The major highlight of the month was the resounding success of our cultural event in Thulani Extension 1 – the day began with relentless rain, which had us worrying that people from the community wouldn’t make it, but by the end of the day we were blown away by the turn out, which far exceeded our expectations for the day. You can read the full article for details of what the event was and why it was so important.
Women and Foreigners
As it was International Women’s Day this month, many of our updates have women as a central focus. The intention behind the meetings and initiatives is to go beyond simply outlining the challenges that women face – and to use this understanding as a basis to inform an active response, and support women in becoming agents of change for their own situations and communities.
The Women Can Do It training was attended by ASC member Lerato, as well as a representative from SASOWNET (the South African Somali Women’s Network). This training offered 2 things: first, understanding about the ways in which women are still undermined in society – for example, the fact that on average there is only a 17% representation of women in parliaments around the world, despite women being 50% of the population – this is a challenge for democracy, which is intended to be representative of the population. It also highlighted the day-to-day ways in which women are excluded either consciously or unconsciously in ways that we may not even be aware of. For instance, stereotyping and jokes, ignoring, and withholding information, which disempowers women from responding effectively to matters that concern them. Second, the training identified practical ways in which women can respond to these problems, such as by forming their own information sharing networks, learning to speak out confidently and communicate effectively, using the media, and most importantly working together.
We hope that this training can also be used further with SASOWNET, who we’ve been meeting with to identify the greatest challenges the Somali ladies are currently facing, and to map the way forward. Given the recent attacks against Somali-owned shops, the women shared that they are feeling particularly vulnerable now and further inhibited from getting jobs. Some of them have been directly affected by the looting of their shops. We plan to put together a publication documenting the stories of the Somali women living in South Africa, to help spread awareness of the background against which people immigrate to South Africa, as well as what the women are doing to integrate here.
During the Women’s Day event attended by the ASC, there was a particular focus on what African women living in South Africa can do to actually help prevent xenophobia. The event was a chance for women to talk about what it means to be a foreign woman living in South Africa, and encouraged to find ways to be active participants in promoting peace.
Developments in the ACTION Network
There have been some recent developments with the members in the network, including the ASC staff, the steering committee and the broader ACTION network.
The ASC team will be saying goodbye to Steven Leach, who is moving on from his time with the ASC. Steven was based in our Cape Town office, and was active in the Making All Voices Count project – a research project on the role of communications infrastructures in early warning/response systems. He also participated in the inter-religious aspect of our work. We wish him well for the future!
The first Steering Committee meeting was also held, that included all of the new members who were identified at the General Members Meeting late last year. A new member, Jessica Lawson, has been co-opted onto the committee and will assist with the operations in the ASC office.
Finally, we are pleased to have Richard Ndi Tanto appointed to the Global Advisory Council of the Alliance for Peacebuilding, where he will be able to input into the inter-religious component of the organisation.
With partners and beyond – connecting across Africa and the world
A webinar was organised to host discussion between partners from across Africa who are working together on the Making All Voices Count project. The discussion was about radio as a tool in early warning and response systems. While early research seems to indicate that most technology is over-rated in these systems, due to poor literacy or accessibility rates, radio still seems to hold a significant position in connecting people and communication in communities. This said, the most effective strategy in warning-response systems has more to do with the relationships between stakeholders and levels of trust than the technology used.
Just as the relationship between stakeholders on a community level is important for peace, so are the relationships between stakeholders on a larger scale, spanning the continent and world. This was a topic that ASC member Philani emphasised during seminars hosted at the World Social Forum in Tunisia. The seminars focussed on forging sustainable partnerships across Africa and the world, revolutionary pan-africanism, and stories of youth involvement in mobilising change.
As we consider the change that we envision and the peace we strive for through all of these initiatives, we have been reminded again of the importance of these efforts by the devastating terror attack that left 148 students dead in Kenya. We have issued a statement declaring our solidarity with the victim’s families and those affected, and calling for calm and consideration in the response to this tragedy, ensuring that justice is done while remembering that violence begets more violence, and transformation comes as a result of long term dialogue and mutual consideration.
Photo of Kenya student massacre found on KWESTA Facebook page