Ma­nen­berg girls’ road trip spreads ‘safe spa­ces’ mes­sage

Cape Times - - NEWS - Carlo Petersen [email protected]

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.

Pic­ture: SUE JAYE JOHN­SON

ROAM­ING FREE: Rashieda Nolan, 15, from Ma­nen­berg is on a road trip to the Eastern Cape with 11 other girls from the area. The trip was or­gan­ised by NGO Rock Girl. On Satur­day, the girls vis­ited Buf­fels­drift Game Lodge in Oudt­shoorn.

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