Eradicating Violence – My Community’s Story

When it comes to the fight against violence against women and girls, it’s quite safe to say that in my community we haven’t won yet. However, we are making progress, and this progress is due to the dedication of Village Health Workers (VHW).

Aside from offering health care, VHWs are instrumental in advocating for the abolishment of violence against women. I understand that women the world over face violence in so many forms, and that the problems women in my community are facing are mirrored in challenges women face globally.

It’s how we’re tackling gender-based violence in my community that makes us unique.

Royden-Nyabira in Mashonaland West province is located 50km from the capital city of Zimbabwe – Harare. We do not have a dedicated organization in my community working to end GBV, however, that has not incapacitated us from tackling the issue.

Village Health Workers are the ones who have taken up the advocacy as well the policing role in the fight to eliminate violence against women. VHWs act as the eyes and ears of the village and work with law enforcement agents and the Ministry of Health – which has resulted in a sizeable number of cases of GBV being reported.

There are still a lot of men who are resistant to change and continue resorting to violence as a means of solving family disputes. However, we do not tire because this is a fight which we must win. My community’s strategy has always been  simple and realistic – VHWs educate community members through conversation and discussion.

It’s perfect for us because there is room for everyone to interact and ask questions, while VHWs have the opportunity to answer and clarify things. There is a lot of information about GBV available online, but people in my community are very poor and cannot afford to buy data to access information on the internet.

By circulating information through word of mouth everyone has the opportunity to learn – even those who can’t read or write or access the internet – and so the possibility of leaving anyone behind is reduced.

Utilisation of what we have available is what makes us a unique community. Oral education has had a positive impact so far, and the community’s attitudes to GBV has changed – as evidenced by the reduction of GBV cases. Our Village Health Worker’s commitment to ending GBV has not been in vain.

On top of everything else, VHWs voluntarily conduct a door-to-door operation to engage with residents. This has helped victims of violence to come out of their silence and tell their stories in safety. The method itself has helped build trust between the health worker and the victim because without trust it’s difficult to convince victims to share their stories.

VHWs work on voluntary basis and are very committed. Their opinion on gender based violence is that it is an abuse of human rights and a health care emergency, which means that when reacting to reported cases of violence, they treat no case as an afterthought.

This door-to-door process is time-consuming but it is effective, as evidenced by the community’s growing understanding of what GBV is and the implications it has on the well-being of victims and the community as a whole. In my community, we believe everyone has a role to play in ending gender-based violence. If we can’t do it for the present then surely we have to do it for our future generations.

I believe that if people are willing and committed to the fight to end violence against women, we can and will be successful. We can and will reach Goal 5.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals so that by 2030, there will be elimination of all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

This is a very ambitious target, but it’s achievable if everyone joins in.

Unlocking Technology’s Potential: the Social Good Summit 2017

Every September, the world’s leaders gather together at the United Nations to debate on the world’s most pressing issues and present their points of view to the world for a week. This year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) is focusing on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, which were adopted in 2015.  

One of the biggest events of the week is The Social Good Summit, which is held annually. It’s goal is to bring together a community of global citizens and progressive leaders to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. This year, the Social Good Summit will focus on how we can use technology to achieve these goals and make the world a better place. The Summit is particularly special this year because it’s the first global virtual summit exploring social innovation, disruptive technology, and the power of mobilizing networks to address some of today’s most challenging issues.

Since Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, the Summit will include a panel on Women in Activism with Carmen Perez, Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice. She is the co-founder of Justice League NYC and founder of Justice League CA, two state-based task forces for advancing criminal justice reform agenda. She has organized numerous national campaigns and protests, including Growing Up Locked Down conferences and the March2Justice. She’s currently the National Co-Chair of the Women’s March on Washington.

In total, the Summit selected 33 women to speak throughout the event, from artists to CEOs to activists. The fact that more than half of the speakers are women (there are 28 male speakers) already shows the UN’s commitment to gender equality by implementing this principle in their own event.

I’m certainly looking forward to what will be said throughout the Summit about how to achieve gender equality by 2030. Being able to hear from so many empowered women will surely be empowering to those of us in the audience who are at the beginning of our careers and trying to find a way to make a difference in the world. I’m looking forward to being inspired by these world leaders to do my part for my community.

If you’re interested in being part of the global conversation online, here’s the Facebook event

Breastfeeding for Survival, Health & Wellbeing

The right to the highest attainable standard of health, as well as the right to adequate food and nutrition are fundamental rights of every human being. Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and is a key contributor for survival, health and wellbeing of infants and mothers. 

The Lancet Breastfeeding Series published in 2016 provides the most recent and detailed analysis of available research on breastfeeding. The Series confirmed that breastfeeding has numerous benefits – including decreasing the risk of infections and increasing the intelligence of children, and preventing cancers in mothers. There is also unequivocal evidence of breastfeeding’s protection from hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, and obesity in the long term.

Support for breastfeeding mothers is essential. In the light of the overwhelming evidence on the positive impact of breastfeeding on survival, health and well-being, coordinated global action is urgently needed.

WHO, UNICEF and 20 other prominent international agencies and non-governmental organisations have recently formed the global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative (BAI), to unify the voices of breastfeeding advocates and galvanise political, financial and social support for breastfeeding policies and programmes. The BAI aims to increase awareness of breastfeeding as a foundation of child and maternal survival, health and wellbeing – and to advocate to governments to invest in breastfeeding.

The Global Breastfeeding Advocacy Initiative (BAI) is consistent with the Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. According to EWEC:

“Breastfeeding is a fundamental driver in achieving the SDGs as it plays a significant role in improving maternal and child health, survival and wellbeing. One year into the implementation of the SDGs, we must work together to level the playing field.” 

In the Global Strategy, breastfeeding is acknowledged as an essential driver in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). EWEC highlights breastfeeding as fundamental in improving not only nutrition, but also education, maternal and child health, survival and wellbeing. Together with the movement’s core partners, EWEC supports governments with strategic interventions in order to improve breastfeeding rates, to eventually reach or exceed the WHO global target of increased rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%.

We have all of the facts in black and white about the benefits of breastfeeding, and we have devoted advocates who fight for women’s and children’s right to the highest attainable standard of health. Grassroots participation and its potential to create massive impact from simple ideas seems to be at an all-time high – a trend that will hopefully continue as the need for even more multi-level and cross-sectoral partnerships increases.

In order to achieve the SDGs by 2030, partnerships are not merely helpful to improve the health and wellbeing of the present and future generations—they are essential.

World Breastfeeding Week takes place from 1 – 7 August 2017. Celebrating collaboration and sustainability, it will focus on the need to work together to sustain breastfeeding. World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has created an online platform with downloadable resources available in a range of languages to support individuals and organizations in their own campaigning and advocacy. 

 

Urban Farming: Regeneration in our Cities

Grey. Angular. The low buzz of foot traffic, rubber-on-tar traffic, shoulders pushing against shoulders traffic. Did you see his face when he tried to smile at your across the street? Did you breathe in the blossoming jasmine that crept toward you at the bus stop? We navigate through cities, so loud yet full of silence. We have been waiting. Waiting for the earth to rise up against the pavements, to activate our joy and to remind us who we are and where we come from. We are nature.

This is an unfolding narrative of the environmentally conscious and gradual movement that is Urban Farming. This is the remembered narrative of the female presence in the food system.

Hailing from the mountainous green landscape of Barberton, Mpumalanga, South Africa, I have long held the forest as a close friend. Mother Earth can be said to have an innately powerful, fecund and peaceful presence. Plant life and forests are the ultimate reflection of matriarchy, pregnant with the life of a million organisms. My first encounter with a large city was dazzling and it was easy to become distracted by technology, industrial architecture and the scramble for identity within its oddly confining walls. Bureaucratic, patriarchal systems still hold our cities in place, where our connection to the ‘Mother’ has long since been replaced with a relationship with walls and structures; where is the ‘wild’ element of nature within all of this? Where is the wild feminine?

I dove into a practice of ‘remembering’ when I first finished university. I explored the world of documentary film in South Africa and found myself telling stories of young social entrepreneurs, many of whom were women my own age (23 at the time); but I was left with an incessant itch after having conversations with these inspiring youth: who was I? What mark was I making on the world? Where could my passion for connecting people to each other and the planet truly begin? Where did my voice fit in?

planting2

So I went off to see the world. I saw women collecting grain in Rajasthan, India. I saw young girls pruning tea leaves with their grandmothers on the hills of Kumily, Karnataka, India. I saw “mama’s” collecting seeds to string up necklaces and stripping corn cobs to dry them in the sun outside their huts in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. I met women who had forgotten where their food came from. I met young girls who couldn’t name a vegetable from its whole form to it’s packaged product. I met older women who remembered their grandmother’s ways of caring for the earth. It was through this process of ‘seeing’ that I saw my role as a young woman to renew my understanding of the planet, to inspire those around me to do the same, so that we may all remember together, so that we can bring the wilderness back to the cities.

Our answer to connecting people and plants lies not in the fast paced ways we have become accustomed to, but in the gentle, attentive nature of our planet’s ecosystems. There is a strong female presence in the Urban Farming Greening movement around the world and it is equally matched with the supportive male energy. Earth work appears to be the perfect (and practical!) place for men and women to meet each other and work together collaboratively and harmoniously.  

So where to start? Balcony gardens, vertical gardens, urban & public food gardens, you name it! Regeneration begins with you. Occupy your neighbourhoods, sidewalks, highways, schools and public places with beneficial plants. Teach your friends, your families and your communities. Become the local urban acupuncturist and inspire your communities to localise food production, to ‘remember’ our planet and create internal networks of food exchange that not only benefits the natural environments, but strengthens relations between people.  

greenpopa

Urban Farming is rated as one of the top emerging new jobs in the upcoming decade; will you embrace your roots as an earth-keeper and rejuvenate the way we consume our food? The concrete alleyways can become the edible jungle we dream of. You can begin by learning how to plant a tree with us at Green Pop, checking in with your local food gardeners (Cape Town’s finest being Guerilla House, Tyisa Nabanye and Oranjezicht City Farm), attending their workshops and planting some seeds of your own!  

There is a tremendous, empowering strength that comes from growing your own food. Let your children be the ones whose grandchildren remember you as the one who taught them to watch the beautiful complexity of a single seed come to life through it’s own, wild and gentle accord. We are nature.