The Herald (South Africa)
Road trip a boost for Rock Girls
Cape foundation members share their experiences with Mandela Bay peers
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