It is National Women’s Day in South Africa.
Our team in Samora Machel celebrated it by organizing a special event at the Soup Kitchen initiative in which they are involved. The men cooked and served food, and the women got together to talk about Gender Based Violence, sharing experiences and resources, weaving a safety network for each other within the community.
Some context for those reading us from outside the country: South Africa has been under lockdown to contrast the spread of Covid-19 since 27th March 2020. The measures in place have been effective in curbing the virus transmission, yet contributed to increasing the already super high unemployment levels (30,1% in June 2020), and impacted the informal economy as well, resulting in many people losing their sources of income. Millions of people are without money and without food. Mitigating measures put in place by the government bring little relief due to limited resources when compared to the sheer numbers of individuals in need.
This situation prompted many individuals and organisations of the civil society to spring into action to bring some assistance on a very local scale. Most of those initiatives revolve around Soup Kitchens and food distribution programmes.
The Samora Team of Friends of Thandolwethu, together with other local organisations, set up a Samora CAN (Community Action Network) and contributed to found a Soup Kitchen initiative which has two satellite distribution points as well as a door-to-door distribution programme where volunteers use bicycles to bring food directly at home to those members of the community that cannot reach the distribution points due to disability, old age, etc.; the scheme feeds 150-160 people per day, Monday to Friday, reaching 250 on occasions.
Mzi, Sbosh, and Wendy (the Samora Team) have been involved in this project daily since the beginning, and Friends of Thandolwethu assisted the project with a specific fundraising campaign via Backabuddy.
National Women’s Day celebrations offered yet another opportunity to turn food distribution into an opportunity to discuss a topic of great impact on the community and share resources for those women that may need to get out of a situation of abuse.
Women face the greatest risk during this pandemic: in addition to the issues brought about by job and income losses, cases of domestic violence are spiking through the country. In the first three weeks of lockdown, for example, the national hotline for abused women and children received 120,000 calls, which is double the usual volume.
Why are the Friends of Thandolwethu supporting a Soup Kitchen initiative, as well as actions to contrast gender-based violence?
Our core project is the building of a Reggio Emilia inspired Early Childhood Education Centre in Samora Machel, and we stay fully committed to it. At the core of the Reggio Emilia approach as we understand it, there are two pillars: community and citizenship. They both resonate in the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child”, meaning that children are part of the community and the whole community is responsible for their growth and education into full citizenship – this is not a job that parents and educators can do on their own! Any issue impacting the community inevitably reverberates on the ECD project: we cannot work with children while ignoring the issues that their parents and relatives are facing, nor we can ignore the challenges affecting the community at large. We are one.