Cape Town, South Africa

In post-Apartheid South Africa, girls are in real need of support. Particularly in Cape Town, issues surrounding access to and staying in education, restricted access to healthcare, high abuse rates and a patriarchal system where men hold primary authority all mean that girls are often left behind.

  • Just over half of girls in South Africa will leave education before completing Grade 12
  • 39% of girls aged 15 – 24 years have given birth, with 28% having never married or lived with the father of the child
  • Only 1 third of clinics in South Africa provide contraception options to people seeking contraception aged 13 -19 years
  • 45% of girls aged 14 – 24 years describe their first sexual experience as coerced by their male partner

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African Impact’s volunteer programs in Cape Town have been working in the township community of Khayelitsha, amongst others, for many years. While their continuing programming touches on key issues such as early childhood development, health and nutrition, as well as education, they saw a need to provide a more targeted initiative towards their 11 – 18-year-old female and male participants that focused on gender equality.

Their relationships with existing community partners and the children and adolescents in their care soon served as a platform for launching a gender empowerment program, hand in hand with the team at The Girl Impact.

How are we fighting for gender equality in Cape Town?

Staying in education is an essential element to a young person’s development worldwide, yet in the Cape Town communities we have found that many youth are out of school and are not receiving the support they need. Many young girls drop out of school early to support their families or younger siblings, while others are unable to access quality education due to funds or lack of qualified teachers.

On the ground, with the assistance of African Impact volunteers, homework support is provided to help girls and boys succeed in their schooling which, in turn, ensures they don’t fall behind and stay in school for longer. At a higher level, English language support is offered to child carers, who in turn are then able to better educate the children in their care.

Through research and discussion with the community partners African Impact currently work with, we were able to identify particular health areas in which the children lacked knowledge. Obesity and diabetes, for example, are very common in the Cape Town communities, yet there is a lack of information available and the children’s understanding of what causes these issues was slim.

Focusing on nutrition, exercise, common illness and sexually transmitted infections as part of our health pillar, our volunteers meet with young girls and boys to provide interactive workshops and sessions on different health topics. These form part of boys’ and girls’ club at foster care homes, but also in other facilities across Khayelitsha. We are responsible for planning, creating materials and leading the sessions with support from our project team on the ground.

Growing up in South Africa can be dangerous. With our community partners based in areas where levels of crime (violent crime, in particular) are worryingly high, it’s important and necessary to help children understand how they can protect themselves and stay safe.

We work with boys and girls to help them understand how they can keep themselves and others as safe as possible. Topics are far-reaching: from water safety and self-defense, to rape and safe travel, which are all very real issues in Cape Town and South Africa as a whole.

Time and time again we’ve witnessed the effects of early motherhood on young women in the Cape Town communities. With a lack of support available it can lead to girls leaving school earlier than planned, or financial struggles further down the road.

Research, discussion and trial sessions held by African Impact highlighted that one of the key reasons girls become pregnant at such a young age in the communities where they work, is due to a lack of knowledge about sex and contraception.

Working alongside community partners, including a network of foster care homes, we now work with a number of at-risk youth to help them understand what pregnancy is, how you become pregnant, what it means to have a baby, as well as how they can delay the start of a family.

With alarmingly high unemployment rates and a lack of career support in place in the communities surrounding Cape Town, the need for both girls and boys to receive guidance on making a living has never been greater in South Africa.

The Girl Impact and African Impact therefore run career workshops, which are held to help children identify their strengths and aspirations.  We plan, rally resources and facilitate sessions on challenging stereotypes, setting goals and, most importantly, discussing how to reach them. With entrepreneurship in the Cape Town communities on the rise, thinking outside the box is also encouraged and supported.

Building confidence, not only in self, but also in others, is a key way of helping young people make better decisions growing up, keeping them away from the dangers present in impoverished South African life.

On the ground in Cape Town, we run sessions that help children understand what the concept of confidence is, help build confidence in themselves and also begin to discuss ways in which they have trust in others. This is achieved through support groups for disadvantaged youth, after school clubs for boys and girls living in the foster care system, as well as English language classes for older women who are then more confident and able to support the children in their care.