South Africa has been hit exceedingly hard by COVID-19, which intensified an already difficult and dangerous situation for girls and young women living in the country’s populous informal townships. Due to high rates of poverty, crime and a lack of social support services, women and girls here are at an enormous risk of rape, abuse, and gender-based violence.
To help alleviate this situation in one such community on the outskirts of Johannesburg called Setswetla, AHF partnered with an AHF Fund recipient Ntethelelo Foundation to develop a first-ever safe space for girls and young women by procuring several shipping containers which have been converted into a meeting space, a library, restrooms and a shower, a classroom and a kitchen – basic and essential facilities that most girls in Setswetla don’t have access to.
See photos here!
During a recent celebration of South Africa’s Women’s Community Day on Aug. 9, the Ntethelelo Foundation and its Founder and Executive Director Thokozani Ndaba welcomed over 80 guests, including many girls and young women from AHF’s Girls Act empowerment project to inaugurate the containers by painting colorful murals on them. The day was dedicated to celebrating girl’s empowerment and included music, food, and sessions on sexual health education and HIV testing.
“When we first heard of the dangers of rape and lack of basic safety for the girls of the Ntethelelo Foundation living in the Setswetla community, we immediately started planning with Thokozani on how we could create a safe space for the girls and the program. COVID hit and plans went forward but it was much delayed,” said AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy Terri Ford. “We are overjoyed to see that the containers have been delivered and the girls have painted them with beautiful colors – creating their own space and safe spot where they can get together, get online, learn, grow, be empowered and build confidence and unity.”
Tintswalo Manganyi, an administrative assistant for the Ntethelelo Foundation who attended the celebration, said young women and girls in attendance were very excited to paint their life experiences by using the containers as their canvas. “It is another opportunity for us to stand with one voice as Womyn* in South Africa and celebrate ourselves,” Manganyi said. “Like the womyn before us, we wish to leave a powerful legacy for future womyn leaders and survivors of gender-based violence and rape.”
*Womyn is an alternative spelling of “women” adopted by some feminists.