“uLosha!” someone cries out and all the women fall to their knees, hands together, heads bowed to the floor in the traditional Venda greeting. Nkosi – the chief – walks into the room, flanked by a council of men; he has come to bless the GirlZtalk workshop.
Some 130 girls crowded into the school hall, more than we had expected, (we later found out that some of the girls thought they were coming for a catering job and would get free bursaries?!) and we soon rush out to buy more food. Four women from the community have been designated as cooks, cooking in enormous pots on an open wooden fire. As we arrive with 50 kg of mielie meal, they shake their heads saying, “You think you are catering for Joburg girls? We are rural women, we like to eat a lot!”
We will be better prepared tomorrow!
Nikki Florence, who is facilitating the workshop, gets the girls activated. With formalities out of the way, the chief and his council leave the gathering – then Nikki starts with the ice-breaker games, dividing the girls into smaller groups, with at least 2 SEED girls to each group.
Nikki tasked the girls to list what they feel are the biggest challenges that girls face growing up in South Africa. She asks the girls to consider how the urban girls may have a different experiences to the rural girls, and where do they share common concerns.
Some of the issues that were chosen are:
VIOLENCE, DRUGS, POVERTY, HUMAN TRAFFICKING, EDUCATION, RAPE, TEENAGE PREGNANCIES
The day came to a close with a moving SEED girl’s performance, and a debriefing exercise that allowed each girl to reflect on the day’s experience. Tears filled their eyes as they started to shed their “city-life” guard, and were touched by the humility and generosity of the rural Venda community, who despite the few material possessions that they own, give generously of their homes and their lives.
Each girl then returned to their host families, and could be seen sitting outside, eating their meals with their fingers under the warm African sky.
Tomorrow the national matric results will be released, who knows how many girls will actually pitch now that they know there are no “quick-fix” job opportunities for the taking…??
But we do see how a little bit of hope for a better life can provide a source of strength that moves mountains! And we see the strength in their eyes.