Orientation has been dumped on them without adequate training. He said that pupils in the higher grades often got pregnant to qualify for social grants. The 2,813,976 children receiving grants in 2009 increased to 3,110,688 a year later.

Although government has to take much of the blame for this, parents are also responsible for not giving children sufficient support at home.

Prof Maree also said that although the government had allocated a large chunk of its budget to education, incompetent and complacent public officials were not delivering educational infrastructure and other resources.

What has happened to my African Dream?

Is it all “pie in the sky” that will all only happen after I die?

Am I dreaming an impossible dream and fighting the unbeatable foe?