This month Rape Crisis is excited to be training a new group of teenagers from Athlone and Khayelitsha for its peer education programme. Through this effective prevention programme, youth come to understand the prevailing myths and stereotypes about rape and actively engage in awareness raising activities that challenge negative social norms relating to sexual violence amongst their peers. The also act as a source of support to rape survivors in their schools and refer those in need of counselling to Rape Crisis.
Each year, high school learners from different schools attend a series of interactive workshops and a youth camp alongside their peers from other schools, giving them the opportunity to come together and share the knowledge and experiences they have gained and to collaboratively plan awareness raising activities. These learners are chosen not only for their desire to make change in their communities, but also because of their recognised potential to act as leaders in their schools and communities on the issues of rape, sex and relationships.
The most recent camp, in December 2013, included peer educators from three different high schools in Khayelitsha. Seventeen year old Yanga Mkhetho reflects on what he learned saying, “I have learned that us as people, we need other people in order to succeed and we should respect others. No matter whatever happens in your life, you should never give up and always go big on your goals.”
From the very beginning it was clear how aware these students were of the objectives of the camp and the importance of their role. Research shows that people are more receptive to adopt healthy attitudes and behaviours if they can relate to a messenger with similar concerns and pressures. Peer education draws on the credibility that youth have with their peers and the potential power they have to be role models. These particular learners from the most recent camp have proven to be truly committed to changing attitudes and perceptions in their schools and communities.
Sinethemba Kheksiwe, age fourteen, reflects on his experience at the camp saying, “ First of all, I learned that if you want to see a person change, you must be what you want that person to be first. So, I’m going to try my best to make everyone look up to me like be a fair and honest guy. I will try my best to be their role models.” Sixteen-year-old Luzuko Matiso adds, “Even me, I have changed a lot. Rape Crisis changed me a lot. I can teach another person about how to treat a woman with respect.”
Rape Crisis was blessed to have the peer educators sing songs and perform a play about rape at a ceremony at the close of the 16 days of activism. One peer educator also gave an incredibly inspiring personal testimony during the candle lighting ceremony about his passion for being an instrument of positive change in his community.
Rifqah Abrahams, the coordinator of the Athlone programme explains that “in the Athlone community there are many challenges confronting youth, such as the high rate of sexual violence, substance abuse and gangsterism. The peers are at a critical point in their development, where it is important to encourage positive social norms and behaviours. Rape Crisis is incredibly proud of its peer educators and I feel confident that this new group will go on to be a source of inspiration to their peers as well as young agents of change and support in their communities.”
Rape Crisis’s peer education programme is made possible by Oxfam.