Road trip a boost for Rock Girls

Cape foun­da­tion mem­bers share their ex­pe­ri­ences with Man­dela Bay peers

The Herald (South Africa) - - NEWS - Yoliswa Sobuwa [email protected]­me­dia.co.za

THEY may be hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres apart, but they share a com­mon chal­lenge – dodg­ing bul­lets and liv­ing in fear of their lives. Twelve girls be­tween the ages of 13 and 16 from Ma­nen­berg, a no­to­ri­ous gang area in Cape Town, stopped over in Nel­son Man­dela Bay for two days to meet with other girls who are in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to them.

The girls are from the Rock Girl Foun­da­tion, a grass­roots move­ment to en­gage, in­spire and in­vest in girls and women.

It was founded by Michelle In­dia Baird, a hu­man rights lawyer and ac­tivist for more than 20 years.

On ar­rival in Nel­son Man­dela Bay in an over­land bus on Satur­day, the Rock Girls wasted no time as they im­me­di­ately vis­ited four girls in He­len­vale.

This also gave the Rock Girls an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence an en­vi­ron­ment in the Bay sim­i­lar to what they are ac­cus­tomed to.

Tears and hugs were shared dur­ing their time with the Bay girls. There was not a dry eye when a 15-year-old girl from He­len­vale shared a story of how she was raped on her way to a tuck­shop.

Min­nie Tri­mal­ley, who works with young girls in He­len­vale, said she was im­pressed when she read in the news about Rock Girls.

“I im­me­di­ately in­vited them to come and meet with my girls so that they could teach them about find­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment as they live in high crime ar­eas.

“The trip was not only good for the Cape Town girls but for our girls as well as it helped to get their minds off the trau­ma­tis­ing sit­u­a­tion they face daily.”

Baird said one of the first pro­grammes in- tro­duced was to teach girls how to use so­cial media to warn each other if some­thing bad was hap­pen­ing in their dif­fer­ent ar­eas.

“In Ma­nen­berg, girls dodge bul­lets on their way to school and they are des­per­ate to run away and leave gang vi­o­lence,” Baird said.

“Many of the girls are deal­ing with sec­ondary trauma but for the last five years we have given them a safe space where they can ex­pe­ri­ence their cu­rios­ity, in­tel­li­gence, re­source­ful­ness, joy and strength.”

Dur­ing the road trip, the girls ex­pe­ri­enced new ideas and built sis­ter­hood with other girls in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions.

“Along the way they cre­ated pop-up ex­hi­bi­tions of pho­to­graphs, au­dio and film sto­ries in each com­mu­nity,” Baird said.

One 15-year-old from Rock Girls said her life had changed for the bet­ter ever since she joined the foun­da­tion.

“In our area it is not un­com­mon for some­one to be hit by a stray bullet.

“Over the year I have learnt from the foun­da­tion to choose the right friends and value my ed­u­ca­tion.

“I want to share my ex­pe­ri­ence with girls from the Bay so they don’t let their sit­u­a­tion de­ter­mine their fu­ture. With the right guid­ance they can ac­tu­ally go far in life,” she said.

A high­light for a 15-year-old Grade 9 pupil from He­len­vale was vis­it­ing the Donkin Re­serve in Cen­tral for the first time.

“I am ex­cited to be here and it feels safe. In our area we deal with dif­fer­ent groups of gang­sters. Peo­ple are ran­domly shot in the streets.

“It is even dan­ger­ous to go to the shops be­cause you might be raped or even killed for a loaf of bread,” she said.

“Most of my friends are preg­nant be­cause of peer pres­sure. I have learnt a lot from the Cape Town girls on how to stay safe in our en­vi­ron­ment with­out jeop­ar­dis­ing our lives or those of our fam­i­lies.”

‘ For the past five years we have given them a safe space

Pic­ture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN

DONKIN VIEW: Rock Girl Foun­da­tion brought teenagers from Ma­nen­berg in Cape Town on a road trip to the Eastern Cape. Among them are, from left, Thaki­rah, aged 15, Amaan, 13, and Mick­ayla,14

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