Today is national Youth Day which commemorates the Soweto Uprising and recognises the role of youth in the liberation of South Africa. Unfortunately, 37 years later, our youth still face many challenges and are affected on a daily basis by violence within their communities. Many have themselves been the victims of sexual assault or gang violence or have been first hand witnesses to violence committed against others. Khayelitsha has been identified as one of the highest risk areas for youth and sees some of the highest murder and sexual assault statistics in the country. In 2011/2012 a total of 543 sexual offences were reported to its two main police station but studies on the under reporting of rape estimate that it could be closer to 4 000. It is vital that community members and civil society organisations put pressure on the government to fulfill its constitutional obligation to protect South Africa’s youth as well as develop effective models of violence prevention. Rape Crisis is developing a model for rape prevention through interventions with youth that build the capacity of youth in schools to challenge the social norms that promote sexual violence and to develop attitudes and behaviours that challenge the culture of impunity and increase the agency of women and girls so that the number of rapes decreases and more people report rape.
The Rape Crisis peer education programme starts with a needs assessment conducted with school social workers from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to identify schools where learners experience high rates of sexual bullying and rape. A team of Rape Crisis trained facilitators, all recruited from within the Khayelitsha community, offer a series of awareness raising workshops are to parents, teachers and learners. After that a group of 20 – 25 learners from grade 9 – 11 are carefully selected and invited to take part in a thirteen week training course where they learn how to support rape survivors in their schools and communities and how to refer to Rape Crisis for counselling. They are also taught to challenge the myths and stereotypes about rape that prevail in most South African communities through awareness raising activities in their schools. Peer educators share their knowledge with their peers through talks, poster campaigns, essay competitions and drama in order to highlight the issue of sexual bullying and rape in school.
At the end of the year Rape Crisis runs a three day youth camp called the Birds and the Bees with peer educators from the different schools that we have worked with during the year. The camp gives peer educators an opportunity to deepen their understanding of rape and also lets Rape Crisis evaluate the programme and develop it as a model for prevention work with youth. The peer educators are an important part of this process and their insight and experiences serve as valuable tools for ensuring that a prevention model will be relevant and effective.
Our programme coordinator, Kholeka Booi, says, “These kids are so eager to become active in their communities and to do their part in preventing rape. Many of them would love to come and volunteer for Rape Crisis if they weren’t at school during the day. The peer educators have been so enthusiastic and we have worked hard to equip them with the knowledge of how to support rape survivors. Some of them said that they had previously been involved in the wrong kinds of things but that this programme gave them a chance to do something positive and meaningful.”
Over the last three years Rape Crisis ‘s peer education programme has reached 450 youth, learners, parents and teachers from Kwamfundo, Bulumko, Iqhayiya and Manyano High Schools in Khayelitsha.
This year’s peer educators were invited onto an SABC 2 television show for teenagers, Hectic Nine-9, where they encouraged viewers not to use the way a woman dresses as a reason to blame her for causing her own rape. Peer educators from Kwamfundo High School performed a play that highlighted the issue of rape within families and also read poetry.
The Birds and the Bees camp, which took place over the Human Rights Day weekend and took human rights as its theme, was a great success and the peer educators not only enjoyed their mountain walk, obstacle course, soccer game and workshops, but learned some valuable life lessons along the way.
The experiences and lessons gained through the peer educators programme will enable these peer educators to act as a valuable resource for the youth in their communities and contribute to the development of new attitudes that will support survivors and discourage rape.
“As a peer educator, I am going to use my skills to make sure that those around me know about rape and what to do if it happens to them.” Ntombentsha Thomas, Manyano High School
“I used to think that if someone was raped then that was the end of their life. I have learnt that people can recover from rape, especially with good support. I plan to make sure my school mates know about rape and I am going to put out posters in the school and give out pamphlets so people know where to go for help.” Lungile Mandilakhe, Kwamfundo Senior School
“Before this programme I didn’t know that there were different types of rape and that men could also be raped. I also thought that if you were raped you should keep it a secret. Now I know a lot about rape and I know how important it is that someone goes to get medication for HIV within 3 days. I want to make sure that rape survivors know what they must do and where to go for help. I will continue to be a peer educator for Rape Crisis.” Samkele Mangaliso, Iqhayiya Senior School
The next team of peer educators completed their training course in May 2013 and will be graduating in July.
For more information on the Rape Crisis peer educator programme, contact Nazma Hendricks on (021) 684-1180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Oxfam Australia for funding this programme.