What does it mean to be a girl growing up in South Africa today?

This week begins a series of posts written by the SEED community chronicling their journey into the rural heartland of Limpopo, South Africa with 25 girls who are a part of the SEED program. The trip was a part of the urban/rural exchange filmed to capture the voice of young women of South Africa. The journey was documented through journal entries by SEED staff and each Friday for the next 8 weeks will Girls’ Globe will publish a new entry. 

Day 1:

Saturday morning 7:30 am and the inner city of Johannesburg seems to exhale. There is a calm and certain grace the streets behold as if some time long ago, she was destined for a brighter future. We are quiet until we see the vans, the girls arriving, greeting each other with open arms.

Anticipation turns to excitement. The vans are decorated, packed to the brim, and everyone gathers for a prayer and so the GirlZtalk bus tour officially begins.  We are 20 SEED girls, 5 facilitators and 3 film crew. We will be spending the next 8 days with girls from 2 villages in the rural heartland of Limpopo province. GirlZtalk is about engaging the voice of girls across South Africa. It is about creating a space where girls can talk, share their stories and raise the issues they are facing today. It is about finding ways to overcome these challenges and above all else it is about, listening.

The vans set off with music blaring. A 700km journey before us. We are heading north to Ha-Makhueha, a small village close to the Zimbabwean border. After 6 hours on the road, the open plains give way to lush orchards of litchee and mango trees. The richness of the earth is honoured by a landscape of intense shades of green and an abundance of food crops sprawling onto the road side.

It is late afternoon by the time we arrive and we are greeted by our local co-ordinator Moshudu,a headman of the traditional council. Ladies soon gather to pick up our girls and in small groups we head off to our new homes for the next 4 days.  We are all looking forward to tomorrow when we will be meeting the girls of the community.

Photo courtesy of SEED Community
Photo courtesy of SEED Community

Day 2:

By 8:30 we meet in the hall belonging to the local primary school. Groups of girls gather at the entrance and once assembled we realise we have more than 100.

The village chief, Khosi Makudu arrives with his headmen and offers his blessing for the next days. When his name is mentioned, there is loud ululating from the audience and everyone lies prostrate on the floor,hands clasped together above our heads. After doing this 14 times in the space of an hour, our GirlZtalk workshop is officially blessed, the chief leaves and we begin.

The village girls are shy but eager to participate and so the morning is spent playing games, singing and just getting to know each other. We have 4 women preparing the lunch over wood fires at the back of the school. They have been there since 5am preparing the fire for the enormous pots of pap (a traditional maize meal), chicken and vegetables. They sit under the trees peeling and chatting and laughing at us as we attempt to stir the pap as it bubbles on the fire.

After lunch our group diminishes in size as girls disappear in small groups  through the school gates. We are soon told that in one village, girls were told we are here to offer bursaries and catering training. Realising that this was not the case, they were not going to hang around! Somewhat baffled, we continue with a group of about 60.

We spend the afternoon in groups identifying the main challenges girls feel they are facing. Posts go up on the walls. Teenage pregnancies, education, rape, substance abuse, are the main issues. Crime, lack of resources, human trafficking, and HIV are not far behind.  The next 2 days will be spent exploring those issues in more depth with a show planned for the last day.

As the village girls leave, we gather as a group. It is an emotional discussion as the girls, who are mainly from the townships of Johannesburg, speak of the generosity of their hosts, how humble and welcoming the community is. As much as this is a journey to discover the voice of girls of South Africa, it is also a personal journey of self discovery for all of us.

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Tagged with: #girlseducation    adolescent girls    education    empowering gi    Feature Friday    SEED Community    South Africa    Violence against women