Posts Tagged ‘North-West University’

Without a doubt, a lack of access to information remains a serious problem in rural and marginalised communities. This is because it affects people’s ability to claim their rights and it is a barrier to access to opportunity, amongst many more negative attributes that go along with it.

 

As part of our efforts to raise awareness about this community initiative we have going in Rooigrond, we started dabbling in ICTs, which we found to be a powerful tool in many ways. This started us thinking about mobile phones and the possibilities they hold- particularly with the issue of access to information-, as even the most basic of phones lately are WAP enabled. However, not being very ‘tech-savvy’ ourselves, we had all these ideas and questions, but were unable to discuss them and get any direction on which path to take. This changed however upon our meeting David Bernard, CEO of SANGONeT- an organisation aimed at empowering non-profits through the ICTs, at the North-West University.

 After listening to Mr. Bernard’s presentation on the potential role social media can play in non-profits, amongst many other uses of technology in communities such as ours. We finally were given a chance to share our thoughts on the matter, especially our concerns about the lack of information in the North-West province, which have prevented organisations and communities from exploiting the potential of ICTs. Having shared our views and finally having our many questions answered enabled us to really get going on our plans of enabling the community to access information; which has the potential to assist not only in allowing residents to claim their rights, but also to develop themselves and the community as a whole.

We have since been on a learning journey, in an effort to seek out ways to fully maximise the manner in which we utilise ICTs for the better of the Rooigrond Informal Settlement. Though not always easy, there is no doubt that progress has been made in many ways, with some great tales coming from residents about the difference that has been made due to the opportunity to access information. We have also discovered great innovation within the community, as people share their own ideas on ways in which the ICTs can be used. No doubt that it is a journey we will see through…

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As much as we are passionate about what we do, we know that we cannot create positive change on our own, hence our motto, “together, we can overcome”- a motto that reflects our belief that positive change and social transformation can only happen if we all join hands and work together to make it happen.

However, without a doubt there is a serious lack of cooperation amongst communities and organisations in the North-West province. This is caused by a number of factors, with the most notable being that organisations and community initiatives in the province are unaware of each others’ existence. A lack of adequate communication resources and initiatives bringing forces of positive change together has been severely lacking and in many ways it affects the ability of organisations and initiatives to fulfil their mandates as when approached with a matter beyond their scope, they are unable to refer a beneficiary elsewhere, where the person or peope can be assisted.

As such, we were very excited when Connie Legodi-Bogatsu, the community services coordinator of the Mafikeng campus of the North West University, invited us over for a workshop aimed at empowering non-profits and community initiatives. The workshop, organised by Beatrix Bouman- the North West University’s Director of Community Engagement,  saw organisations and initiatives from all over the North-West come together and we saw this not only as an opportunity to be empowered to better service our community- but also to network with others fighting for positive change.

The workshop saw to it that we were all educated on the need and importance of maintaining proper administration systems amongst many other important lessons. It was a great day where we learned a lot which would allow us to better fulfil our respective mandates and also provided us with information which could assist many others. We greatly applaud the university for its contributions to empowering organisations and community initiatives, as many of us- despite our passions are not adequately skilled on the behind the scenes processes inolved. Also, we hope to see many more such workshops happening in the province, as it could go a long way in ensuring that barriers are crossed to allow various forces of positive change in the province to come together- thereby widening the circle of positive change…

Operation: ROOIGROND does more than facilitate positive change in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement, we are also advocates of social justice for this often forgotten community. We seek not only to break the cycle of poverty in the community, but also to break the cycle of social exclusion- which plays a huge part in the many injustices suffered by the community members.

As such, we were quick to accept a request from the Commission for Gender Equality to form a partnership for the hosting of a public hearing on women, poverty and energy, in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area. After the successful hosting of our ‘Human Rights Day’ event, the Commission found us to be in an ideal position to successfully co-ordinate a public hearing on their behalf.

Our acceptance of this request, was based entirely on the knowledge that, the community itself is fully aware of the challenges it faces, with regards to women, poverty and energy and as such, they themselves also have ideas on how these challenges can be overcome. Unfortunately, due to the social exclusion suffered by the community, never have they ever had a chance to share their views and actively participate in the overcoming of these challenges.

On the 29th March 2011, over 100 community members were mobilised, to participate in what would be a historic occasion in the settlement. The community members were joined by, members of the Commission for Gender Equality; the North-West University and the Department of Health, amongst others. Vibrant and necessary discourse about the various challenges faced by women due to poverty and a lack of energy followed. The community identified their problems and also proposed solutions to these problems, citing the various means that could be used to assist them solve these problems.

The Public Hearing, which was ended with a late lunch courtesy of the Commission for Gender Equality, was a huge success- not only because an environment encouraging participation was created, but also the psychological benefits of having a socially excluded community having their voices heard.

Madiba Combined School in Rooigrond where, in association with the North West University, we successfully hosted a Career Exhibition on the 4th March 2011.

We believe that even learners from backgrounds of poverty, should be empowered with the information they need to assist in breaking the cycle of poverty and make their dreams come true. And to make this happen, we turned Madiba Combined School into a centre of hope, a place where disadvantaged learners can also receive the information required to make things happen.

“Education and empowerment are our greatest tool in the war against poverty…” Koketso Moeti

There is no doubt that education is a powerful means of breaking the cycle of poverty, however, many living in the cycle do not have access to it and those who do, do not have access to information about how to take it further. With empowerment and education being the main tools with which we seek to create positive change in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement, it became necessary to empower the learners at the Rooigrond local school, about opportunities available to them.

We partnered with the North-West University, through Mr. Ivan Gontsana, their school liasion officer and successfully hosted a career exhibition at Madiba-Combined School in Rooigrond. During this career exhibition, all the matriculants were provided with application forms for various institutions of higher learning; various bursary application forms and received information, which they have no access to about admission requirements and such. Learners we’re also provided with information about viable alternatives for higher learning such as long distance learning and other options available to them.

Once more we empowered a community, through their children- who are the future.