To effectively combat sexual violence, it is not enough to treat its symptoms: we must also work to prevent it by addressing root causes.
This is the drive behind the Rape Crisis Birds and Bees Peer Educator initiative, run in collaboration with schools that have been identified as at high risk for sexual violence. Students who enter the programme graduate aware of the myths and social norms that enable sexual violence; able to support survivors and refer them to Rape Crisis services; and committed to raising awareness amongst their peers.
The most recent Peer Educator graduation ceremony, at Joe Slovo Engineering High School in Khayelitsha, was a proud moment for all the learners, educators and Rape Crisis staff involved.
Peer Educators learn to challenge the stigma and misconceptions around rape through this programme, and go on to become leaders and role models within not only their schools, but their communities.
Thandile, who spoke on behalf of the class during the ceremony, says he will spread the Rape Crisis message all over the school. “It was a good experience that gave me many ideas. I can make sure someone doesn’t feel lonely, I can make them feel loved and happy.”
“Often learners who join this programme reveal that they are rape survivors themselves and never told anyone as they feared judgement or labeling. They have now gained confidence as they now know their right and how to claim them” says Rape Crisis Training and Development Co-ordinator Kholeka Booi
“This Rape Crisis programme is so valuable,” reflected Ms Mbanga, an educator at Joe Slovo, “So many people have been raped but don’t know what to do. If Rape Crisis keeps training young learners, they can help the whole community”.
Happily clutching her certificate and black Peer Educator t-shirt, Amanda says she enjoyed the whole process. “It was fun, and I can use all the information I learned to help other people. If I see someone do something wrong, I can tell them that it’s wrong and stop them”.
“They have been so dedicated and committed” Ms Mbanga can attest, “and I have seen a great change in each of them. They have gained skills, maturity and a spirit of teamwork.”
This new generation of Peer Educators will be able to open a dialogue with their friends, classmates and families that represents a more informed approach to a difficult subject.
The Rape Crisis Birds and Bees project is supported by the MATCH International Women’s Fund and Oxfam Australia