I. Check point
After Botswana, it was time to go to our next and last country: South Africa. For the occasion, the team got bigger and welcomed two new members: Marguerite, photographer, and Gabriel, partnership manager of Womenability.
Our first taste of the country was Johannesburg. Sometimes it felt as if we were back in Houston; in this car-oriented city there were no sidewalks and almost no one in the streets. Despite this hostile environment, we managed to have a great time and to interview Joyce, an activist from the Federation of South African Women (FSAW)Â during the apartheid.
We were also shocked to see so much visable « heritage » of apartheid. Although we were told that violence no longer occurred between blacks and whites, but rather between those « left behind and the winners » of the new economy, we did not expect to see such a segregated country twenty five years after apartheid.
Urban and racial segregation became one of the main concerns of our walk in Capetown, 1,300 km away from Johannesburg. In fact thanks to the partnership with the NGO SONKE (fighting for gender justice in South Africa) we were able to organize our walk in a shantytown of 400,000 inhabitants: Khayelitsha.
SONKE did not randomly choose this district. KhayelitshÂ is a township with one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, where rapes and murders are a daily reality. The amazing local partners that Sonke works with, the Social Justice CoalitionÂ (SJC), which works especially for those living in informal settlements, helped us to mobilize and organize the walk. Chumile, their community leader, had the charisma of a great leader,Â and is often compared to Mandela.
We had a meeting with Sonke, SJC and community leaders from Khayelitsha a few days before the walk. The residents came up with the main concerns that we would be focusing on during the walk: the problems of sanitation and violence.
In Khayelitsha not everyone has private toilets, and people often have to use toilets that are shared among five or more families.
We learned that it was highly dangerous to use them at night, and it is where most of the rapes, murders or kidnappings took place.
To complete the picture, Khayelitsha is surrounded by fences and highways, although it lies next to beautiful mountains and fields. You can feel and see that there is no escape.
But let’s speak of the true beauty of Khayelitsha: its people. They were the most powerful and motivated individuals we have met in the past seven months. They keep on hoping, fighting for change, smiling and never giving up. More than forty people participated in our walk, everyone wearing the t-shirts we made and singing. It was without a doubt one of our most thrilling moments of our lives.
Chumile Sali, Community Organizer atÂ Social Justice Coalition
II. Relive the best moments of the walk
Below is a video, so you can relive this moment with us, and the results will be soon released.
III. Interview with the Mayor of Cape Town Mrs de Lille
- What are the 3 major dates of your political career?
- Being part of the negotiations for South Africaâ€™s peaceful transitions from 1992 to 1994 (Convention for a Democratic South Africa -CODESA).
- 27 April 1994 when I voted for the very first time.
- June 2011 when I first became Mayor of the City of Cape Town.
- Gender and city planning in Cape Town, concretely is â€¦ ?
We have many programmes in place which are gender focussed but I will hone in on four of them.
In 2013 the City of Cape Town together with the United Nations Women Executive Director Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka announced a partnership on a pilot project to make cities safer for women and girls.
We ran workshops with one of the cityâ€™s most isolated communities, NGOs and City officials to find ways to improve safety for women and girls in public transport hubs, with a specific focus on safely accessing and using our local bus service called the MyCiTi Service. We know that transport is not just about getting from A to B, but inherently about access to economic opportunities and that in turn unlocks all other levels of independence sought out by women.
We also have an Early Childhood Development centres for children under the age of 7 years of age. These centres are across our cityâ€™s and are a safe, education space for their children during the work day. It allows women to pursue careers with the knowledge that their children are looked after while they are at work, because we care for their children in their most formative years.
Another example is a project we launched with 380 women in June 2016 aimed at uplifting city rental stock areas and addressing the challenges by empowering women tenants.
All candidates had to be legal rental stock tenants, older than 21 and upstanding members of their community. The training programme, developed by an interdepartmental team, empowered the women to:
- participate in identifying and addressing safety concerns and other challenges in their environment;
- activate service requests related to maintenance of the rental units and surrounding roads, littering dumping and graffiti;
- provide home-based care services to elderly residents;
- monitor and address truancy;
- participate in cleaning and recycling projects;
- unlock economic and potential entrepreneurship opportunities; and
- participate in existing City programmes around substance abuse, domestic violence, and strengthening families.
We also have the Women at Work project where women are extensively trained in road maintenance. They work hard to attend to the 12 200 potholes repaired by the City every month. The excellent quality of our roads is attributed to workers like these, who ensure that Cityâ€™s own benchmark of fixing a pothole within 72 hours of it being reported is maintained.
This project is primarily geared towards facilitating gender transformation in the construction industry by transitioning women into a traditionally male dominated environment. By doing this, we aim to address some of the structural inequalities faced by women in the economy.
- What is left to be done on that issue in Cape Town?
More broadly speaking in South Africa we have good legislative provisions, ensuring that women have rights. However, we need for woman to claim the rights enshrined in the constitution otherwise they only exist on paper. Many women continue to live in subservience and do not take up the opportunities which are available to them. We need the women to stand up and assert themselves.
- What is specific to cities when it comes to fighting against gender inequalities?
We are the level of government closest to the people and we impact their daily lived experience in terms of transport and urban planning, social services including health and safety. It is incumbent upon us as the policy makers and implementers to consider the challenges that are faced by women specifically when we make governance decisions. To fight gender inequalities you need partnership with other spheres of government, civil society and religious organizations to ensure that women are treated equally in society, in government and in the private sector.
- Do you think international cooperation with cities can be important in this matter?
Yes, definitely. Globally, cities are the drivers of change. We all gain from international programmes. We constantly need to learn from programmes that have been tried and tested. As woman we occupy half the planet so our needs should and must be met.
- One piece of woman wanting to start a career in politics?
In politics, there are no separate rules for men and women.