16 Days messages from children

Sphesihle, Samkhe, Phumzile and Lucky, out of school youth involved in the dlalanathi Youth Process, have been conducting a series of workshops in schools, these workshops are focused on gender, gender roles and power. At the end of the workshop, the team invite the participants to write what they wish for during these 16 Days of Activism and beyond. During the process, there are opportunities for self and group reflection and sharing. Writing on the material is a further way for the children’s voices to be heard and acknowledged.
1 I wish to stop telling lies
2 I wish to have a car and I wish that people can stop abusing women
3 I wish that we could all be treated the same way and do the same things
4 I wish that things could change the world
5 I wish that boys and girls can be the same and I wish that we could respect each other and My wish is for men to stop abusing women

Introducing the Team: Linda Smallbones

lindaLinda Smallbones: Development Manager
What is a “typical” working day for you?
I spend most of my days in the office, reading, researching, thinking, talking to people and attempting to be creative. Some days I go into the field and I love those opportunities.
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month?
Gugu and I travelled to Joburg to present some of our work at the Couch and Country conference for the South African Psychoanalytic Confederation. A great time of learning from professionals in the mental health field who are passionate about holistic wellness. A big takeaway for me was realising, again, that we as NGOs and community workers have so much to offer our country in terms of strengthening mental health. This was incredibly affirming.
What is one challenge you have to contend with in your role?
The gap between the office and the field is sometimes big! By this I mean that what I (and the team), dream, create and design in the office doesn’t always necessarily work well in the community. And sometimes the feedback loop around different aspects doesn’t get closed and therefore I am not always aware of what’s not working, or what is working fantastically well! (Which I love to celebrate!)
What motivated you to go into this work?
I am a social worker by training, with 13 years’ experience “in the field” - a mix of community, family and group work. My role at dlalanathi pulls together my years of experience in diverse settings and allows me to use creativity that I find stimulating and fun. dlalanathi’s approach is beautifully unique and incredibly respectful of indigenous knowledge and strengths, and is grounded in relationships. When you read or hear people’s stories of what has changed for them, you realise that this works. I love being part of this philosophy and practice because it’s authentic and exciting to me personally and professionally.
What keeps you going?
Passion for people.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work?
Outdoorsy, family-orientated, introvert.

Introducing the Team: Nomagugu “Gugu” Mpembe

guguNomagugu “Gugu” Mpembe: Parenting Programmes Coordinator
What is a “typical” working day for you? A lot of organising and scheduling and calling and setting up meetings and groups, awareness and trainings. And then the actual work in the community.
What has been a memorable moment in your work in the past month? It’s been with the Play Mat* refresher process. We started the process in order to increase play and learning in the home, but it’s been very significant for me to realise that the impact has gone beyond play in the home, to be able to impact emotional and physical stuff that is happening in homes. I don’t think I was expecting cases of abuse and physical punishment of children (to come to light). I think it shows how powerful play is, through play, children are expressing more. Children are talking about what’s happening to them in a space where before, they wouldn’t have gotten the chance to. They’re trusting their caregivers in that environment to be able to help them, it just shows the type of relationships the facilitators are building with the caregivers and then the relationships that caregivers are building with their children.
What are challenges you have to contend with in your role? There is a challenge in the community of people’s participation, and of keeping the momentum of our work going in the community. We put a lot of work in and put in so much effort into building relationships, to providing training, and at the end of the day, the responses can be much lower than what you expected them to be. I understand that there’s a lot that people are preoccupied with, there are a lot of challenges that they’re facing, and it also just reflects how difficult life is for everybody.
Another challenge is sometimes you expect a lot from yourself, you think you’re not doing enough.
It’s challenging to work with people’s emotions. Every day you need to be present and find a way to let the stories that come up affect you. It feels like you’ve got to be a bit of a Superwoman, wake up every day to take it all in again.
Sometimes it’s hard to live with people’s stories. You realise that you might be more privileged in certain ways than others, how you balance that can be challenging at times.
What motivated you to go into community/youth work? I don’t know! Lots of people wouldn’t have expected me to be in this work, as an extremely introverted person. But this is starting to change. I am an introverted extrovert now! At the same time, I don’t see myself doing anything else but community work. I’m an introvert but I’m very different when I work with people. They bring out a different side of me.
I manage by “switching off” when I go home. I don’t want to talk, I want to be alone in my own space. I’m a personal space person, I’m a hibernator. It just clicks in after work. I like it like that, it works for me. This is what re-energizers me.
What keeps you going? Breaks. I enjoy time out. Going on holiday refreshes my mind and gets me ready to get back into the work again. Not dwelling on a lot of stuff that comes as a part of my work, and just accepting that it’s not mine. I’m just a tool. Which is hard sometimes, but I’m always trying to find that balance of “this is not mine”.
What three words describe you when you’re not at work? Hibernator, couch potato, social time (Play!) with friends.
*For further details about our Play Mat process please have a look at our Website www.dlalanathi.org.za under the tab ‘Our Programmes’ and ‘Research and Development’.
Gugu, second from left, in planning with the team over a ME Power weekend.

Interview with Basadi @ Work

Interview with Basadi @ Work – “Basadi” means women so these are women @ work and as one member describes it, “We’re missioning!”


Zama (19), Thando (25) and Nokubonga (23) are all young moms. They each have a daughter, 4 years, 4 years and 3 ½ years respectively. Each has dealt with the challenges of being a young mom in a community where many young moms are rejected by the father of the child “Often there is no support from the father’s side of the family, so many young women raise their child alone.”

In March 2017, Basadi @ Work was launched. And there has been no slouching since then! This group sees a need and a fit with who they are, and they just go for it. Their passion and care are woven through all their responses as we talk.

Around the middle of 2017, Thando and Thembeka (not present at the interview), attended a Teen Moms process run by dlalanathi Community Facilitator, Gugu. In Thando’s words: “we fell in love with it (the Teen Moms process)!”

Thando and Thembeka then went on to run a Teen Mom’s process of their own, Zama and Nokubonga both attended this and were also impacted by it. When I asked what they have received from these processes, these were their responses:

“We were learning about how to raise our children, how to play with them, because sometimes as a mom you don’t have time to play with our children… but we learnt how important it is. We learnt not to shout at them or to call them names.

“I learned how to grow my child and how to talk to her and how to respect her and how to see when something is not right. We talk to one another more now.

“Every time I’m with my child, I get closer to her, I let her be friends with me and let her be free when she’s around me. Most of us grew up with our mothers swearing at us, calling us names so what we learned is that if we swear at our children, they will grow up not having a close relationship with us. I can communicate to my daughter that what she is doing is wrong, but do it in a right way – not shouting and swearing.

Following this process, Nokubonga and Zama joined Basadi @ Work as members and together they decided that they wanted to continue bringing the messages around care, protection and parenting to young moms in their area. They are currently in the middle of a process with 9 local young moms. Here’s why they see it as so important:

“We decided to do Teen Moms so that we could talk and hear the problems of the young girls (some as young as 12 years old) and hear their problems and look for solutions together.

“(We want) to see their lives changing. To take good things from what we’re saying to them and to do something with it.”

Basadi are really concerned about young girls dropping out of school due to pregnancy and passionately believe in education as a way forward.

“They need to go back to school, education is the key.

“My advice would be to stay in school. Youth need to stand up and build their own future. Stay in school and push on. Education is key.”

“Even though you may be pregnant, don’t give up on life, don’t try to drop school, cos there is no need for that. Carry on, like me, I was pregnant and doing grade 10 but I didn’t give up. I always knew what I would like to become so I didn’t drop school. Don’t lose hope, when you know where you’re going, you become something.”

“For those who don’t see school as a key, they should push themselves and go back to school. If you’re not educated, life outside will be hard for you, so you need to go to school and learn. You need to know where you’re going and a things that you want to have in life. Not all of us are great at the books, we must look for what we’re good at.”

These are their messages of hope for young girls who may be pregnant and scared…

“Everyone is the best! Nothing can conquer you, you need to stand up for yourself and think about what’s best for yourself. Don’t let go of things that you do know means a lot to you – especially school.”

Don’t lose hope, even if the situation looks hectic. Having support groups like this one, like Basadi and Teen Moms, where young people get together and talk about these issues. Form a group where you can debrief and come together when you need support. Invite those who have kids to come and talk about how they managed. Babies are a gift, if you’re pregnant you have been given a gift so you have to take care of and appreciate that gift. That baby didn’t ask to be born so parents need to take responsibility and try to provide to the best of your abilities. We are trying.”

What’s next for Basadi @ Work?

Continue to work with young moms. We also want to engage with the kids of the moms. We want to work with teens to prevent early pregnancies.

With the kids, we want to have sessions with them on how they feel around the community, whether they feel secure. Make them our friends, to tackle all the challenges that they face in their households. A few of them are starting doing drugs, so to help prevent this.

Celebrating Women’s Month August 2018

Speech by Thobeka, Grade 9, given on Women’s Day 2018.
Greetings. My name is Thobeka. I am doing grade 9. In school I am a student leader and also a peer leader in the community. My role as a leader is to lead my peers by example and honestly. I should not lead by authority but should lead by knowledge.
Womens Day collage
However, before I am a leader, I am a girl. And on this day (9 August, Women’s Day, South Africa) I will tell you how it is like to be a woman and also be a leader in this country. For me, being a girl has never made things feel different as of a boy. But some women who I am close to have felt that gender inequality. This is whereby a man’s voice sounds louder than a woman’s voice (In Zulu we say; izenzo zomuntu wesilisa zibukeka zibalulekile futhi kuyizo ezifanele umuntu wesfazane.)
But, gender inequality is not the only problem that we women face. Day by day we are discriminated because of our bodies, on the way we dress. This is what is called “body shaming.” I can relate to this, as I have and still experience body shaming where people are always saying “Thobeka, you getting bigger”, “Thobeka that skirt doesn’t look good on you because usududla (you’re fat)”, “Thobeka, you should start jogging.” And I always ask myself that who said that for me to be beautiful I have to be slender?
As much as body shaming has played a huge role on most women’s lives and destroyed their self-esteem and their confidence. I have not let this get into me. Maybe this is because I have people who always tell me that I am beautiful just the way I am and that my body is precious just the way it is. And I believe that we should get more people who can tell our women that and the little girls that are still growing up.
But sometimes, on some cases we women feel our importance and see our value, on events and days like this. Where everyone can be able to hear our challenges that we face and those make us less human.
I believe we should have more men like the ones that are with us here today. Men who have hope, and also support women in leadership.
So everybody, forget all the reasons why it (equality) won’t work and believe the one reason why it will! All the limits are self-imposed. To all the ladies here today, Happy Women’s Day.