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.
People share stories, but they don’t want the follow up. There is a lot of fear.
I cannot really say I was taught. It came with excitement and passion and I tried, because I always give my best to every aspect of my life. Growing up, we didn’t stay with my dad so we didn’t have time with him. He only provided through my mother. I grew up with my sisters not with my brothers, so no one really taught me how to be a dad. I don’t think it’s something you can learn but it’s something that you can create for yourself. And that’s the problem with young dads is that we think that having a child is more about providing financially. Of course, they need this provision but it’s not the only thing. If someone is unemployed they tend to run away because they cannot provide financially for their child, but there are other ways to give – emotionally and physically just by being there. Acknowledging the gift that you’ve been entrusted with. It’s a very special gift to have someone to carry your bloodline and to have your own creation.
It’s not about learning it. It’s there in us naturally. It’s all about unearthing it. You cannot learn to love because love comes naturally to a human heart. It’s just that people don’t take care of it and it can fall away and be buried under emotion and fear. Fear of not being good enough, fear of failing to provide, fear of taking responsibility. The capacity to be a good dad is there, it just needs to be nourished and watered like a plant. I’ve seen it with many guys who are fathers. They hardly see their children but when you sit and talk they say with pride, “Ah, this is my son, this is my daughter.” Which means that it’s there, but they haven’t found ways to nourish it or they don’t have that support structure to help them realise their potential as fathers.
My partner’s mom and her dad before he died in 2016. They were very supportive because my partner and I were in our final year at University when she fell pregnant. My partner’s mom looked after the baby during the day so that made our lives so much easier. My partner also has encouraged and supported me in my relationship with our child. Emotionally and physically, my sisters have been there supporting us. But the person that stands out the most in my partner’s mom. She did so much for our daughter.
I am not perfect. There are times when I get into a fight with my partner and I am so emotional that I shut down and then maybe I won’t call her. But by not calling her I won’t speak to my daughter. If I don’t see my partner, I don’t see my daughter. Not that she’s punishing me, but it’s a choice that I make because I am angry. In the beginning I would only spend time with her when her mother was present but my partner said to me that I need to spend time with my daughter without her being present. Now we hang out more alone together and then we have time together as a family. What happens is if you break up with your partner and the relationship with your child is relying on your relationship with her, then you run the risk of your relationship with your child to be broken.
My partner and I allow her space to be open and talk about anything. Knowledge is power, so we teach her about her body and private parts and who can touch her where. We have a rule that only her mom can touch her private parts when necessary. We have taught her that if anyone comes to the gate, even if it is me, she always has to run inside to tell her mom or granny first so that they are aware there is a visitor.
What I enjoy most is seeing myself in her. Seeing how she has copied me almost completely, even the way she sits. I really enjoy that she is confident, active and fearless. She’s a fast learner…she’s amazing!
A lot! She’s taught me that love between a child and their parents is one of the most fundamental things that there is in life. And I get her love in return. You learn to appreciate life more. Recently, she’s been able to differentiate when my partner and I talking and when we are disagreeing about something. I’ve learnt to be careful around her because sometimes you overlook that as parents. We get lost in our own emotions and forget that someone is watching. She has taught me to be patient because when I’m trying to teach her something, it just doesn’t happen overnight. But eventually she gets it. And when she does, that’s the most amazing feeling. You need to step down to their level and be playful!
I would say, at first it is scary, I won’t lie. You will ask yourself, will I be able to do this? It can be challenging. Sometimes you can feel like you’re not sure and I think that’s only natural. I would say to them, if you are willing commit yourself to love first. Don’t think about the other stuff, think about love and what love means to you. Because if we put ourselves in a situation of love you will begin to think differently. And once you look in their eyes and see the look of trust and innocence, once you hold them and start to bond you will see that you have been entrusted with something special. I really believe we all have it in us and it’s not impossible to love. You can get married and get divorced. You can have friends and then the friendship might end, but parenthood is for life. Every day counts. What we do today will determine our relationship with our child tomorrow.
That’s an interesting question!! It means to have someone to protect you. To be entrusted with that role of being a hero for your child. To be given that privilege to take care of someone.
Back in 2013, I was 23 years old.
I was overwhelmed with joy more than fear. I remember that I just couldn’t contain myself.
I have always wished for a daughter as my firstborn so that was my first hope, that “it” was a she. I even named her 2 – 3 weeks after finding out about the pregnancy. I named her Ntokozenhle which means ‘Beautiful Joy’. I was excited and I couldn’t wait to meet her and look into her eyes. Of course, there was that fear. Would I be able to do this? Would I be good enough? Would I have enough to take care of her and attend to her every need? But the excitement was greater than the fear. I was so excited about being a dad!
Yesterday, her mom was saying “She’s growing up now, God is good.” Time flies and passes by so quickly. It has been amazing seeing her grow over this time and seeing her portray some of my traits. She is like me. We’re birds of the same feather; in our attitudes, in the way we behave…it has been a wonderful time for me. Of course there have been challenges, but never too much for me to say I can’t do this.
You sometimes wonder if you are doing enough and you don’t always have what she needs at the right time. Small stuff catches you off guard, like when she needs new shoes and you just bought new ones a short while ago. That feeling you get when she’s not well. And it’s challenging because we do not live together, she stays with her mom and so weekends when I have to work and I cannot see her are the hardest for me.
My role as a dad is being there, being present and providing to the best of my abilities. Letting her know that she is loved. I feel like we as men have a resistance to showing our feelings to our children. We assume they know we love them but I believe that my role is being there and really making sure that she knows she is loved.
Oh! We go crazy! She likes card games, taking selfies and reading stories. She loves stories, I read to her and become animated with sounds because she loves that. If you’re reading about a lion you have to roar. We enjoy driving together. And now we’ve added a new activity because she wants her hair cut like mine, so now we go to the barber together because she wants to look like me! There’s a lot that we do together.
Obviously one is never perfect. I want to be the greatest dad. I want to use every minute of every day that I get to spend with her to be one that she doesn’t forget. One of the things I say is I want her to remember me long after I am gone. I want her to remember that she had a dad that was irreplaceable and unforgettable. I want to be the kind of dad that provides enough affection and love for her and that she knows “this is dad” and this person I trust.
Consider your relationships with children; your own or nieces, nephews, friend’s kids, or your neighbour’s, or children you work with. What conversations could you have with them about what a safe space means to them? Because even that one conversation provides a child with a safe space to participate and contributes to child protection!
- She did not once in all the 3 days look at her cell phone. Every tea and lunch break she interacted with us. That communicates something very strongly to me in this day and age where we are all (I include myself) glued to our communication devices whenever we see a gap!
- She listened really, really well.
- She was in no rush at all. We had a lot of ground to cover, but she had all the time in the world for us, walking at our pace so we focused on the area’s most important to us.
- She was completely committed to our learning. Her language was such that she was always gently encouraging; “You can do this, you can do this. It just takes practice, give it a go.”
- She believed in the potential of every single person present and communicated that over and over again.
- She brought who she was, she was authentic and real.
In the field: Testing, testing…
- Sexting per se between children and teens in the community we work with is not a common practice at present.
- Sexting is a made-up English word and is tricky to translate into isiZulu.
- The passing on of pornographic photos and videos generated by the porn industry via WhatsApp is a far more common practice in this community. (As opposed to nude selfie pictures sent between two people in a relationship with one another). The average age of first exposure to full on porn is 11 years old in South Africa – unfortunately this statistic seems to bear out from all I heard.
- It is vitally important to start talking to caregivers about the beauty and the dangers of the internet, they need to be on board, placing boundaries and protection around their children.
- Some schools are telling caregivers that their children need to have smartphones in order to access the internet and enhance learning opportunities. These same schools have not necessarily talked about online safety and safeguarding measures (And this concerns me greatly).
- It’s a really tricky tightrope when you’re aware you have some children who are extremely sheltered and have never heard about pornography and now you’re bandying the term about, and then some children who have heard, seen and possibly done it all.
- Re-design needs to happen, with a focus on how one can conduct a healthy relationship with the internet so that one’s reputation and retina are not damaged and the soul not permanently scarred after a few years of internet use.
- I am delighted to go back to the drawing board and re-think the design of this, it means that the feedback has been real, and hopefully I have ‘heard’ correctly as I have listened and engaged with people.
Here is Nonto in the far right of the picture, playing with caregivers and their children in a recent Family Support process.
Ibhayi Lengane: "The Child’s Blanket"
For more info on Ethembeni visit: www.ethembeni.co.za
- fear of rejection,
- fear of the unknown,
- lack of trust of practitioner, language barriers,
- denial of the current situation,
- the client is not ready to talk or open up,
- afraid of being a failure,
- afraid of being judged,
- low self-esteem,
- protecting someone,
- when the client has lost hope and
- emotional and physical pain…
PACSA is the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action | www.pacsa.org.za
Written by Skhumbuzo Mpisane (PACSA Process Facilitator)
Dlalanathi follow up story…
Ibhayi Lengane: The Child’s Blanket
- It is used for Traditional African attire
- It’s how we warm ourselves on a winter’s evening sitting in front of the fire
- We sleep with them
- They are given as a present for a new-born baby
- Blankets are essential
- Feel cosy
- Used for Umembeso (the giving of blankets in the stages of a Zulu wedding)
- It communicates comfort
- And many of us can remember carrying or babies blanket around with us though the early years of our childhood
- How do you make space to review your processes in your work life as an organisation?
- How do you make space for fun and laughter together as a team?
- We’d love to hear your practices and ideas, or your thoughts on how you can build this into your organisation in 2018!
- Self-care: creative activities and sustainable techniques for self-care, mindfulness, knowledge about self and work-life balance.
- Reflection tools: for reflection on work, developing professional practice, using theory to help understanding – debriefing and creative reflection
- Personal and professional tools in managing relationships
- Knowledge and skills for how organizations can support developing reflective practice.