Manenberg girls’ road trip spreads ‘safe spaces’ message
GUNSHOTS shatter the silence, sending Lee-Anne Jenkins into a frenzy.
It’s an all-too-familiar experience for the 15-year-old girl from Manenberg. Anxious and in shock, she now has to abandon her efforts to study for a school test the next day.
The night before, after more gunshots rang out, Lee-Anne and 11 of her friends supported each other, while hiding under their beds, on Whatsapp.
In the past three weeks gang-related shootings have occurred almost daily in Manenberg.
“I live in the Hard Living’s territory. Last year my father was shot dead. It’s traumatising and it leaves me in shock when I hear the guns going off, but we help each other cope,” Lee-Anne said.
The 12 teenagers are part of Rock Girl, an NGO that founder India Baird describes as a movement to inspire and invest in girl-focused projects.
In 2012, the girls initiated a “Safe Spaces” campaign in which benches are placed at schools and pupils offer support to anyone sitting on them.
“The campaign was inspired by the girls from Manenberg, who created a safe space at their own school,” Baird said.
On Friday, Lee-Anne joined Baird and 11 other girls at Red River Primary, where they boarded an overland bus for a road trip to the Eastern Cape.
Rashieda Nolan, 15, said: “We are learning so many new things about life outside of Manenberg through Rock Girl, and I really want to see more.”
The girls will be interviewing other young women along the way and will use social media to share their experiences. They will also produce a radio show when they return.
Baird said yesterday: “Five girls from Helenvale (Port Elizabeth) joined us on the bus. They live in an area much like Manenberg and last night also experienced shootings.”
On Saturday, they visited a game lodge in Oudtshoorn, seeing elephants for the first time.
Tomorrow, Youth Day, they will arrive in Bredasdorp, where three girls – Anene Booysen, Kayde Williams and Elda Jaftha – have been murdered in just over two years.
Rock Girl has organised for a “safe space bench” to be erected in their memory. It is expected that officials from the provincial department of justice will come to the unveiling.