Volunteer Day on Freedom Day

I held my volunteer day at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for abused women and children in Manenberg.  For the day, I organised for friends of mine to share their skills and expertise with the women, and so create a day filled with a variety of transforming and empowering activities for them.  

The activities included a gentle body workout by a pilates instructor; a talk on parenting skills by a social worker; a mini yoga and Shakti dance session by a yogini; and a guided meditation in the form of a storytelling by a hypnotherapist.  there was also the option of hoola hooping, which both the moms and the children enjoyed.

While the women were engaged in the activities their children enjoyed a party that  was arranged by 3 of my friends.  The party included a clown named Jo-Jo, who the children loved!  They also got to try cupcake decorating to add to the sweet eats in their party packs.  

My mother made a hot, cooked meal for lunch using the money that was contributed by many people from my network.  The women seemed to really enjoy this as they have only one meal a day that is made for them.  With the help of others from the larger sphere of my network 4kgs of biscuits, a box of kiddie’s movies, 4 litres of Powerade, 3 large boxes of women’s and children’s clothing and a large children’s painting were given to the centre.

I believe the day was a great success!

Unacceptable sanitation! What is the solution?

Young South Africans have grown up in a ‘free’ country, and yet, a simple thing like sanitation is still such a problem. While some South Africans have four bathrooms in their own houses, others suffer the indignity of having no clean toilet at all. See the link below and think of innovative ways to get communities involved in changing this situation …


The role of memory in creating change

Some Activators recently had the opportunity to attend a talk on “Leadership and Innovation for Social Change and the role of Memory & Legacy.” This talk was hosted by the Board and Alumni of the South Africa – Washington international programme. Below are some reviews from the Activators who attended.

It was an event organized by the South African Washington DC International program (SAWIP) and InkuluFreeHeid (IFH) which is a movement that has been founded by ordinary South Africans. One of IFH key goals is to drive unity behind solving social problems. One of the key topics that were discussed was on how do we mobilize the youth and drive social innovation? How do we move away from looking at leadership as a status to understanding leadership as facilitating evolution and that things change with time and understanding that issues of concern from generation to generation have not been the same and to ask ourselves what is our mandate?

We talked about how the youth feels that they are misrepresented in SA politics. One of the panellists said social innovation starts with questions and what questions are we asking? Government cannot be the sole agent for social innovation.

 My take home message was, what is it that I am doing in my space, what conversations am I having with people I interact with? And what is it that I am fighting for. This was my previous facebook status after the dialogue “What are you fighting for? I am fighting for conditions that everyone can live in. I am fighting for access to resources, Nation building and personal development. I am fighting for a generation that actually takes the step and do things; I am strong on development of individuals and challenging the Status Quo. What are u fighting for? Thank you InkuluFreeHeid for quite an informative discussion” – Zanele Lwana

The questions tackled were how does legacy inform memory and perpetuate a historical narrative that doesn’t represent the complete fabric of SA society. Also how does this legacy idolize our leaders and place all the answers in their hands while they continue to mistreat their power and reinvent injustices to different groups of people.

My feedback would be that we didn’t touch on social innovation enough and come up with any innovative solutions which is what I was interested in. The question for me is how is the Legacy of apartheid and the memories it continues to invoke, prevent the youth generation from tackling the social issues they face and find solutions for them. India has one of the poorest populations in the world (without the legacy of the apartheid) and as a result one of the highest levels of entrepreneurialism. Why do we not see this in SA? Everyone expects the government to fix things in SA but our leaders are beneficiaries of the apartheid era doing little to redress the inequalities of the past, rather they are perpetuating racial inequality and segregation in different ways.

I would have liked the event to have had an end goal- one which everyone could move forward with i.e. a basic action plan. The wrap up speaker did encourage everyone to consider how they could implement their learnings/thoughts generated from the discussion though.

Mandy from the District Six Museum disclosed some fascinating facts about how people in District 6 innovated toward social cohesion and met on mountain hikes to align and keep their activities unsuspicious.

My question was if people innovated in those times why do we find our youth today less innovative in terms of tackling unemployment and the crises they are faced with today. Youth of the apartheid generation had something to fight for but today many people are not fighting unemployment, prostitution, crime, drugs etc- all symptoms of poverty arising from the apartheid legacy.

I proposed that Nation Building was the mandate of our parents’ generation- Nelson Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness- a very solid basis for nation building. I suggested that the platform for nation building had been laid and that it was the youth generation’s mandate to tackle unemployment and through this nation building will continue and many of our social crises dealt with. – Joanne Anderson

Mocha Panda Movement

Activator Kanyisa Booi started a youth movement called Mocha Panda. She explains what the movement is all about and what its goals are.

Mocha Panda (Youth Forward) is a sturdy show of solidarity amongst youth. Activators will conduct jam sessions throughout South Africa. Symbolically this will be carried out the Youth Month (June) up to Mandela day (18 July) marked by a 67 minute peaceful ‘Youth Attest’ walk to the Union Building. Information gathered in these jam sessions(dialogues) will be compiled into an Interactive Research, Study and Findings for Youth Development this to be handed on completion to Ministry of Performance and Evaluation Collins Chabane on the 18th of July. This will be a valuable contribution in devising an effective integrated Youth Strategy. With the South African Youth Policy being reviewed in 2014, Mocha Panda (Youth Forward) will be carving the way to a meaningful discussion document.

To stay in touch with Mocha Panda you can join the Facebook Group and follow us on Twitter.

Man Up Durban Exchange

The exchange was held in Durban on the 6th of April 2013. The award-winning human rights activist Jimmie Briggs spoke to the Activators about his Man Up Campaign.  Activator Nkosinathi attended the exchange and he wrote this review about it.

The rising number of gender based violence was the talk of the day. The young men were brought together to look at where does it all begin and where can young men address the issues of gender based violence. A statement that came through during the event was that, a young man is likely to see abuse happen to a female close to them in their life time. The Activators at the breakfast meeting agreed with this statement and also mentioned that as young men we have to rise and address the issues of abuse and violence against the opposite sex.

This led to a discussion around emotions and men being able to express them. The Activators started to question the statement “men are not supposed to cry”. We felt that this is led men to have anger within them and in return they become violent toward the opposite sex. The final word on this was that as men we need to learn to express our emotions.

Jimmie Briggs facilitated a discussion that got young men talking about what standards we have set as men in the communities and what measures have we used to define a man. This shed light on the issue of mentorship; men helping each other better themselves and their community. The idea behind mentorship is to help create a masculine identity that is not solely based on wealth status. 

Briggs highlighted that networking will assist young men to address the issues of gender based violence and also that until we address it at the individual level, i.e. how it affects our family first and then deal with the community; by doing so we can then be able to drive change within the country and to the world at larger. One lesson that was learnt was that we have to do something as young men to change the increase of gender based violence act, we need men to stand up and MAN UP and say it shall not happen with me and when around, I shall blow a whistle on gender based violence.

Young men need to remember that “A Man who sees far does greater”

“Civil society organisations need to prepare for new opportunities and challenges” says Activator Juzaida Swain

South African civil society – quo vadis?

In tough economic times, civil society organisations need to find new and innovative ways to cut costs, find resources and work more effectively, writes JUZAIDA SWAIN.

(First published http://reconciliationbarometer.org/newsletter/volume-eleven-2013/south-african-civil-society-quo-vadis/)

Post-1994, the tasks of confronting social inequalities and driving development in South Africa have increasingly become the work of civil society organisations (CSOs). This sector is already saddled with a mammoth task, but now also faces challenging economic and political constraints that have forced some CSOs to scale down on their activities, or close their doors altogether. According to a recent survey conducted by GreaterGood South Africa, 80% of CSOs participating in the 2012 Job Losses and Service Cuts study have experienced significant declines in funding. This has also led to increased anxiety about the future health of the sector. The downsizing and closure of several established human rights and peace-building organisations in the country has forced CSOs, as well as government, corporate and philanthropic initiatives, to re-strategise and find new funding practices and alternative models, in order to keep to their mandates in a restrictive climate.

These new challenges raise a few fundamentally relevant questions for the sector. Who should ultimately foot the bill for the crucial work carried out by civil society? How best can the different role-players face the current challenges, and achieve both the support and reforms that the country and the sector so desperately need? How best should these challenges be approached, and what opportunities and new models exist that would aid in overcoming the sector’s current uncertainties?

A look at the civil society landscape reveals that, in the BRICS economies alone, there has been a major increase in the numbers of CSOs. The Yearbook of International Organisations estimates that there are approximately 3.3 million registered non-profits in India, 338 000 in Brazil and 460 000 in China – growth in the sector is particularly pronounced in these emerging economies. With about 90 000 organisations in South Africa working across a range of different focal areas, CSOs take on a substantive role as convenors, facilitators and advocates. However, these high numbers also mean an exceedingly competitive environment and a contest for financial support that plays out across the global stage.

Given these levels of competition, as well as contracting funds from many northern state funders and philanthropic organisations in the continued aftermath of the recession, many CSOs have looked to corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives as an under-tapped source of support. According to Trialogue’s 15th edition of The CSI Handbook, South African corporates spent R6.9 billion on CSI in 2012. Many corporates, however, have not traditionally funded peace and human rights work, and in fact seem to steer directly away from these areas. There is also a general misperception that CSOs which receive corporate funding are inherently working in opposition to the state, or actively undermining sovereignty. This view has begun to change, however, and many corporates are now both active contributors to governance and economic policy processes, and stakeholders and partners to CSOs.

In fact, partnerships for sustainability between civil society and the private sector should be valued highly now more than ever, and are needed if South Africa is to achieve its developmental goals and realise solutions for ongoing peace and reconciliation work. But these crucial partnerships can only produce the best results if government is also involved in agenda-setting and joint planning. Civil society also needs to be a part of multi-stakeholder platforms if these are to lead to effective practice. Bearing these considerations in mind, formalised efforts to align strategic priorities could translate into greater impact, compared with fragmented efforts of government, the private sector or civil society acting alone. South Africa may have some of the best laws and policies in the world, but problems with implementation are principal causes of recent protest and social unrest. Particularly in the wake of the fatal shooting of protestors at the Lonmin-Marikana mine last year, integrated efforts by all stakeholders could lead to greater stability and prevent future tragedies of this kind.

New opportunities for collaboration also exist through the explosion of technology and social media use, which has revolutionised the work of many CSOs. Citizens and organisations involved in the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, as well as initiatives such as the Right2Know campaign in South Africa, show just how powerful and effective social media can be as an advocacy and activist tool. Sceptics might question the mobilisation and advocacy capacity of organisations that work and build a following and support base primarily online, but the results speak for themselves. For CSOs working in a funding-constrained environment, this trend may increase cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and new, replicable modes of working. In fact, with such rapid technological changes afoot, it is becoming clear that organisations without a strong online presence may ultimately be left behind. Strategising and planning around these changes are critical, as is advocacy around increasing internet accessibility for those who aren’t currently connected.

Looking further into the future, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has developed four scenarios on the possible role of civil society organisations in the eventuality of failing economies and political instability. CSOs need to undergo intense and critical self-examination, and assess their roles in relation to both current and future possibilities. Those of us within the sector need to continually ask ourselves whether we are adequately prepared for worst-case scenarios, in which access to funding continues to diminish as a result of scarce resources, global competition and geopolitical uncertainty.

In a turbulent world, it is likely that CSOs will be forced to become more self-critical in order to prepare for new opportunities and challenges – not only in terms of funding practices, but also to ensure their continued relevance in ever-changing times. It is fundamentally important that CSOs begin looking now at new collaborations for sustainability, innovative fundraising and cost-saving tactics, and tests of impact and relevance, and not just simply invoice governments and corporates.

Juzaida Swain is programme officer for fundraising and strategy at the IJR.

Activate! Exchange – Durban

Last week the Activate!Exchange was launched in Durban, the first in a series of events that discuss what young people are doing to create change and what can be done to support them. We would like to widen activator’s networks of opportunities and create awareness around what they are doing. The panellists were Lynette Ntuli, Sesethu Sidzama, Andrew Layman, Mthobisi Mkhize, Darlene Menzies, Debbie Heustice, Malusi Mazibuko and Nqaba Mpofu. The next Exchange will be held in June in Johannesburg.