The GirlZtalk workshop in Leyden came to a close. It is inspiring to see what amazing performances these girls are able to pull together in the space of 24 hours.
The community was invited to watch the show, and mostly it was the older women who took their seats with sceptical looks on their faces. As in Venda, the girls went straight to the heart of the issues. With blatant honesty they performed scenarios of rape, teenage pregnancy and HIV. Witchcraft was one of the main topics in Leyden, and many girls refused to speak openly about it to the camera, but on stage they boldly depicted how jealousy infiltrated the community and how witchcraft is used to ensure that no one thrives or becomes too successful.
The girls danced to the rhythm of drums, they sang and performed with vigour and expression, even bringing an occasional smile to the stern faces of the old women in the crowd.
On our last evening together we brought the SEED girls together around a bonfire to talk and reflect on the GirlZtalk journey.
The trip was not without its challenges. Many of the girls were out of their comfort zone, staying with families who were culturally different to them, who ate different food and responded to them with different degrees of welcome. The SEED girls worked really hard to help facilitate the workshops, at times finding the communication frustrating due to language or lack of cooperation from the rural girls.
We are aware that GirlZtalk may have opened a “can of worms” in the lives of some of these girls, as they told their personal stories, confronting their challenges and now needing the support to boldly change their circumstances. This will be the task and challenge of GirlZtalk in the future, to open the dialogue and respond to the needs of girls in South Africa.
We found that the greatest difficulties faced by these young women is often linked to their sexuality – being raped, teenage pregnancy, abuse, and claiming their autonomy within their relationships to men. Drugs and alcohol continue to turn girls into victims, as they lose control, and the men around them lose respect for them.
As we return home we have been deeply moved by the depth of learning that this trip has offered. We have gained a deeper understanding of culture, of rural areas and the communities we visited – only to discover a deep connection to our common humanity.