Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Volunteer Q&A: U-turn

One Common Grounder shares her experience of volunteering at U-turn, a Common Good partner organisation which works alongside people living on the streets.

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Full name: Catherine Hannington

Congregation: Rondebosch PM

Occupation: I have just finished studying law and I am taking a gap year to do volunteer work.

Tell us a bit about what you do at U-turn.

U-turn runs a weekly Bible study for women who live on the street.  I meet with a group of about eight women and we have a time of fellowship, worship and teaching.

When do you go and for how long?

The Bible study takes place every Thursday at 11am and runs for about an hour and a half.  I meet with two women who work for U-turn to prepare on a Wednesday.

What drew you towards volunteering in this specific way?

If one looks at Jesus’ ministry on earth He was always found amongst the broken and hurting people.  In Luke 4 v 18 Jesus reads out the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that says, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed”.  1 John 2 v 6 says that “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did”.  I really just felt as I read the Bible that if I wanted to draw closer to Jesus, I needed to spend time with the poor.  I really felt that God wanted me to make it a regular part of my life.  I chose to help people living on the street specifically as I drive past them every day and I wanted the opportunity to make a difference in their lives.

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Do Something Different, Make a Difference

Photo Credit: Eneas via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Eneas via Compfight cc

Do you want to do something to make a difference this Human Rights Day? Then get involved in TWD, a campaign to raise funds for our education and employment initiatives in the city of Cape Town.

For some, the idea of flying solo as an individual activist may be a little bit too daunting, which is why the TWD team has made it really easy for everyone to get involved! If you’ve already tried all the conventional methods of trying to think up an idea (like eating cheese before going to bed or reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica) but that gem is still eluding you – why not join a TWD team challenge?

There are a number of TWD activists who have planned group activities that you can join. Ever wanted to see firsthand the look on people’s faces when they realize that they’re right in the middle of a flashmob? Join the ‘Dance Break Flashmob’. Ever thought you could win an amazing race? Join ‘The Amazing Race with a Difference’. Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to dress up as your favourite superhero but just never had the excuse? Well now you do with ‘A Day in the Life of a Closet Superhero’! With an ever-growing list of challenges to choose from you’re bound to find something right up your alley! For a full list of all the available TWD Team Challenges click here.

Joining a TWD team challenge is easy. Just visit the SUPPORT A CHALLENGE page on the TWD website and follow the instructions. Then, on 21 March 2013, conquer your TWD team challenge with your fellow activists! When it’s this easy, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be doing something different to make a difference, right?

For more information on TWD and other ways to get involved visit www.thatwasdifferent.net

A Few Good Men

In today’s post, Common Good volunteer Roger Wood has something to say to the men of our country and the role they need to play in making a change.

Photo Credit: Architect-Licious via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Architect-Licious via Compfight cc

For too long men have left the fight against violence and the abuse of women and children to the women in our communities.  Women have been the mouth piece, because it is the women who have borne the brunt of the pain and injustice.  Men have stepped back perhaps because they feel overwhelmed by the problem or perhaps they feel inadequate in providing a solution.  Jesus was not afraid to tackle the injustices of the society of His day.  He reached out to the hurting and marginalised, bringing compassion and healing.

So how can we help?

I believe it starts with our own attitude to the people who cross our path every day.  The people at the train station or bus stop, the teller in the supermarket , the receptionist at work, the secretaries, cleaners, telephonist, bank clerks and a whole host of others with whom we interact.  How do we treat these people?  Do we greet them and acknowledge their contribution to our lives?  Do we take an interest in their lives and their opinions?  Do we push in front of them to get our place on the train? Do we offer them our seat when the train is full or do we make them stand? Do we ask the cleaner at work about her child’s education or encourage your own child’s teacher as she seeks to control and discipline a whole classroom full of children?

If we drive to work do we criticise others driving as being ‘typical of a women’. At work do we pass on the stereotypical blonde joke or do we mix with the ‘boys’ rating the attractiveness of the new female assistant?  It’s all a matter of how much we respect one another across the gender line.  We live in a society where words are often used to put women down.  We treat them as inferior and when we see them that way we treat them with less respect.  Younger men are looking for role models and they will follow our example.  We therefore need to look at the example we are setting.  We need to have the courage to speak out and challenge others who adopt these wrong attitudes.

When we see films and programmes on TV which portray sexual harassment, we should write to the relevant authorities or the newspapers to complain.  When we see the magazines on the shelves in our supermarket that portray women as sex objects for men, we should have the courage to complain to the management.  We need to speak out about advertising that is offensive and portrays women in the wrong way.

We need also to look for practical ways of helping those NGO’s and church groups seeking to help women caught in the web of violence and abuse.  As men, we may not be the best ones to go out onto the streets to talk to the prostitutes but we can support organisations such as Staatwerk, by coming alongside the women who go out to talk to these ladies.  We can help not just with money but with encouragement, time and transport.

When we do come across others who we feel are being abused we need to treat them with great sensitivity.  Befriend them where we can, show empathy and understanding.  Encourage them not to remain silent.  Urge them to seek help.  The abuse is not their fault; no one asks to be abused.

Lastly, married men need to be the role models in their homes, honouring and treating their wives as equals.  Men need to talk to their children educating boys in the correct attitudes towards masculinity, as well as teaching their daughters about their rights.  Men have a crucial role to play as fathers, friends and leaders.  They need to be the voice of the oppressed and the hurting.  They need to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

Over the past week, we’ve been posting articles in an attempt to facilitate conversation around domestic abuse in South Africa. We’d love to hear your thoughts – please comment, share and get people talking! This is too important an issue for silence.

Acting Against Domestic Violence

Linda Fugard, the manager of Sister’s Incorporated, a home for abused women, shares with us her response to Anene Booysen’s tragic death, proving that we all can make a difference.

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When I heard the news of Anene Booysen’s brutal death on Sat, 2 February 2013, I was deeply touched and knew that I had to do something. I couldn’t just say, “Oh, another day, another statistic,” and carry on with my life. So I called my staff  together to pray for Anene’s family and to ask God what He wanted us to do.

The Western Cape Network on Violence Against Women called a meeting on Friday, 8th February, to address this issue as civil society. At first I thought that I couldn’t attend as I had so much on my plate. I’d been away from Sisters that week for two days attending our provincial Victim Empowerment Programme summit, where Joy from St. Anne’s and I did a presentation on the Western Cape’s Women’s Shelter Movement. Plus, I was leaving the next week for Johannesburg.

But I woke up that Friday morning and had the distinct feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had to attend that meeting. So I heeded God’s prompting and went.

I am so glad that I did. There were over 50 of us from various NGO’s coming together in solidarity.

A friend came up with one of my many suggestions for the meeting, the power of one. One person can make a difference by standing up and saying “NO MORE”. I also asked, “What can we do for the family today? What can we do for the community within the next week?  And how do we change things in SA? How can we make her death count like Amy Biehl’s death has counted?”

We quickly organised a collection to buy flowers to be taken to the funeral the next day by one representative, as well as food. We then looked at a team doing a specific press release, another team organising the march to parliament, and another looking at the justice system. Very quickly we started to put a plan into place.

When we heard that the municipality wanted to start a shelter in her name we quickly offered to work with them to help them with the process of setting this up.

We are also looking at the resources available in the area and calling in experts in the field where the resources are scarce. At the national summit, we sent a statement of support which was endorsed by the whole summit and read out at the gathering at Parliament.

We have also signed various petitions and The National Shelter Movement of SA (of which I am one of the executives) did a presentation at the summit saying enough is enough. Enough meetings, enough talking, enough promises. We need action NOW.

We have all got to stand as one and fight the fight together until domestic violence and rape is no longer tolerated in our country. We cannot go on being called “the rape capital of the world”. What an indictment on our country.

Let’s pray. Let’s hold vigils. Let’s march. Let’s educate. Let’s be the change we want to see.

– Every Monday night, the women from Sisters Incorporated and a group of volunteers from Common Ground Church meet for a women’s Bible study. Email info@commongood.org.za if you’d like more info on how to get involved.

Domestic Violence: It All Starts With The Child

David Harrison, the Chief Executive Officer of The DG Murray Trust, shares how he believes we can break the cycle of violence in South Africa. And how we can get involved in the solution.

Photo Credit: horrigans via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: horrigans via Compfight cc

Do you remember that horrific picture in the Cape Times last year, of a terrified man kneeling in front of a crowd in Khayelitsha preparing to necklace him?  As if that scene wasn’t bad enough, the really bone-chilling stuff was happening behind him, where mothers stood holding the hands of their toddlers as they too watched a man screaming to death.  Those flames must have burnt into the psyche of those children.

We won’t break the cycle of violence in South Africa through a better justice system.  Yes, we desperately need that.  Without trust in the system, women and children won’t report abuse and perpetrators will do it again and again.  But a better system is not enough.  And we won’t break the cycle of violence through campaigns – important though they are in keeping the issue in the public consciousness.  We will only break the cycle of violence if we can stop it in the home, way before the man lifts his hand against his partner.  You see, it must start with the child.

In the past decade, scientists like Jack Shonkoff have shown the relationship between chronic stress in children and dysfunctional and dangerous adulthood.  “The active ingredient in the environment…”, says Shonkoff,  “is the quality of the relationships that children have with the important people in their lives. That’s what it’s all about.”  Where mothers are constantly moving from home to home looking for food or a bit of money; where fathers are absent or only around binge-drinking over the weekends; where children of three or four wander around on streets instead of being part of early learning centres – then societies turn on themselves, and turn violent.

So what can be done?

Let’s start by focusing more on the child – and let’s start with what WE can do.  The child psychologist Alice Miller describes the “essential role of an enlightened witness” in the lives of children.  People who can be there with the child – understand his or her hurt, even if they can’t take it away.  Miller’s view is that the role of a witness enables a child to unload the pain – externalise the anger and prevent it becoming bottled up in our very genes.  There are about 35 000 children born in the City of Cape Town each year who are at particular risk – whose lives will be stressful and insecure.  Will you reach out to just one of them and be their witness as they grow up?

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