ABCD Articles

Ikamva Youth Equips Young People For The Future

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Young people are our future. This might sound cliché and self-evident. Still, the world is steadily heading towards a youth-centred age where large numbers of young people are increasingly coming to hold important positions of power and the public conversation. It seems then that the youth have everything going for them in terms of opportunities, access to readily available knowledge and that they are young. In South Africa, however, a large population of young people are not able to enjoy these opportunities due to issues in our education system. Ikamva Youth, an organisation that started in Khayelitsha in 2003, is helping South African high school students equip themselves to make the best of opportunities.

Ikamva Youth Equips South Africa's Young People For the Future Through EducationIkamva Youth is helping equip young people to access post-school opportunities. Image: Ikamva Youth

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Ikamva Youth is helping equip young people to access post-school opportunities. Image: Ikamva Youth

Parents and citizens across the country have been worried about the dropping of mark requirements to pass, Maths as a compulsory subject and general low bar set for our public school education. While more children have been able to attain their matriculant status in public schools, the majority of them are unable to enter varsity or get decent work opportunities due to lagging behind their peers in private schools when it comes to their marks or scope of their knowledge.

Ikamva Youth founders, Makhosi Gogwana and Joy Olivier, decided to tackle this when they became aware of the poor Maths and Science results for matriculants and the implications these results had for the future of these learners and their communities. They set out providing tutoring and giving information to learners at Makhosi’s old high school in Khayelitsha. Ikamva Youth grew out of this work and now has a core team of 56 people operating in 14 branches throughout South Africa. Their work impacts thousands of young people every year.

The Ikamva Youth team consists of a growing number of volunteers comprised by university students and local professionals. Students start enrolling in the Ikamva Youth programme from Grade 9 up to matric. This helps set the foundation for them to compete at a level relative to their peers from more privileged schools.

Young people who have been through the programme and have entered varsity  or the workforce also come back to help out. In fact, more than half of the volunteers at older branches like Khayelitsha consist of people who have benefited from the programme with over 80% of the Khayelitsha management committee being ex-students. Although funding for the programme is a challenge in spreading the programme to more places, Ikamva Youth has gained from the loyalty of the grateful students who have gone on to pledge their support as volunteers.

Ikamva Youth’s vision is for all South African learners to be able to “access post-school opportunities that put them on the path to earning a dignified living within four years of matriculation”. This might seem like a hefty goal, but the Ikamva Youth team is achieving it one milestone at a time. After an assessment was done on the organisation, it was concluded that there was an improvement of between 1 and 1.5 full years’ of learning for learners who participated in the programme. In addition to this, 90% of learners who matriculated under Ikamva Youth’s guidance accessed post-school opportunities. The team wants to broaden this to have 100% of the learners who matriculate access these opportunities.

In a world that is progressively looking to the millennial to lead the way to the future, the work that Ikamva Youth does with young people is crucially important in order for South Africa to have its aspirations reflected in that future.

Sustainable Livelihoods Through Agri Innovation

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Sustainable livelihoods have come to have a more crucial place in the lives of communities in the Eastern Cape recently. As a province which depends on the farming industry more than many other provinces, the Eastern Cape agricultural community has had to find creative ways to protect livelihoods in light of the slump occurring in agricultural sector. Fortunately, creativity is a trait the Eastern Cape is not short of. Tracey Michau, a cattle farmer’s wife from Cradock, is demonstrating this through her resourceful soap-making start-up business.

Tracey’s Boerseep start-up is the product of an old soap-making family recipe which she rediscovered. The recipe uses discarded beef tallow which her farm already has. Tracey’s family recipe is now helping create employment for women in the Cradock community. These women are part of a group which would have endured job losses due to a downsizing agricultural sector.

Sustainable Livelihoods in Farming Communities Through InnovationTracey Michau is helping create sustainable livelihoods for rural farm workers through a family soap-making recipe. Photo: Boerseep/Orange Grove Karoo

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Tracey Michau is helping create sustainable livelihoods for rural farm workers through a family soap-making recipe. Photo: Boerseep/Orange Grove Karoo

As of the first quarter of the year, 44 000 agricultural jobs have been lost nationwide. This results in devastating consequences for farming and rural communities which depend on those jobs disproportionately compared to other industries. Agri Eastern Cape president, Doug Stern, has noted the loss to these communities resulting from a decrease in farm employment. Due to a scarcity of industry, job diversity and opportunities, rural communities look mostly to farms for income, even if it is mostly seasonal jobs. The loss of this income further worsens socio-economic issues like alcohol abuse, violence, school drop-outs, extreme poverty and dysfunctional families and communities.

Despite these drawbacks there is a lot of potential in the Eastern Cape, particularly in these rural and farming communities. The landscape of the Eastern Cape is filled with resources – natural, cultural, historical and otherwise. This province has the capacity to support sustainable livelihoods that are unique and able to compete outside of its borders. Tracey has also learned this with her product. Although Boerseep is still in its early stages of being established, Tracey has found that there is a cross-border market for it on online organic stores and farm stalls locally.

Tracey is one of a group of farmer’s wives in this province who are members of Agri Eastern Cape who have found ways to not just give back in the superficial sense, but more importantly, contribute to developing sustainable livelihoods for their communities. Like Tracey, these women are using all types of materials at their disposal on their farms to create permanent jobs for farm workers who might have only had seasonal employment picking fruit or shearing sheep and goats. She is now training a member of the community in the process of production who will in turn train the growing team.

Mobilisation of Community Through Martial Arts

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Mobilisation is critical to the survival or in the very least, healthy functioning of our communities. More importantly, mobilisation around activities that are fun and superficial. Activities outside of the realm of politics and formal proceedings. These activities can be weekly card games at the local hall, monthly youth events like sports and music or simply getting together to organise an event for the elderly twice or more times a year. Uniting and engaging in such activities as communities  is instrumental in fostering empathy, discipline and significantly, group action. It is through mobilisation or group action that people start lifestyles and culture. Sensei Monwabisi Njomba, a trained martial arts teacher, is using the lessons he learned from his craft to cultivate discipline through mobilising the community of Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township.

Mobilisation in Khayelitsha community through Njomba Fitness Academy
Sensei Monwabisi Njomba and his community are mobilising to make changes through health and fitness training. Photo: News24

Before moving to Cape Town where he now runs a dojo (a martial arts training centre), Sensei Njomba got his start in karate, kung fu and other martial arts as a young man in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape. The discipline and fulfillment martial arts instilled in him coupled with his lifelong passion for the youth led him to open a gym where he could bring young people together through health and fitness. He then used this opportunity to teach the young people of Khayelitsha self-belief, respect, focus and responsibility.  Sensei Njomba says that his training has helped him keep his head high and wants to impart that to the youth in his surrounds.

Sensei Njomba has established the Njomba Fitness Academy to encompass the varied courses he facilitates to draw more people from his community. He also teaches basic self-defense to women, aerobics, organises fun runs and “fitness explosion” showcases. The variety of activities offered at the academy has also made it popular amongst the older residents of Khayelitsha. The academy is currently supported by generous residents and donors and is open to any funding or support.

Sensei Njomba’s story is not only one of a local good Samaritan. It is also an example of how we inspire the changes we want to see. Mobilisation is key is affecting those changes, especially at a larger scale. Most of us want our communities to be safer, united, healthy and prosperous. However, embracing these ideals is not enough. People often only act or give their support when they feel reflected or considered in a cause.

The sensei could have lauded the ideals and message in his heart on a platform which might be more visible or honoured. His audience might have respected his platform and the status or education that afforded him that platform and then leave just as they came. On the other hand, Sensei Njomba realised that for youth to do rather than just know what is right, they have to associate those ideals with their lifestyles. The sensei did just that by taking martial arts, a discipline that is a huge part of popular culture, and relating it to life lessons and ethics. Mobilisation teaches us that a message, no matter how good or pertinent, is received more effectively when it reflects its audience.

Responsive Engagement Clears The Way

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

If there is a principle one should internalize and keep cultivating as an Asset-Based Community-driven Development (ABCD) practitioner, it’s responsive engagement. A French, feminist comic simply known as Emma illustrated the gender dynamics of household responsibilities. In the comic, Emma illustrates the feminist concept of the ‘mental load’. This concept relates to when a man expects that in order for him to be involved in household chores, his partner has to first ask him. According to the comic, the man is then viewing her [the partner] as the manager of their household chores. This theory also applies to development practitioners and their partners, both those that support or benefit from the work.

Responsive Engagement Clears The WayResponsive engagement ensures that partners are on the same page and the way is cleared to work. Image: Illustrated by French comic Emma & published in The Guardian

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Responsive engagement ensures that partners are on the same page and the way is cleared to work. Image: Illustrated by French comic Emma & published in The Guardian

Emma illustrates a number of modern women in relationships. Most of these women are mothers. There is a unilateral dilemma in these women’s relationships – their men expect to be coaxed into performing their share of labour even though it is beneficial to both parties in the relationship. The men will bring work friends home for dinner and expect the wife to handle the cooking for the dinner party, the kids’ supper, handling the kids so they don’t disturb the adults, etc. while she is also handling her own work! This dynamic is not necessarily a gendered assignation of roles, i.e. women in the kitchen with children at their feet and men on the sofa with a beer in hand. According to the men, they would have performed those duties – it’s just that they were simply not asked.

However, the women also have valid reasons from abstaining to ask. The men will go only as far as they are asked. They will clear the table and leave the wet cloth next to the foot of the table which the children might slip on. And so the women must live with the ‘mental load’ – always aware of what needs to be packed for work, who needs to be thanked, what date the meeting is on…

A similar dynamic exists in developmental work. Developmental practitioners and organisations often find themselves swamped or dealing with labour they did not bargain for. We sometimes find ourselves in these dilemmas not due to being requested or demanded to do so, but because of feelings of expectation or helping gestures that are later exploited. Practitioners find themselves doing the work they feel pulled towards by their hearts in addition to uncompensated labour community members and partners can actually do for themselves. One might start by offering to help the Addams’ kid from the Homework Champions Project with mathematics and soon find the Addams family and their whole street expecting to have their taxes filed for free.

At the 2016 ABCD Festival, I learned an illuminating fact. As development practitioners, we actually partner with communities and supporters (these could be funders or our leaders). We are not saviours. We cultivate reciprocal relationships with community partners, not beneficiaries. Our community partners are not called beneficiaries, as they also have a stake in the work beyond what we can do or give to them. We are also not slaves to funders and people dangling money above our heads on the condition that we do things that are not on our agenda or passions list. We then start caring a mental load for things that we did not even think of due to expectations that eventually turn into obligations. This is where responsive engagement comes in.

The ABCD definition of responsive engagement is “you are prepared, awake and deliberately choosing which way you go.” This means that you do not go with the flow and then end up forced to make good of whatever outcome pops up. Yes, one can find good in any situation. However, for us to be more effective and productive as development practitioners, we need to be more direct and deliberate in our decisions, stances and especially the steps we take. This does not mean that we should start turning people away because their requests are not in line with our operations – we need to be more decisive and focused in order to not deplete or starve our passion and for our communities to not grow dependent or comfortable with free labour they do not value.

Responsive engagement also means that we do not act as parents and start deciding for our partners. We lay the ground for discussion and understanding. We assess aspirations, capabilities and expectations. We then set out our responsibilities as both practitioner and community. Afterwards, we ALL do our part to achieve our shared goal.

Brownie Points Is All For Nonprofit Organisations

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Partnerships Are Crucial

South African change-makers and nonprofit organisations are the template for the philosophy of turning little into very impactful and far-reaching somethings. This statement is in no way a fluffed up assessment of the efforts of development practitioners. In fact, it does not even reflect the extent of sacrifice and creativity so many in this field employ daily in the hopes of inspiring a positive change. ABCD (Asset-Based Community-driven Development) practitioners are especially familiar with challenges that arise in the work of unearthing and amplifying capabilities and the good in our communities and ourselves. Anyone venturing on this journey requires a considerable amount of support, insights and sometimes, visibility.

Brownie Points Is All For Nonprofit OrganisationsBrownie Points is a platform helping nonprofit organisations grow their impact through connectivity. Image: Brownie Points

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Brownie Points is a platform helping nonprofit organisations grow their impact through connectivity. Image: Brownie Points

NPO Partnerships Through Brownie Points

While engaging in Ikhala Trust’s 2016 ABCD Festival, I got a first-hand taste of the creativity of SA nonprofit organisations, their successes, community and insights. One of the most poignant lessons from the festival was the significance of appropriate, genuine partnerships that are ultimately aimed at enriching the sector in productive and tangible ways. This is especially pertinent at a time when resources and funding to the sector are being scaled down. The work of establishing effective partnerships, capacity-building and creating profiles takes time and resources – things most nonprofits cannot afford to part with. Brownie Points, a platform established to support South African change-makers, is partnering up with development practitioners to help make this process accessible and fruitful for organisations.

Web-Based Platform Assisting NPOs

Brownie Points is a web-based platform assisting nonprofit organisations to maximise their impact through connecting them with a community of involved and passionate supporters for specific projects. Brownie Points has packages tailored for each joining organisation’s requirements.

The packages range from organisations that are starting out to those that have been established and are looking to grow their presence and impact. The first package is for fledgling or new NPOs seeking to increase their visibility and get volunteers and support. This package is free and comes with an online Brownie Points profile for sharing information and successes with supporters and gaining volunteers. The second package costs R1 460 for a full year and helps already established organisation with growth, fundraising, online campaigns and receiving online donations.

Engaging Partners As Alternative Sources

Brownie Points also profiles nonprofit organisations in engaging and informative articles on their website.
Nonprofit organisations in South Africa are in a very interesting period right now. With the gradually diminishing flow of funding to the sector, practitioners have to look at alternative sources that will not compromise the integrity and quality of their work. Finding partners and communities of people operating in the same sphere of concern is a strategy that not only works to supplement diminishing funding but also presents a wealth of knowledge and humanity. Brownie Points is all for making these partnership operate at their most productive level.

Solar Schoolbags Shine Light On Education

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Knowledge is often spoken about as a guiding light shining the way to an ideal world. The pursuit of knowledge and education is even more so preached as a moral imperative – a sort of social and honourable duty. Still, what is less discussed in our deification of education are the limits that are placed on some in our society who are furthest from reaching this supposed light. In South Africa, a lot of those who have to navigate more difficult and sometimes, dead-end roads on their way to attaining education are children. Two South African businesswomen are helping bridge this gap through an ingenious initiative for children from rural and urban poor backgrounds.

Repurpose Schoolbags is a green initiative helping children from households without electricity resume learning after the last bell has rung. Plastic shopping bags are recycled and later made into schoolbags equipped with solar panels. These bags are bought by companies then distributed to selected schools. The solar panels in the bags are charged as the children walk to and from school. When the children get home after school, they can use their bags for light to do their homework. In addition to helping them do their homework, the bags also helps the kids be safe from cars on their often dangerous and long treks home through reflective strips sewn on the bags.

Repurpose Schoolbags is revolutionising education through solar schoolbagsMillennial duo, Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, are the founders of Repurpose Schoolbags, an initiative helping disadvantaged children do their homework. Photo: Miora Rajaonary

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Millennial duo, Thato Kgatlhanye and Rea Ngwane, are the founders of Repurpose Schoolbags, an initiative helping propel African children’s education. Photo: Miora Rajaonary

The children who are given these bags are from homes that use non-electrical alternatives for light like candles. These sources can be dangerous and sometimes the children are banned from using them through the night to study or do school work as the families have limited supply. These families then understandably have to prioritize economic judgment over the benefits of education that are also dependent on social capital they do not have access to.

The revolutionary concept of Repurpose Schoolbags is the brainchild of two millennial women from the North West only in their early twenties. This initiative was started by Thato Kgatlhanye in collaboration with her friend and business partner, Rea Ngwane. Thato, an entrepreneur hailing from Rustenburg in the North West, founded Rethaka, a social start-up business which has provided employment for many women in Rustenburg through initiatives like Repurpose Schoolbags. To date, Rethaka has distributed solar schoolbags to children in 6 countries in Africa.

On their website, the Repurpose Schoolbags team emphasise that the initiative is about choice not charity. It is not about taking the thirsty by the hand and forcing them to drink. It is about helping those who have to navigate a world where education has been made a lifeline but has been hidden or made accessible to only a few.

Sustainability Achieved Through Eco-Friendly School

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Sustainability is a principle many in rural South Africa, especially those in the Eastern Cape’s rural Transkei, are very familiar with in their daily lives. Examples of this would the types of houses, transportation  and lifestyles people from these parts maintain. Of course, a lot of this observance of environmentally friendly principles is mostly due to limited access to new technologies rather than a self-denial of them. However, in spite of the harsh economic realities that have helped rural citizens develop alternative strategies to sustain themselves, it seems that their choices, especially in relation to building, are being vindicated outside the continent as important to preserving our world.

The rural Eastern Cape’s mud schools are a continuous subject of public outrage and shame for the South African government. Learners in these schools are exposed to the elements and potentially life-threatening situations because of the easily collapsible nature of the structures.

A school recently built in South America has now shown that children and people in rural areas do not have to suffer or go without to enjoy and partake in things like going to school and having functional facilities. In fact, it has built on concepts of sustainability that are available and used by people in rural areas.

Tagma, a civil society organisation in Uruguay, built an environmentally-friendly, self-sustainable school through a project called “A sustainable school”. The project was done in collaboration with Uruguay’s Ministry of Education and was started after a process of public engagement with the residents of the town of Jaureguiberry.

The school is Latin America’s first sustainable school. From the outside, the building looks like a life-size art project or special building commissioned by  the government for display purposes. As you get closer, you can start noticing the function of the building and the simplicity behind its construction.

The school was designed by Michael Reynolds, a veteran American architect who has been building green homes for more than 45 years, and has involved young adults from 30 different countries (including Uruguay) in its construction process. Approximately 60% of the school was built from recycled materials consisting of car tyres, glass bottles and aluminum cans in some parts of it to replace bricks. The building was built in a speedy 45 days. The internal workings of the building are also eco-friendly with very clever alternatives to electric power. Solar panels provide electricity for the school. The temperature inside is regulated by a natural in-built air conditioner to keep the staff and students comfortable come cold or sunshine.

About 60 children attend the school for their primary education every weekday. The students at the school learn the same subjects children in other schools learn, however environmental themes are highlighted more in the curriculum. The children learn about climate change, recycling and sustainability. They also supplement their lessons with practical environmental education where the kids are given opportunities to grow their own vegetables and care for the environment around them.

Although the context around the building of this Uruguayan sustainable school is quite different to a mud school in the deep Transkei, the concept and ingenuity behind it can be applied to the efforts and lives of people in the Eastern Cape’s vast rural landscape. The Eastern Cape (especially its rural villages) is famed for its colourful artistic and cultural aesthetics and creations – some of which are developed from recycled materials.

With the Tagma project’s sustainability blueprint and rural Eastern Cape’s wealth of experience in resourcefulness and creativity, rewriting the dehumanising history of the mud school into an empowering narrative where the people will lead the way (with some help) is certainly possible.

Yoga Programme Helps Young Men Tackle Anger

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Boys and young men from poor urban backgrounds are one of the most vulnerable demographics when it comes to deadly run-ins with the police. Often depicted as abnormally violent and criminally-minded, these boys are seldom given a fair chance to be themselves and make mistakes like everyone else. These biases coupled with their less than inspiring circumstances cultivate a self-fulfilling prophecy where the young men internalise and perform their expected roles.

This state of affairs – the negative judgments and the fact that no one wants to hear them out or see them as people – causes anxiety and depression which are most often dealt with in destructive ways.

Boys from the US’s Baltimore inner city have found an unexpected helper to assist them survive in the world. A policeman from Baltimore started a programme to help African American boys from the inner city to escape this cycle by dealing with anger and other negative emotions heightened by their environment.

Project Pneuma started by Damion Cooper in 2014 is a warrior training programme designed to help inner city boys develop strategies to manage anxiety, anger and stress so they can focus on important things like school and being young. Pneuma is an ancient Greek word meaning breath/breathe.

Project Pneuma yoga programme for young menProject Pneuma helps boys and young men from urban poor backgrounds deal with anger and anxiety through yoga. Photo: Baltimore Sun

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Project Pneuma helps boys and young men from urban poor backgrounds deal with anger and anxiety through yoga. Photo: Baltimore Sun

The boys are given a chance to do something that often eludes them in day-to-day survival – taking a breath. Pneuma teaches the participants forgiveness, conflict resolution, self-control and discipline through yoga, meditation, warrior martial arts training and reading.

Most of the participants at Pneuma did not go of their own volition but were sent due to behaviour issues at school. Some have even been suspended. Pneuma is a safe space for the boys. The group gathers two times a week at the Baltimore Police Academy to do activities and affirm each other. The boys who have participated in the programme have improved in school and none of them have been suspended.

Mr Cooper’s efforts with the Baltimore young men are commendable for reasons beyond simple mentoring and keeping vulnerable youth off the streets. Project Pneuma teaches adults to start taking responsibility for the ways we raise, judge and even neglect children in our proximity. By being responsible for what influences and behaviours we expose the kids to and displaying positive, practical examples, we can lessen the burden many judged and disadvantaged children face and in turn allow them the freedom to aspire to light and positivity.

Inyathelo Is Stamping SA’s Developmental Heritage

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

South Africa has a beautiful heritage of civil society movements and organisations established for the purposes of social change that have shaped our democracy. Movements that sprang up from mobilisation around the South African people’s capacity for equality, self-determination, community and the overstated but doggedly South African concept of Ubuntu. Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement is one of the organisations that have been helping guide South African democracy through supporting development initiatives.

Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement & SA's Development HeritageInyathelo is helping preserve SA’s heritage of responsive, change-driven development. Poster: Inyathelo

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Inyathelo is helping preserve SA’s heritage of responsive, change-driven development. Poster: Inyathelo

Inyathelo is a non-profit Trust established in 2002 with the aim of supporting South African organisations and institutions to cultivate a balanced, involved and self-determined citizenry. Inyathelo operates as hub for grant-seeking and grant-making civil society organisations. Their scope goes beyond the attainment of funds. They also provide useful information, courses and awards for development practitioners. Details like compliance, awareness-raising and capacity building are all covered. Inyathelo has a focus on capacity development in both the higher education and non-profit sectors in SA and the continent.

In a sector that has experienced significant funding cuts, Inyathelo is encouraging and grooming more individual social giving to supplement private funds. This is done through promoting dialogue, sharing information and providing support services to existing initiatives and those that need a hand up to help ensure their sustainability.

Inyathelo has developed a practice of Advancement. “Advancement” works as a system of getting organisations and institutions to engage with the “outside world”, that is to say, real-life, everyday environments to build meaningful relationships with stakeholders and beneficiaries and build a credible base to attract funders. Through this practice, Inyathelo has contributed to responsive, sustainable development in the sector. Advancement is an ongoing process of building, cultivating and sustaining crucial resources for organisations and institutions.

Through Advancement and a host of other archived non-profit informational resources, Inyathelo is also preserving the heritage many SA development pioneers cultivated for us throughout the years.

Grannies Destigmatising Mental Illness in Zimbabwe

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Mental illness is extremely misunderstood and carries a heavy social and personal burden for those suffering from it in our society. People from poor backgrounds suffer disproportionately more from depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses compared to class-privileged people, yet they are the least attended to when it comes treatment and awareness.

The Friendship Bench Project, a project headed by grandmothers in Zimbabwe, is addressing this treatment gap and is destigmatising mental illness in Africa.

Doctors in Zimbabwe say there are only 12 psychiatrists for the country’s 16 million people. Added to this, people suffering from mental illnesses seldom seek help as there is still a lot of shame and superstition attached to mental illness.

Local grandmothers employed by the city health authorities of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, are helping to treat and empower Zimbabweans with mental illnesses through strategically placed Friendship Benches. These Friendship Benches are placed outside state-run health centres and are open to the public during business hours. The grandmothers are equipped with a few weeks training on how to counsel the clients. This is something they already do for their families and communities and therefore provides a sustainable and safe option for those going for the treatment.

The treatment is basic problem-solving therapy centred on empowering the clients through their day-to-day struggles with mental illness. The grannies have helped people who have been isolated because from loved ones because of their mental illness, failed marriages, women who have been thrown out by in-laws because of dead husbands, people with suicide ideations and other social problems that exacerbate mental illness.

Since the project started, more than 27 000 people have sat on the friendship benches.

This project has also been beneficial for other reasons. The grandmothers who run them say they prize it because it makes them feel needed and useful in a world that discards old people as soon as they start collecting their pensions.

Resourcing Philanthropy Is Guiding SA Development

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Ask any development practitioner what the toughest thing to navigate in the sector is and they will mostly likely say funding.  Dig even deeper and you will see that the said issue is not the unavailability of funding. Yes, the sector has seen some significant funding cuts in recent months but there is still a considerable amount of resources going to the sector. The dilemma facing organisations, especially beginners, is finding the right funding partners as this can make all the difference, not just for the reserves of an organisations but its very soul.

Resourcing Philanthropy, a web-based platform profiling humanitarian efforts and developmental initiatives in South Africa, is helping organisations and activists make the most of the wealth of networks and funding partners available to them. The Resourcing Philanthropy website hosts information, experience and insights from grant-makers, non-profit organizations and philanthropists in South Africa.

Resourcing Philanthropy Profiles SA Funding PartnersResourcing Philanthropy is helping connect development practitioners in SA to the right funding partners. Photo: Resourcing Philanthropy

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Resourcing Philanthropy is helping connect development practitioners in SA to the right funding partners. Photo: Resourcing Philanthropy

A great component about Resourcing Philanthropy is that its approaches are based on Asset-Based Community-Driven Development perspectives and practice. When choosing initiatives and funding partners to highlight, Resourcing Philanthropy functions around four approaches namely, 1. Margin to Center, 2. Advocating Change, 3. Risk With Vision and 4. Responsive Collaboration – concepts that ABCD practitioners are familiar with. This means that they put the emphasis on communities and their aspirations and assets rather than put development and communities at the mercy of funders to serve as marketing for them in exchange for cash.

Development is not merely about monetary wealth, shiny facades on infrastructure and technological symbols to replace “the old.” Resourcing Philanthropy understands this. Yes, access to knowledge and things to make life easier might be part of development, but they are not the end goal of the process. A lot of poor communities’ land, resources and even rights have been sold to multi-nationals by their governments in exchange for shiny material symbols that are supposed to equate development. Ecological systems have been disrupted, children and women exploited in factories and heinous abuses against human and animal rights shrugged off by governments and proponents of development in the name of development.

The focus is then on what communities initiate or want to start. Through this perspective, funding partners supplement or partner in equal, fair relationships with communities rather than drive community initiatives.

Resourcing Philanthrophy also prepares organisations on ways to manage not only the funding when they get it, but also their work through a series of In Actions.

Lessons From Daliyah the 4-Year Old Librarian

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Imagine a preschool-aged child reading a thousand books before setting foot in an actual school, or a preschool for that matter. Four-year old Daliyah Marie Arana has accomplished this and is already looking to influence other preschoolers to do the same through a program called 1000 Books Before Kindergarten, an initiative started by Daliyah’s mother Haleema Arana. Haleema set this target for Daliyah (who had almost reached it by 3 years of age through her hunger for books) to which she happily obliged.

Daliyah Arana, the 4-year old LibrarianDaliyah, the little librarian, at the Library of Congress with Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. Photo: Shawn Miller

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Daliyah Arana, the little librarian, at the Library of Congress with Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. Photo: Shawn Miller

Daliyah’s accomplishment, a feat so extraordinary for obvious reasons, is a reminder and a sort of consolidation for us overwhelmed, disillusioned and cynical adults who have been meaning to write that book, step into our lifelong vocational dreams or do something with that kitchen space. It is indeed possible – whatever it may be or whoever we may be.

Not to minimise Daliyah’s achievement (not many people can claim to have read their first book by themselves at 2 years and 11 months and tertiary-level texts at 4), nevertheless, a moral all of us who might not be exceptionally gifted can take from young Daliyah is whatever we are dreaming towards is dependent on the effort and belief in our reach.

Daliyah’s story recalls an observation Jesus made about little children in Matthew 18:3 where he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was referring to children’s reckless abandon and assured approach to living. Fulfillment to little children comes from them being allowed to do what they feel a pull towards at a specific moment. It is not in whether their scribbles measure up to be framed with the landscapes on the wall or even what tools are available to them for their project. As long as they are able to do what their little hearts tell them to do, they are content.

Daliyah has now been invited to the Library of Congress, America’s national library, and has even served as librarian of the day in her hometown. It is in moments like this where we are reminded that our talents, worthiness and dreams are not affirmed by external approval or acclaim. Sometimes we have to ease off on rationalising the joy out of our passions for the sake of adulting. Victory and fulfilment – the kingdom of heaven, so to speak – are in the abandon of simply doing and believing.

Institutions Acknowledging Young Women

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Earlier in the year, South Africans were greeted by the news that the KZN government through the Department of Education would be giving out sanitary pads to poor and rural school girls in that province for the entire school year. As important as this announcement was for poor school girls and their families across the country, it was also a victory for girl children and young women in South African institutional spaces who have had to exist unacknowledged.

KZN Sanitary Pad Drive for School Girls Shines Light on Institutional SpacesThe KZN Dept. of Education made a historic announcement in early 2017 that has shone a light on the rights of girls and women in SA institutional spaces. Photo: @ANCKZN Twitter.

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The KZN Department of Education made a historic announcement in early 2017 that has shone a light on the rights of girls and women in SA institutional spaces. Photo: @ANCKZN Twitter.

The KZN sanitary pad initiative is not the first of its kind. There have been several similar campaigns conducted by NGOs and individual activists across SA throughout the years, with some of these receiving some media and public attention. Some universities have also been involved with a few men’s residences at Rhodes University having recently contributed to getting pads for female residences. However, what is often missed in initiatives addressing class, access, gender and even race is the importance of institutional recognition of marginalised people.

In some cases, this oversight is not due to a lack of awareness. Many organisations and activists who worked in development and have had engagements with government-led institutions have been disillusioned and turned off completely from the “infiltrate and influence change from the top/inside” approach. This distancing of activism from bureaucratic influences has spared development practitioners from selling out, having their work, intentions and reputations tainted, exploitation and other negatives force attached to the establishment. However, this position has also made it somewhat difficult to influence tangible change as in the “real world” institutions hold the power.

Because of this disillusionment, the relationship between activists and the powers that be has been reduced to a drawn game of chess. Marginalised people then become tools to be used at the convenience of institutions that feign progressiveness and activists who want to win moral high ground standing over them.

Rather than demanding our institutions to be decent and humane, we are demanding that they expose themselves as morally inferior to us concerned citizens, activists & Co. This has hurt causes we care about as institutions have been able to get away with doing the bare minimum and be applauded for it as progressive. Politicians, preachers and other public figures who have not done any discernible thing for marginalised people are hailed as progressive for the mere mention of women’s rights or poor people’s issues. By keeping institutions at an angry distance, we have come to demand and expect amenities more than observance of rights and opportunities and performance rather than decency.

The KZN example has shown that we expect too little decency and humanity from our institutions so much that simple acts of decency from institutions are translated as progressiveness. Instead of simply demanding resources like pads, quotas or other surface-level services be given to marginalised people, the acknowledgment of their humanity and unique experience(s) should be prioritised to cultivate more meaningful and sustainable change.

It is almost unheard of for governments and public institutions (even the more liberal ones) to acknowledge women’s experiences and factors (biological or otherwise) that affect their existence and advancement in public spaces negatively. An Oxford study conducted in 2009 showed that most girl’s first awareness or teaching on their  menstrual cycles came from being mocked by their peers rather than the institutions they look to for guidance. This part of young women’s experience is rarely acknowledged by schools, churches or their families.

Government departments, schools, churches and workplaces acknowledging young women’s experiences will have a greater impact than superficial institutional gestures like “Take a Girl Child to Work” and quotas. How are girl children going to wholly aspire to get in or take over these institutions if they are told at school level that their bodies are not welcome, are a liability or objects of shame and abuse? Institutions like churches, schools and even government have a bigger hold in people’s decisions and views on themselves. Despite our valid reasons for distrusting institutions, we must persist in ensuring that our institutions reflect and acknowledge everyone in our communities.

Perseverance in Development is Key

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Perseverance is a virtue in all aspects of life. Human beings put in labour, emotional investment and their limited time in things and ideas with the hopes that their belief in those particular things will one day be vindicated – hopefully in their lifetimes. This cannot be any truer for development. Perseverance in development is as essential as the noble ideas – ideas like equality, community, fairness and peace – we call upon to inspire us to action.

South African development practitioners and our democratic government have invested heavily in the idea of equality, especially racial and economic equality. The country has made great strides in the former but is still lagging greatly in economic equality with SA being considered one of the most unequal countries in the world.

It would seem that with all that has been invested in our country’s democracy and reducing the gap between the poor and the rich, eliminating this form of inequality is an impossible task (at least in this lifetime) considering that the problem has in fact multiplied. Well, a farmer in claustrophobically industrialized mainland China has proven that man-made giants like structural inequality and the agents that oppress the poor are far from indestructible.

Perseverance in development: Chinese farmer, Wang Elin waited persisted for 16 years to tackle corporate giantPerseverance in development: Chinese farmer, Wang Elin waited persisted for 16 years to tackle corporate giant. Photo: The Daily Dot

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Perseverance in development: Chinese farmer, Wang Elin persisted for 16 years to tackle corporate giant. Photo: The Daily Dot

Wang Elin, a sixty-something-year-old Chinese farmer, decided to take on a multi-million dollar corporation in court on behalf of his village. It had been discovered in 2001 that the corporation polluted the village’s water source for a several years. Wang decided to study the law and confront this giant even though he had only three years of formal schooling. This process took Wang almost two decades – sixteen years to be exact.

In addition to farming and taking up this task, Wang had to acquire expensive law books and even get interpretive devices and dictionaries to convert some of the inaccessible legal terms to his native language which did not even have some of the concepts.

Wang and his village were finally able to file a lawsuit in 2007 which was only processed in 2015. Thanks to Wang’s hard work and unwavering dedication, the villagers won the first round of the case decided earlier this year.

Perseverance in development is key. Although this might not be necessarily true for the overwhelming majority of good doers and development practitioners, well-intentioned people are seldom there for the long run like Wang is. People who do good usually attach their good work to familial ideals – ideals that sadly have no real pull outside of “my mother/father taught me to be kind and honest” anecdotes.

Yes, positive ideals and values move us to take action for positive change. However, development requires us to go beyond what makes us feel like good people and follow through on our convictions. We have stop using the “as long as my conscience is good” excuse when we give up or fail to follow through on our convictions. We have to be courageous enough to overlook our egos when the prospects for Nobel Prize recognition seem distant or even unattainable due to mounting challenges. As development practitioners, we need to “screw your courage to the sticking place” as Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth says and tackle what we feel impassioned about.

Creating African Legacies of Women Empowerment

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Doing away with old or long-accepted unjust ideas, practices and sometimes, figures, is like taking a monster out of the sea. The village people being terrorised by this mythological giant will most likely not do as much as form tools to remove it from existence. Citizens will be banned from mentioning it if the tone and content are anything but respectful or fearful. The enforcement of the monster’s reign of terror on the villagers and the observance of acts of tribute will be imposed by some of the most respected members of the group, making deviance (even in its most respectful forms) unthinkable.

However, in almost every tale of ill-treatment and repression of the human spirit, the emergence of a brave and just figure(s) to “awaken” the people is inevitable. Africa, with its history-rich landscape filled with tales of overcoming and rebirth has a multitude of such examples. This is where our heroine, chief and patron of women empowerment and poor people’s rights, Theresa Kachindamoto, comes in.

Chief Theresa Kachindamoto of MalawiChief Theresa Kachindamoto of Malawi marked her administration by outlawing child marriages. Photo: Hannah McNeish/Al Jazeera

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Chief Theresa Kachindamoto of Malawi marked her administration by outlawing child marriages. Photo: Hannah McNeish/Al Jazeera

Empowerment ideologies are sometimes hard to root in the global south or “third world” countries due largely to distrust of Western, colonial perspectives and the violence associated with them. Politics of women empowerment are also especially difficult to foster in these landscapes because of deliberate, sometimes ahistorical attempts to re-center the identities of racialised men after colonialism.  However, distrust of white influences is seldom the sole or main hindrance. Often, oppressive leaders and powerful figures whose legacies and wealth have been built on oppressing their own people fight tooth and nail to maintain their exploitation and abuse.

ENTER OUR HERO

Chief Theresa Kachindamoto, our brave and noble hero, is the traditional authority head of a group of villages in Malawi’s Dedza district. Chief Kachindamoto came into her position after being told by her family of chiefs that she had to leave her job as secretary at a city college and take on the role of senior chief in Dedza district. She obliged, not knowing that she was profoundly to change the lives of many young girls and women in Malawian villages.

A firm advocate for women empowerment, the new chief resolved to begin her administration by focusing on the overlooked and exploited young women of rural Malawi. Chief Kachindamoto was met with countless images of abused and discarded young girls, a reality she, as someone who had grown up in a Malawian village, was familiar with. Teenage girls, as young as 12, were married off by their impoverished families who were looking for financial relief through these marriages and sometimes, just a way of letting go of an extra mouth to feed.

Malawi was ranked 8th out of 20 countries that have the highest child-marriage rates in the world in 2012, with half of the country’s young girl children married before their 18th birthdays. In addition to this, young girls were also forced to enter sexual initiation camps to prepare them for marriage. The girls would be raped by the teacher to “graduate”.

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT IN THE LAW

The chief committed herself to only pushing for a law forbidding child marriage [this was passed in 2015] but to also overpower the traditional leaders under her jurisdiction who were adamant these abuses should carry on under the guise of tradition. She then ordered that the villages in Dedza terminate all child marriages. However, child marriages still persist in some pockets as Malawian customary law, as stipulated in the constitution, allows children under 18 to marry through parental consent. Although a noted benevolent and consultative leader, the chief made it clear to her sub-chiefs that the issue of the girls’ rights to safety, self-determination and empowerment was not debatable.

VICTORY

The response from the families and traditional leaders to Chief Kachindamoto’s decision was almost violent. There was a lot of backlash – most of it amounting to death threats. Many refused to comply because they thought it was an attack on their traditions. Some parents felt that the chief was taking away their hope of a financial payout by sending girls to school rather than preparing them for marriage. Despite the hostilities,  the chief was persistent, stating “I don’t care, I don’t mind. I’ve said whatever, we can talk, but these girls will go back to school,” she says. She eventually got her 50 sub-chiefs to sign an agreement to abolish early marriage under customary law. Chiefs who did not comply with Chief Kachindamoto’s orders were fired and reinstated only when they complied with the orders.

In a space of three years, the chief was able to end 850 child marriages. The chief also committed to funding sponsors and personally paying for Malawian girls to attend schools. She also deployed people to check whether parents were not secretly removing girls from school. More importantly, she partnered up with powerful female figures in Malawi – MPs and other professionals – to show the girls what is possible for them.

ABCD Festival 2016

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

The 2016 ABCD Festival kicked off with a mesmerising chorus of impromptu, mass instrumentation!

Tine Joubert
Tine Joubert

Music therapist – Tine Joubert and her eclectic band, led the participants to create an ever-evolving medley. Following her direction, the group transitioned rhythmic changes with enthusiasm and ease. Before the chorus closed – the hyper-energetic Tine (despite her large baby bump) had the room chanting, “Head! Heart! Hands! Feet!” The ABCD Festival of 2016 was underway.

Bernie Dolley – Ikhala Trust’s Director, warmly welcomed the delegates, especially those coming from afar and acknowledged Ikhala’s network that has enabled this second festival – another milestone in an ABCD journey towards growing a community of practice in South Africa. The intention is to be clearer, more concrete about where the footprint will go.

The facilitator, Nomvula Dlamini (Director of the Community Development Resource Association), slipped into the room, took an instrument and joined the song almost unnoticed. The colourful start characterised the tone for what would be two days of honest, candid conversation and affirmation guided by her skilful hand. The Festival would put a strong emphasis on deepening the impact of ABCD with the theme: Hands, Head, Heart and Feet and an underlying question, “What will it take to sustain the ABCD approach over the long term?”

The unconventional Nomvula – a veteran herself in the field, helped to uncover what for many is an invisible barrier in developmental work – the disconnection between one’s work and individual life journey. In development work – the emphasis is often on “the work” and many activities that are unrelated to the ideals and values needed to bring a fair, equal and prosperous society into reality.

Bernie Dolley
Bernie Dolley

Nomvula challenged the group to be more conscious of the inner work of reconciling the head (what we know), heart (what inspires us), hands (our actions) and feet (spreading and deepening impact) and staying in alignment – to sustain and maximise their impact.

To kickstart the session, Nomvula grouped participants in two circles – an inner circle facing outwards, and an outer circle facing inwards. In this exercise and others to follow, the objective was to spark conversation (preferably between strangers) about personal experiences relating to an ABCD approach. Questions included: “What gets you excited about ABCD?” “What makes it hard to practice ABCD?”, “What is blocking implementation – where are the barriers? and “What are the critical questions you brought to the Festival? What questions are living inside you?”

Conversations revealed that there is often a line that people draw between themselves and their work. We discussed the need for personal reflection and the willingness to change deep-rooted needs-based habits that many people carry.

ABCD as a way of life was viewed as being a beneficial and inspirational framework for everyone.
Sandra, a business owner from Oudtshoorn asked: “How do we form meaningful relationships/networks with other ABCD practitioners to assist each other in doing this work?” Siyabulela from Somila Community Development Association in Alice asked a question which many others echoed, “How do we break through stifling political processes and blockage?” Members of the Department of Social Development wanted to know how to write and present ABCD-based proposals to potential funders and stakeholders. Others wanted to assess progress or deviance from authentic (‘lived’) ABCD practice.

Essentially, a lot of practitioners advocate for and try to implement an approach which they emotionally agree with, but find difficult to implement in their own lives.

Limitations are often imperceptible. They are housed in people’s minds and hearts, yet permeate all aspects of how we perceive ourselves, others and the world we live in. Mental, emotional and systemic barriers can bring us to a point where people become dependent on others to help them and even act on their behalf – handing over responsibility in the process.

ABCD is essentially about assisting people to become more conscious of who they are and what they bring – it helps create a positive self-image that transcends that which one cannot control, whilst bringing positivity so that they break moveable barriers.

Participants evaluated everyday behaviour and decisions – sharing insights, experiences, inspiration and expertise. Many shared success stories as well.

The importance of uplifting, relatable stories of real people-based development was emphasised throughout the week. Like Vuyokazi Msizi’s story about having a dream to start a fitness centre in Tarkastad. Vuyokazi did not have a venue, money or equipment so she started with a walking group. Members shared resources which resulted in the group expanding to Tae Bo classes and other fitness activities. The group is now functional and planning its first public event. There is also Gareth who, with the support of his organisation, Sophakama Community Partnership – started a festival in the small town of Pearston. The Hope Factory also shared stories of triumph. One that particularly stood out was a young woman named Lorna LeRoux, a fashion designer from Port Elizabeth. A woman of deep faith, Lorna started her clothing label, I AM Creations to help women on their path of restoration: “so that their beauty within can shine on the outside”. With mentorship from The Hope Factory, Lorna has seen her goals and hard work come to fruition.

Nomvula Dlamini
Nomvula Dlamini

Nomvula brought to the fore that developmental work is about PEOPLE and not issues. ABCD especially seeks to release barriers that limit people so that they can be who they truly are. If impact is to be realised – the ideals and values of the work need to be clear and genuine enough to be internalised and put into action – not just by partners and community organisations, but by practitioners themselves.

The starting point is introspection, affirmation and guarding against poverty in all forms so that we maintain an appreciative lens and continue to do good.

“Last year was a resounding success with amazing memories and we will continue to create these … We hope you will use this time to reflect on your purpose, what makes you tick and where we want to take ABCD moving forward.” – Bernie Dolley, Ikhala Trust

Mpendulo Savings

Posted on  by David Fourie

Mpendulo Savings is a Community Managed Savings and Lending (CMSL) facilitating organisation based in Jeffreys Bay.  The methodology is based on CARE International‘s Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA), which runs on the following principles:

  • Savings-based financial services with no external borrowing or donations
  • Self-management
  • Simplicity, flexibility and transparency of operations
  • Earnings from interest charged on members’ loans retained in the group and local community

With its focus on assets that are already in the community, using those assets to the benefit of the community and strengthening relationships of trust, Mpendulo Savings is a natural fit for the ABCD model of development.

Lindiwe Yeye is the champion for ABCD within Mpendulo Savings. She has taken the lead on facilitating two ABCD Fundamental sessions and on integrating ABCD concepts and materials into their Savings Group Training Guide.

Mpendulo Savings Members
Mpendulo Savings Members

The first Fundamental session was conducted in a new community, Woodlands in Kou-kamma municipal area where they wanted to mobilize new savings group members. The session allowed them to introduce Mpendulo’s savings methodology and at the same time sensitize potential members around ABCD concepts. It was warmly received.

The second session was held with an Afrikaans savings groups in Arcadia, Humansdorp. There were a few new people, but it was mostly members of existing groups. They focused mainly on the ABCD concepts and discussions about how to instil more social connectivity amongst their groups. After the session, participants were full of energy and feeling very positive about themselves and their community.

Mpendulo Savings had two more Fundamental sessions scheduled for Thornhill and Loerie communities. The Arcadia participants wanted them to do a follow up session for people that weren’t able to attend the first one.

They have integrated all of the fundamental concepts in their training guide.  Their aim in bringing ABCD into their mainstream training is to emphasize to their members that it is members’ human and social assets that are the true foundation for success in their groups. It isn’t just about the money. It’s about the emotions that run amok and create unsettling dynamics in the groups.

Money evokes emotion, not rationality. Members need to see that their financial decisions affect them, their families, their fellow group members and by extension, their communities. Mpendulo Savings sees ABCD as a doorway through which they can bring integrity, empathy and genuine feelings of ownership – such that group members are the first to be concerned when their constitution is not followed or when rules are broken.

From that foundation, they will determine where their members want to go and support them from behind – as true leaders do.

Contributions to Mpendulo Savings to support their valuable work can be done through their website, which is linked to PayPal for processing.  Alternative methods for financial contributions are also listed on the page.

Youth Leadership Comes In Small Town Packages

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Youth leadership is an incredibly abundant and often overlooked asset in South Africa. In the last two years, the “born-free” generation has shifted the socio-political landscape of this country in ways that their parents and some of our leaders would have thought impossible two decades into our democracy.

As these few months have shown, the youth continue to put themselves and their livelihoods on the line fighting for social justice – often making very public missteps. Some, especially older generations, have expressed concern about the nature of these adjustments and the seemingly imminent consequences that might befall the country. The youth’s alleged lack of sound  judgment, practicality and investment in this country’s well-being have been called into question several times in the past year in the media and by the powers that be.

It is too early to judge the merits of the young people’s movements and efforts at this stage. However, the myth that South Africa has a lack of competent youth leadership is an idea which needs to end. Our country’s often neglected rural and small towns are filled with examples of young change-makers, most of whom are in the development sector. One such example is a young woman whose resourcefulness and compassionate resolve are helping accelerate social integration and development in her small town.

Dynamic, hardworking and dizzily inventive, Vuyokazi Msizi (affectionately known as Vuvu) is rallying up the youth of Tarkastad to take the town to new heights.

Small Town Youth Leader, Vuyokazi MsiziVuvu with veteran development practitioner, Ninette Eliasov, on her visit to Tarkastad. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

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Vuvu with veteran development practitioner, Ninette Eliasov, on her visit to Tarkastad. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

Vuvu, a twenty-something year-old who was born in Keiskammahoek, is the secretary of a local party’s youth branch, former leader of EPWP projects, a development practitioner with Tarka Development Group and a recognised young leader in the town. Vuvu’s passion for leadership was instilled in her by her late mother who was also a noted community leader. Her mother was a nurse, traditional healer and pastor all at once. “The things I do are all over the place”, she admits, laughing. “I think I got that from my mother.” The common thread in Vuvu’s varied bag of tricks is transforming the lives of youth.

In the past year, Vuvu has organised several initiatives for Tarkastad youth in collaboration with the various organisations she is involved with. Some of these, she organised and executed with little to no help.

In the last few months, Vuvu embarked on journey of starting two successful projects. She had a dream to start a gym, but did not have equipment or a physical space. She then decided to start a fitness group in October using her Facebook contacts and her proximity to her community. Now she has a sizeable group which walks everyday and does Tae Bo at a local church space on occasion. In November 2016, Vuvu decided to organise an opening of the local park to encourage residents and young people to use it for events and entertainment purposes. Tarkastad, like many small towns, has very few recreational outlets, resulting in a lot of young people turning to alcohol and drug abuse to entertain themselves. The Tarkastad town park had been closed since its completion about 2 or 3 years ago. In a span of about a week, Vuvu was able to secure the opening of the park and organise a picnic for Tarkastad kids and a music night for the adults at the park. The event was a huge success which has seen a continued use of the park and several requests for Vuvu to organise other park events. It has not always been easy for Vuvu as a young woman and leader navigating the worlds of politics and community leadership. She says that one of the biggest obstacles for youth leadership in South Africa is a lack of trust and confidence in communities and influential people who want to help. She says that people with influence or means to support youth initiatives usually approach youth ideas with more than a pinch of skepticism which tends to discourage the young. “People tend to judge and project their own conceptions of what they think is possible or genuine onto you. When I advise some of the young people I work with to work hard at school, some of them will focus on the fact I am not a university graduate. It is not just the young people. Some politicians and older people will look at what you have or the title that is attached to you before they will listen or support you.” However, Vuvu is not discouraged, as for every handful of naysayers, there have been an equal number of supporters and mentors who have seen her journey through with her. “If I focus on the people who discourage me and want me to give up, I will always be down and accomplish very little. I am also aware that there are people who look up to me as an example of what is possible, and so I have to not give up – for them and myself too.”

ABCD Supports Victims of Domestic Violence

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Domestic violence is an appalling yet steadily growing epidemic in South Africa. In fact, this country has one of the highest domestic violence statistics in the world. Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism recently reported that in 2016 “More than half, 56%, of men in Diepsloot in northern Johannesburg say they’ve either raped or beaten a woman in the past 12 months, according to results from the Sonke CHANGE trial“.

South Africa has had several awareness campaigns around this issue over the years. The more well-known one of these campaigns, the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, has been met with relative skepticism and even opposition. This international awareness-raising campaign held over the festive season (25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day) also covering the period of Universal Childern’s Day and World AIDS Day) has been accused of “benevolent patriarchy”. In other words, victim-blaming and infantilising violent masculinities and the conditions promoting domestic violence rather than dismantling them or, more importantly, supporting victims.

Eliminating domestic violence is not dependent on “fixing” or teaching abusers. Yes, this can be a crucial part in helping both victims and perpetrators identify and unlearn abusive behaviours and patterns. However, the false assumption that abusers are misinformed or unaware of the damage they are doing can be counter-productive. Abuse is seldom incidental. Many abusers are narcissistic individuals who are deliberate in their actions to get those around them to centre their lives around them [the abuser]. We cannot build the self-esteem of the abuser at the expense of their victims. Our support and empowerment efforts should be overwhelmingly directed towards the victims, not those who cause their pain.

The ABCD approach can be very useful in supporting those affected by domestic violence. ABCD teaches us to approach development and people through an appreciative lens. This is done through appreciative inquiry – a process of unearthing positivity, humanity and potential in people through asking reflective, positive questions. Abuse is an incredibly traumatic experience which can cause people to lose pieces of themselves they once saw as beautiful or positive. Rather than make them relive the the trauma, help them remember and build on the positivity and life they have.

Nokubulela Willie and Mziyana Tatyula from the Tarkastad White Door Centre of Hope, a Department of Social Development supported victim empowerment organisation, gave us some advice on how we can support people affected by abuse.

Here are some of the ways one can support victims of domestic violence:

  • Do not push the victim to disclose anything if they are not ready
  • Befriend the victim and build a genuine relationship that is not solely based on them reliving or retelling the abuse
  • Offer them a safe space outside of their everyday reality (this can be in the form of recreation or other kinds of “escapism”)
  • If you can, offer them shelter if they decide to leave the abuser
  • Affirm them. Remind them of their capabilities, talents, positive traits, etc
  • Before asking questions, listen and share some of your own life experiences without coming off as judgmental or advice-oriented
  • Do not define the victim’s experiences for them
  • Support them whether or not they decide to report the perpetrators
  • Love and support them unconditionally – whether or not they are a suitable or relatable victim in your view

The South African Social Security Agency is home to the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC), which is an international award-winning centre dedicated to providing 24-hour support and counselling to victims of gender-based violence.  The centre can be contacted on 0800-428-428.

Meet Mexico’s Obatala Afro-Latin Dancers

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

In recent months, the rights and treatment of people of African descent in Latin American has come to the forefront of mainstream media attention. This comes after the lifting of decades old sanctions against communist Cuba by the US and the ongoing process of democratisation and peace talks in places like civil war-torn Colombia. After the recent death of Fidel Castro, Cubans, more especially Afro-Cubans, have renewed the conversation in their homeland after being silenced and relegated to the margins for decades in the name of unity and progress. Although many Cubans across racial lines have a lot of praise for Castro and what he has done for that part of the world, Castro’s legacy is bittersweet to many Afro-Cubans due to his complicity in their oppression and erasure from Cuban national identity.

Today a new generation of Afro-Latin people have taken on the baton. Young Afro-Latinos across the Americas are now not only fighting for  their rights and citizenship to be recognised, they are also celebrating and preserving the cultures and heritage they have been discouraged in identifying with.

The Obatala, a group of Afro-Mexican dancers, are among the Afro-Latin youth preserving the legacy of African people in Latin America. The Obatala live in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca. The Obatala dancers moved art to Oaxaca after discovering that most of the African slaves that were sent to Mexico settled in that particular part of the country.

The dancers found that they are all descended from Africa’s north-eastern region. They researched the respective cultures and customs of that part of Africa through the internet. They have also learned the dances and music of their cultures through watching videos on Youtube.

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Proud to be Afro-Mexican! These young women are dancing to promote their African heritage.

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Just like Cuba and other parts of Latin American, most Mexicans are not aware of Afro-Latin people as their government only started identifying them in the national census as recently as 2015.

The Obatala dancers say that their main goal in traveling around Mexico is to get Afro-Latin people, especially the youth, curious about their roots. They are making their art form visible to get it into mainstream Mexican culture so other Afro-Latin people can take pride in their African identity which they have been shamed for for so long.

Story-Telling Keeps Development Alive

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

One of the most striking lessons that came out of the 2016 Ikhala Trust ABCD Festival held in November 2016, was the importance of the art of story-telling in developmental work – particularly in reviving the human spirit. The festival itself was a hub of affirmation, re-energising, clarity and for some, restoration through sharing and listening to others’ experiences. An integral part of developmental work, story-telling sometimes not only determines the acquiring of funds or support for organisations, but also protecting their very existence.

One of the stories that stood out was that of The Raphael Centre, an HIV support and wellness centre in Grahamstown. The Raphael Center is an organisation that has faced discouraging and life-draining odds, but has come out stronger and lived to inspire others with their tale of resurrection through some help and sharing.

The Raphael Centre , like many developmental organisations, arrived at a point of near disillusionment, a stifled work environment and bruised relationships in their journey after many years operating as an organisation. Developmental work, especially problem/needs-based development, can be very heavy on the souls of those who step up to do it. Dealing with and trying to fix the burdens of others or the world as limited and sensitive beings on a weekly or even daily basis can make cynical even the most optimistic of idealists. Most times, developmental practitioners give counsel and an ear to hurt people while not giving themselves space to revive and heal from the secondary trauma they encounter in their work.

Although some in the organisation were familiar with the Asset-Based Community-driven Development approach, they had not really applied it to their organisation. With the help of Elamanzi’s Ninnette Eliasov, an organisational development (OD), education specialist and veteran in the sector, The Raphael Centre was able to identify the chinks in their armour and more importantly, create a new positive and triumphant narrative for their organisation.

The organisation’s director, Mary Humphreys, noted that one of the tipping factors was open and genuine sharing. In this case, the sharing of stories helped remind and reconnect people to their purpose. Story-telling can also help strengthen relationships within organisations as we are made to recognise people’s humanity in relation to our own.

As Ikhala Trust director and ABCD Festival host, Bernie Dolley, often says, story-telling breathes life into organisations, the people within them and those in contact with them. Making a space for the telling of good, uplifting human stories in your organisation helps rejuvenate people who have been worn down by the work and reminds them to refocus on the good. Story-telling is a space for reflection – a space where we are reminded of our triumphs which we often do not take heed of in our rush to do tasks and the business of development. Story-telling reminds us through individualised lenses that the beautiful and happy world development practitioners envision is not only possible, but is happening everyday.

Youth Empowerment is Young People @ Work

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Youth empowerment has become a buzz phrase of sorts in governmental addresses and lists of pertinent national concerns. With the last recorded statistics showing South African youth unemployment to be just under the 50% mark, it is clear that the empowerment rhetoric has to go beyond lecturing young people to fostering substantial change in their lives and economic prospects.

YoungPeople@Work, a new generation Cape Town-based organisation specialising in doing just that – putting young people at work – is helping bridge the gap between internal wholeness and a productive, financially stable life for young people. YP@W’s vision is “young people engaged in productive work to enhance economic, social, cultural and spiritual development”.

Group Gathered at a YP@W workshopYP@W hosts workshops in addition to offering courses to their participants and community. Photo: Frank Julie and Associates.

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Youth Empowerment In Practice: A group posing for a picture at one of YP@W’s workshops. Photo: Frank Julie and Associates.

Trading Economics reported that youth unemployment in South Africa averaged 51.14 percent from 2013 until 2016 “reaching an all time high of 54.50 percent in the first quarter of 2016 and a record low of 47.60 percent in the third quarter of 2016″. The importance of productive work and job opportunities for young people in addressing the negative manifestations (crime, drug and alcohol abuse and other negative behaviours associated with the youth) of being deprived of chances for self-actualisation is repeatedly stressed on YP@W’s website. The primary focus is not on the jobs themselves, but in giving young people the confidence and capabilities to lead informed, self-determined lives. Youth empowerment as practised by YP@W is a process of self-actualisation where the participants are allowed to recognise their own potential and capabilities through support, mentoring and access. This is all done through an ABCD lens emphasising the young people’s talents, self-worth and strengths.

The building up of the participants as holistic beings is then supplemented by programmes designed to help the participants get jobs or some sort of income-generation. The programmes are facilitated through a Computer and Life Skills Academy offering computer courses and workshops in basic office administration, personal development, leadership, job-seeking, networking, employee rights and customer relations amongst other things. YP@W also helps its students find work in addition to providing them with free CVs, computer practising classes and certificates. The courses run for a period of 6 weeks and are not free. This is to instill the value of the services and qualifications offered by the organisation to those who participate.

The group also engages in community information sessions and a Youth Empowerment Week. The Youth Empowerment Week involves a community outreach where unemployed youth are called for a 3-day workshop at the local library. The focus of this programme is maximising the employability of the participants. YP@W’s strategic partners also share job and training opportunities with the group in addition to putting them on their databases.

With a name as bold and direct as YoungPeople@Work, this organisation is teaching many organisations, practitioners and partners alike that boldness is a key attribute to tackling systematic issues. Organisations should be able to name and have tangible identifiers of the positive reality they want to see as this gives focus to the steps we should take to make it happen. Sometimes, we focus so much on “sloganising” to make our organisations palatable to audiences and funders alike that we begin to lose the essence of what we do. Fear of not meeting hopes and the resulting disillusionment from partners can also push us into playing the fence with our organisations and aims. However, let us be reminded that, although most of us nominate ourselves to do this work, we are not – and should not be – doing it for an audience, but to inspire positive change. This sometimes requires us to shrug off expectations of performances, whether it be forced humility or neutrality, and be bold in our resolve.

Kenya’s “Kung-Fu Grannies” Fight Sexual Violence

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Sexual violence is a pervasive and often fatal reality for many women and vulnerable people in our society. Added to this, women are rarely afforded protection against sexual violence by the law. The situation is not much different in their own communities and families too. A group of brave old women in Korogocho, Kenya have decided to take their safety into their own hands.

According to statistics brought by Kenya Demographic and Health Survey in 2014, close to 14% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have been victims of sexual violence. This scourge is worse in rural and urban poor areas where violent crime and myths about HIV/AIDS are prevalent.

The Brave Grannies

The grannies, mostly aged between 60 and 85, took on martial arts training in response to an epidemic of violent crime by gangsters in Korogocho. The bandits would often target, rob and rape old women in the area who usually live by themselves. Many of the rapists are of the belief that old women are less likely to be HIV positive. Most perpetrators get away with the crimes because sexual violence is harder to convict. Furthermore, police are severely understaffed in rural and poor communities.

The Training

With the help of a younger woman, Sheila Kariuki (29) who is an instructor, the grannies are learning mixed martial arts – kung-fu, karate and taekwondo. The training focuses on a range of techniques including ways of attracting attention to get help. They shout each time they hit the perpetrators. This is one of the most critical strategies in order to not put them at further risk.  Moreover, accurate and effective physical counter-attacks (like going for vulnerable points) are also emphasised given possible frailty due to old age.

The self-defense classes have produced a number of success stories with a few old ladies successfully fighting rapists off. Sheila Kariuki has also extended her training to include young women and girls.

Duncan Village and Ikhayalethu – Our Home

Posted on  by David Fourie

During the recent annual 16 Days of Activism campaign, Ikhayalethu – Our Home facilitated the raising of awareness of gender-based violence against women, children and people with disabilities, as well as awareness of drugs and teenage pregnancies in Duncan Village, East London.

History of Duncan Village

Duncan Village is a township that was established in 1941. It was named after the then Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, Patrick Duncan, who oversaw the opening of what was called a “leasehold tenure area” in the East Bank Location, hence Duncan Village.

The township is located about five kilometres from the East London’s Central Business District (CBD). It has a population of 16 380 (Census 2011) which predominantly identifies as Black African.

Duncan Village is divided into six wards with each headed by a ward councillor. There are no clear divisions between the informal parts and formal parts of the township since most shacks are planted on the open spaces within formal houses.

The informal parts of Duncan Village are made of zinc and wooden shacks. Some of them are lined with cardboard inside which is used as a ceiling or lining to protect the occupants from extreme weather conditions such as hot summers and cold winters.

In the informal parts of Duncan Village, residents use communal stand-alone toilets that are provided by the municipality and stand-pipes located mainly at the edge of each informal settlement. These communal toilets are shared at least by a hundred to three-hundred people depending on the size of the settlement. There is a strong reliance on the bucket system for daily activities particularly in the informal parts of Duncan Village. Residents prefer to use the bucket system since in many areas toilets are far from their shacks and they are dangerous to use especially at night.

Most informal areas are reliant on illegal electricity connections. However, the municipality is piloting a project on the electrification of shacks using the prepaid metre system. There is a general sense of insecurity in the informal settlements of Duncan Village due to high levels of crime, flooding and shack fires caused by illegal connections and flammable energy sources that are used.

(Edited extract from “Understanding the local state, service delivery and protests in post-apartheid South Africa: The case of Duncan Village and Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality, East London” – Patricia Ndhlovu, University of Witwatersrand, 2015)

16 Days of Activism in Duncan Village

Largely due to unemployment, people of Duncan Village are struggling with the historical and present realities of the township. People are not able to support their families, contributing to gender-based violence (GBV) and substance abuse.

One of the effects of GBV and substance abuse on the pregnant women is that it leaves unborn babies at risk and spiral towards children’s lives consisting of not focusing at school and/or dropping out, destined to repeat the cycle of unemployment, substance abuse and GBV.

Ms Vellem from iKhayalethu - Our HomeMs Dyakopu from DSDMs Mqala from SAPSMs Dwanya from SassaCllr Witbooi from SPUCllr of the Ward and Ms Mdodana from ChildLine

National Gender-Based Violence Command Centre

Since 2014, the Department of Social Development has run an award-winning centre, the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC), for people affected by gender-based violence.  The 24-hour toll free number to call is 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling. Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cellphone.

“The Command Centre has attended to a variety emergency situations including indecent assault, physical violence, rape, abandoned children and verbal abuse.  It has also attended to cases of stalking, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, forced marriages, forced prostitution, elderly citizen abuse, bullying and has even intervened in family disputes, to name a few.

The success of the GBVCC can be attributed to the fact that it is a comprehensive, integrated system that provides immediate, consistent, coordinated and timely support to victims of gender-based violence.

It uses mobile technology to estimate the location of a victim, assign the closest social worker in the field to the case, and record and receive continuous feedback on the case. The Centre is also staffed by trained social workers/command centre agents who provide immediate counselling to victims and help them to avoid or minimise further exposure to gender-based violence.

When a caller contacts the GBVCC from a mobile phone, they are (with explicit permission) geographically located, enabling the Centre to determine the resources nearest to the caller, whether it be a social worker, a police station, a hospital or safe house.  In this way, help is dispatched in quick fashion.”

– Department of Social Development Website

An ABCD Perspective

Gender-based violence has many interrelated causes and effects, and it is not diminishing.  A policy brief to the South African Medical Research Council in 2009 highlighted some of the challenges.

The GBVCC is a national asset that communities can use to deal with gender-based violence.  Ikhayalethu-Our Home is a local asset, as is Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre and the SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit, which also has a 24-hour number – 082 809 2277.  There is no lack of assets for the community of Duncan Village.

We move to community-driven then.  An asset is only useful if it is used.

As a global society, we often feel that it is none of our business.  We detach.  We look away.  Why?  The bystander effect.  “Nobody thinks they’re the kind of person who would stand by while a woman is raped in the room next door“, but the majority are.  We can theorise about what we would do, but what do we actually do?

What about the victims?  Why don’t they make use of the assets themselves?  Well, the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault has a fact sheet that explains the reasons in a first-world country, including fear of reprisal, belief that the police would/could do nothing to help etc.  We can only imagine the added reasons in our own country.

The Challenge

What can your community do to end gender-based violence in your community? What will you do to end it?

We have a comments section on our website where you can share your ideas and success stories with others.

Upstart Strives to Give Youth a Fair Chance

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

South Africa’s youth are often accused of exceptional laziness, apathy, entitlement and an appetite for destructive behaviour amongst other scathing descriptions. These accusations are often based off images broadcast by the media, especially with our current state of affairs regarding tertiary education. In many instances, the accusers have the comfort of distance between them and the socio-economic factors informing the actions and identities of this demonised group. Additionally, the youth often have to take on systems and conditions outside of themselves while being expected to not only be meekly submissive, but also pander to some of those who want to believe the youth of this country are a degenerate bunch because of the disputed factors. In spite of this, there are some who would rather join hands than wag fingers at the young people.

Upstart Youth Development Project radio programme at Rhodes UniversityUpstart participants doing a radio program at Rhodes Music Radio. Photo: Upstart Youth Development Project

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Upstart participants doing a radio program at Rhodes Music Radio. Photo: Upstart Youth Development Project

The Upstart Youth Development Project based in Grahamstown is a sub-project of Grocott’s Mail, the town’s local paper, and seeks to meet many of these disenfranchised and ignored young people half-way by providing educational and artistic opportunities. Upstart’s beneficiaries are high school students from disadvantaged schools and backgrounds. According to the Journalism and Media Studies Department of Rhodes University, which owns Grocott’s Mail, the programme uses a multi-disciplinary approach to “foster inter-school activities as a way of breaking down racial, cultural and language barriers and developing leadership skills amongst young people.” Upstart activities include school clubs, a youth newspaper, a Young Women’s Dialogue, radio, self-development workshops, skills development, academic support and a big brother/sister mentorship programme.

Rhodes’ media department’s background statement on Upstart puts emphasis on the importance of addressing the socio-economic factors which are frustrating poor learners from communities of colour in South Africa. This is not put as an overall prescription for the learners’ struggles and the challenges they go home to everyday after school. Initiatives like Upstart are a nod in the right direction for a misunderstood and demonised group which clearly has the drive and initiative to address issues affecting it. Rather than isolate the youth further, resulting in them exercising their energy in negative ways, civil society and organisations alike need to highlight the efforts of the youth, empower them and encourage their brilliance and initiatives.

ABCD Tackles Ableism

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

The often ignored issue of ableism is a rarely detected hindrance to development and organisational work. This is owing to the fact that ableism sometimes disguises itself as practicality, but inadvertently promotes exclusion and saviour/helpless-flock tropes amongst other negative and false ideas – dynamics which are detrimental to mobilisation and the work.

People with disabilities often do not attend public events or participate in organisations. This is not due to the fact that they are not many in the world or that they are not interested in public participation. A large part of the problem is that mainstream society, and sometimes organisations that deal with disability, often unconsciously send the message that people with disabilities are an inconvenience.

Defining Ableism

The Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF), an American health organisation, detailed its processof unlearning ableism and how this has benefitted the organisation and the beneficiaries in a three-part article series in Medium. The NWHF defines ableism as “the practices and attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of people with disabilities”. The articles deal with how organisations and mainstream society use isolating practices to keep people with disabilities “in”, “out” and “down”. These three have to do with how able-bodied people treat or react around people with disabilities in a way that negates their humanity which essentially isolates them from the wider world.

Participatory Ableism

For the most part, people with disabilities are kept out of participation by lack of accommodations, most of which are provided to able-bodied people without thought. These include access to buildings, seats, informational material, catering or language(s) (interpretation or translated material). People with disabilities often have to make extra arrangements on their own, even as guests or participants.

The NWHF states that they discovered that “accommodations for people with disabilities are usually left out unless specifically required by law or a funding source.” Considering all the hoops people with disabilities have to jump through when attending conferences, meetings and other public events, it is easy to see why most would rather stay at home. The ones that show up have to make do without and try to catch up with their able-bodied counterparts, even though they were not afforded equal experiences/accommodations. In some instances, people with disabilities are expected to participate vicariously through able-bodied participants.

One of the main obstacles in tackling ableism is that people sometimes see it as a “soft”-ism which might or might not constitute discrimination – depending on individual subjective sensitivities or moral concern. Unlike other “-isms” like sexism, racism and LGBTQIA+-antagonism, ableism is seldom characterised by physically or even verbally violent bigotry and consequently becomes easy to ignore.

Organisations and Tackling Ableism

The ABCD approach to development is one that, in my view, addresses the heart of whyorganisations are formed – people. It is true that organisations are often hard-pressed for support, mostly in the form of funding. However, this cannot come at the expense of people – the core of why developmental work is initiated in the first place. Organisations do not deal with problems or issues, they deal with people and their potential for doing great things.

Ikhala Trust‘s Director, Bernie Dolley, and her colleagues have stressed that sustainable solutions do not come from mobilising around managing problems. Dealing with issues on a material or superficial level of trying to eliminate the immediate danger seldom works, since issues that plague humanity are hardly ever random or surface-level. By mending the negative or harmful ways in which people see themselves and their environments, can we then start to move away from behaviour patterns or mindsets which led to the problems and the cycles/systems supporting them to thrive.

Unlearning ableism is not only dependent on what one avoids doing or saying but also actually listening to people with disabilitiesTarkastad’s Masizame Disabled Centre members engaging in a discussion about issues affecting them. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

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Tarkastad’s Masizame Disabled Centre members engaging in a discussion about issues affecting them. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

Ableism Is Not Pragmatism

In our attempts to be practical or efficient in organisational work, we cannot sacrifice nuance and critical engagement for the work. This can be more potentially damaging than spending more than the organisation’s planned budget. It can undercut the value and impact of the work and chip away at an organisation’s reputation. This does not mean that organisations have to spend lots of money on unknown accommodations (unknown because not every disability is physical or perceptible on first glances, for example mental health issues).

Accommodating people with disabilities does not have to be a hassle or even expensive. The NWHF cites that it asks its guests/participants, “What helps you participate?” when sending out invites for invites to their workshops or meetings. Blind people may find music or sound beneficial. Deaf people may do better with visual aids. People with learning disabilities may find more discussion and less slides or reading material useful. For others it might be cutting down on ableist language and jokes like “lame”, “Stevie Wonder to…” or comments and jokes depicting people with mental disabilities as sociopaths.

We do not have to spend money to provide these accommodations. The NWHF noted that funders usually do not have reservations on forking out a little extra for accommodating people to encourage participation. Asking what participants need to participate effectively is also important, as it is reported that people with disabilities will seldom ask for accommodations in order not to inconvenience the organisers.

ABCD Tackles Ableism

Especially in organisational work, ableism is one such cycle that needs to be broken. The ABCDapproach to development is based on transforming paradigms or boxes of thinking/seeing and being that people build up. These mental boxes limit our potential and the impact we have on humanity and our own destinies. Crucial to this unlocking of paradigms is unlearning toxic socialisation like ableism. Although it does not specifically deal with ableism, the ABCDframework of finding new ways of thinking and mobilising our available assets is helpful in tackling ableism, as it emphasises self-reliance and the need to participate in determing our own narratives.

Children of the Soil Preserve the Environment

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

The issues around the environment has many of us earthlings anxious. These feelings of insecurity about the future have especially been heightened with the recent announcement by scientists and President Obama alluding to a plan to move humans to Mars in the very near future. However, there are still some among us who are fighting to preserve our current home for as long as it is saveable. The Grahamstown-based environmental awareness organisation, Children of the Soil, is one of these faithful environment defenders.

Dr Nosiphiwe Ngqwala, a lecturer at the Rhodes University Pharmacy Department, founded COTS in December 2014 after she saw a need to raise awareness about environmental issues and preservation in her community. Dr Ngqwala decided to make the focus group of the organisation school-going children as she says that environmentally safe behaviours need to be instilled in people to ensure they become lifelong habits. Besides this, Dr Ngqwala says they want to focus on children because they are one of the most vulnerable groups when it comes to climate change.

COTS‘ work is mostly based in the Grahamstown area and revolves around environmental safety and other related projects. According to Dr Ngqwala, the idea to start COTS came from her observations around the gap between townships and urban poor areas and climate realities. Therefore, although COTS does not limit their work to certain areas, they mainly focus on the township. The organisation does not hire people, but works with volunteers interested in the work they do. They help clean illegal dumping sites, give talks on water conservation and food preservation, do environment-related art and writing projects and facilitate food security initiatives in schools amongst other things. Their food gardening projects are their core focus.

Dr Ngqwala’s slogan is “Catch Them Young.” Here’s to hoping that COTS‘ young benefactors help keep future generations on our beloved Earth with the healthiest possible environment.

(Video shot and edited by Loyiso Gxothiwe)

Masizame is Creating an Inclusive Community

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

When first entering Tarkastad‘s Zola township, one’s eye is met by a prominent gated yard decorated with a small building near the back corner and a spacious neatly-tended food garden. This place belongs to the Masizame Disabled Centre. Masizame exists to be a sanctuary for people living with disabilities in Tarkastad’s townships.

Masizame was formed in 2010 by a group of individuals with disabilities in Zola. “We were encouraged to start this initiative by people in our community who have supported us,” says Roy April, the Chairperson of Masizame. “We were then able to establish this centre that we have today through the backing of the Department of Social Development”. Winki Beyi, a long-time member of Masizame, remembers how they struggled in the beginning. The group seldomly gained members for a considerable period of time because they did not have a physical space in their name. They moved from house to house for meetings and were sometimes turned out of these houses by the owners.

These experiences did not discourage the group, who continued to strive until their community and DSD started to take notice. The rest, as they say, is history.

Roy says that the intention behind Masizame is to provide community and refuge for people living with disabilities in the townships who are frequently at the receiving end of abuse, violence and exploitation. Members meet five days a week on weekdays for discussions, encouragement and general work on Masizame’s grounds. Mthetho Maneli, a member of the group, notes the positive effects membership in the organisation has brought for him. “You start feeling right and complete as person when you enter this space. The attitudes and negative behaviours of the outside worldare drowned out by the positivity and encouragement we give each other.”

The Masizame Disabled Centre is organisation catering for the community of people living with disabilities in TarkastadThe Masizame Disabled Centre is famous in Tarkastad’s Zola township for its beautiful food garden which is solely tended by the members.

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With a sign that reads “Nothing Without Us” and superbly-kept grounds, the Masizame Disabled Centre has become highly visible force of change and inclusivity in Tarkastad. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe.

Masizame members almost all agree that attitudes towards disability have changed over time, albeit at a sluggish pace. Winki says family support would go a long way in unlearning stigma and misinformation around disability, specifically mental illness. “Sometimes people on the outside only start supporting and seeing us as human when our own families start treating us with respect and dignity,” she adds. “One of the problems we have is that people see us as objects or ATMs – to be used and disposed at convenience. CWP has also supported us by hiring some of us. Now, some of our members have families or intimate partners who take their hard-earned CWP wages or their grant money and send them back with nothing. This exploitation also becomes more prevalent when people with disabilities abuse alcohol for relief as they become easier targets for abusers and thieves.”

Despite these issues, the organisation has had a supportive relationship with the wider community. “The people in our community have given us a lot of support because they see the progress and wonderful things that we have been able to accomplish in this space,” says Roy. The support ranges from food donations, equipment and supplies for the work from community stakeholders. More than material donations, the support that is given by the community is mostly in the form of encouragement for the group not to stop the good work it is doing.

Masizame makes it explicitly clear to anyone who enters its gates that it is not looking for hand-outs and pity-donations. “We sew, do beadwork and some of us who do not have disabilities severely affecting our limbs tend the food garden or do catering,” adds Winki. “We are not asking for material donations. Do not give us fish. Teach us how to fish. When you give me the donation of a fish, I will eat it and then go bother someone else when it is finished. Rather than give us your old belongings, teach us how to sew so we can make clothes for ourselves and to sell to you. As a matter of fact, we can sew beautifully and have been able to sell our creations even though none of us have had formal training.” Winki says that they also have their community supporters to thank for their sewing skills.

The main support that the organisation is asking from the community and stakeholders is skills training, whether it be in the form of informational material, equipment or artisans who are willing to volunteer to teach their craft. Sydwell Felane, who is heavily involved with the garden work, says the group strives to create employment and income generation opportunities for people with disabilities in the township. “One of the things I would personally like to happen is to have art training here,” says Sydwell. “I love art and would like to learn from a professional.”

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Tarkastad’s Masizame Disabled Centre members engaging in a discussion about issues affecting them. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

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Young Tarkastad Writer Preserves Town’s History

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

At only 22, Simamkele Maholwana is writing a book on the history of a largely unknown town called Tarkastad. Unlike many, Simamkele (who only moved to Tarkastad in 2012) is excited by the treasures this town hides.

Simamkele’s interest in writing peaked in school. While there, he was involved in a number of extra-mural arts-based activities. He describes his younger self as the “diary type” because of his habit of documenting stories he found interesting. His interest in literature and poetry was such that his English teacher suggested that he form a poetry group.

All things historical has been an interest since he was a child. Antiques, the Queenstown historical museum and asking older people around him about life in times past was a particular love. His schooling background sharpened his interests and future as an amateur historian. As a student at one of the Eastern Cape’s most prestigious schools, Queen’s College Boys’ High School, he had access to a range of historical material.

Young Tarkastad writer writes book on town's historySimamkele Maholwana, a first time author, is undertaking Tarkastad history as his first book. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

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Author, Simamkele Maholwana, is undertaking Tarkastad history for his first book. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

Soon after their arrival in Tarkastad, he stumbled upon a picture album of Tarkastad’s 1962 centenary. His curiosity pushed him to want to do something about the information in the album. The idea to write a book originated from Oom Eddie, the local butcher and a seasoned local. The book will be a creative endeavour inspired by Tarkastad’s history, not a “history book” in the traditional sense.

Simamkele has conducted more than a dozen interviews with locals, most of them older citizens from the town’s retirement home. The residents were friendly and open to him. He has gone into homes and spaces which he thought he would never have the opportunity to enter. The interviewing process provided him with information and new relationships. It has also changed his misconceptions about people and given him new perspectives on human interaction.

His research has led him through private homes, internet sites, libraries and places that have proved his sense that Tarkastad is an incredibly significant area to this country’s history and future, economically and socially. He discovered that the Great Trek under Hendrik Potgieter and Piet Retief had begun in and moved through the Tarkastad area. Tarkastad was a crucial trade spot in those days due to its strategic positioning and, now defunct, railroad and train station. Even more interestingly, he discovered that an Afrikaner woman, who relayed information between army camps during battles between Xhosas and Afrikaners, hid treasure. According to public knowledge, this treasure has never been found. Tarkastad also has some highly contested gold mines and other mineral deposits on its farms.

Simamkele is passionate about leadership and youth matters.  He hopes his book will inspire Tarkastad youth to start honing their talents and always be positive about the future. He also wants the book to foster love for the town and inspire initiative in its leaders.

The book will be presented and sold at the annual Tarkastad Agricultural Show in February next year. Simamkele chose this strict deadline to help push him to work harder and to actually finish the project. This is Simamkele’s first book and so he welcomes any support, not just financial or material, from residents. Residents who want to add information to Simamkele’s book can contact him on FacebookTarka Development Group would like to congratulate him, and wish Simamkele all the best on this brave and very important project.

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Beedz Connect Disadvantaged Women to Their Futures

Posted on  by Loyiso Gxothiwe

Women continue to be one of the most vulnerable and under-represented groups in our society. Despite the setbacks they face because of systemic oppression and violence, women are most often left to bear the heaviest burden in supporting families – financially and otherwise. Women of colour and women from urban poor environments often face these challenges with very little to no support or empowerment. The Beedz Project, a skills training programme started by River of Life Church in Grahamstown, seeks to be a bridge of opportunity and empowerment for many of these women who are forced to make life work for themselves and others looking to them.

The Beedz Project includes sewing and comptuer classes in their skills training for womenA Beedz participant completes a sewing project. Photo: Loyiso

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A Beedz participant completes a sewing project. Photo: Loyiso Gxothiwe

Beedz was initiated in 2006 as part of a social justice ministry by River of Life to help HIV positive women who felt isolated or stigmatised in their communities. The objective was to support them and impart skills to empower them to get employment or even start their own businesses.

Today, Beedz reaches single women and widows in the community who are unemployed and are looking to broaden their skills base. Beedz is a community-based project and mainly takes participants from Grahamstown’s townships as its benefactors.

The Beedz Project is facilitated by church and community members who are all volunteers. Beedz is also solely funded by church donations which have to cover all of their costs and projects. As a result, they are always in need of funding. The church is  planning to register Beedz as an NPO so they can apply for funding to help further the work they are doing.

The programme offers courses in communication skills, computer training, business skills, baking, Bible literature, beadwork and sewing. The participants also get the products they need to bake or sew from the Church. They are then given their creations to sell so they can get work experience and confidence. In 2015, Nombeko Mbane, the project manager said they were planning on approaching restaurants and small businesses in town to allow the women to work for them on a voluntary basis to gain experience.

Case Study Resources for ABCD

Posted on  by David Fourie

Case study resources have been added to our ABCD SA resources page, and we would love for you to make use of them:

  • Facilitating Organisational Change Using an Asset Based Approach: A case study written in 2014 of a strategic review and planning process facilitated with Raphael Centre, an organisation in Grahamstown that promotes HIV prevention and support. The case study, written by Ninnette Eliasov and Mary Humphreys, outlines the background to the ABCDplanning process, the methodology used and some of the outcomes. Visit Raphael Centre’s website, www.raphaelcentre.co.za,  for more updated information about Raphael Centre’s programmes and how they are championing ABCD in Grahamstown.
  • Combining ABCD and Permaculture at WB Tshume Primary School: A case study written by Ninnette Eliasov and Carla Collins (Calabash Trust) in 2014 exploring a pilot project combining ABCD and Permaculture in a Primary School in Port Elizabeth. The story behind the project, the pilot phase and some of the achievements, challenges and lessons learnt. Visit Calabash Trust’s website (an initiative of Calabash Tours) to find out more about how the project has progressed and other ABCD initiatives including a community development programme in the town of Pearston – www.calabashtours.co.za.
  • Through the barrel of a lens: A fascinating case study of Paradigm Lens – a programme of the Community Development Foundation (CDF) Western Cape that has awakened the gifts and talents of youth combining photography and entrepreneurship. The project (funded by LegalWise) has an asset orientation and the story eloquently outlines the background to the project – how it has unfolded and some of the impacts. The story is written by Lisa-Anne Julien, commissioned by LegalWise. For more information about Photospeak and CDFprogrammes – visit their web site: www.communityfoundationwesterncape.co.za.
  • Investing in Community Development – The Case of the Woodford Library – This story, written by Coady International Institute, documents the story of the Woodford Library, co-funded by LegalWise, and the local community who mobilised financial, material and technical resources to establish the Library in 2014. The case documents the background, the successes and how many challenges were overcome to stimulate and support citizen driven development in the town of Bergville, KZN. To learn more about LegalWise asset based Corporate Social Investment, visit www.legalwise.co.za.

We’ll be adding several videos over the next couple of days on the ABCD SA website, so keep an eye out for them! Here’s one to whet your appetite.

Before we go, don’t forget that we’re waiting for you to share your ABCD experiences with us!

Have a great day!
Your ABCD SA Team

ABCD with Sophakama Community Partnership

Posted on  by David Fourie

ABCD is at the heart of what Sophakama Community Partnership is practicing in Pearston in the Eastern Cape.

Through their July 2016 newsletter, Sophakama Community Partnership shares their activities that are creating change in action.