Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

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.

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“Children often pay the highest price when many negative attributes are prevalent in families, communities and nations. As such, we are morally obligated to ensure the eradication of attributes, which create environments that are risk factors for our children…” Koketso Moeti

Without a doubt, there is no single cause that can be named for child neglect/abuse. We also cannot deny that child neglect/abuse occurs across socio-economic, religious, cultural, racial, and ethnic groups. Despite this, there is no doubt that certain factors within families, communities and nations put children at a higher risk of being neglected and/or abused. However, it should be noted that this does not mean that the presence of these factors will always result in child abuse and neglect. The factors that may contribute to neglect or abuse in one family may not result in child abuse and neglect in another family.

These factors include:

– Substance Abuse, as it can interfere with a parent’s mental functioning, judgment, inhibitions, and protective capacity. Parents significantly affected by the use of drugs and alcohol may neglect the needs of their children, spend money on drugs instead of household expenses, or get involved in criminal activities that jeopardise their children’s health or safety. Also, studies suggest that substance abuse can influence parental discipline choices and child-rearing styles;

– Lack of knowledge about normal child development, which can result in unrealistic expectations;

– Domestic Violence, as children in violent homes may witness parental violence; may be victims of physical abuse themselves and may be neglected by parents who are focused on their partners or unresponsive to their children due to their own fears and

– Poverty and unemployment, which when interacting with other risk factors such as depression, substance abuse, and social isolation—can increase the likelihood of both child neglect and child abuse.

With all these factors being rife in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area and with cases of neglect and abuse being on the rise, we realised that intervention was necessary.

On the 22nd March 2011, the day after Human Rights Day, we hosted a ‘Child Protection’ themed Human Rights Day information sharing centre in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area. Stakeholders involved in the protection of children, were invited to provide the community with information about child abuse and neglect, as well as their various roles in eradicating it; assisting with it and where they are based. The information sharing session also allowed the community to learn how to access services provided by the state at no cost, with the aim of protecting children. Stakeholders who assist in the eradication of some risk factors for children were also invited to participate in the event.

The session which was attended by, The Office of the Family Advocate; the Child Protection Unit; the Commission for Gender Equality, as well as the Independent Complaints Directorate. It was the first time ever in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement, that so many stakeholders got together in a united, concerted effort to secure the protection of children. The community came out in numbers, eager to be a part of the process of empowerment.

Through empowerment and access to information, we ensured to bring the rights, safety and protection of our children to the fore. With children being our greatest resource, we will continue to build partnerships that ensure they are protected.

“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.

“No one should have to live without hope, and we can make sure that they don’t. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live lives of comfort and prosperity are the ones that can provide lifesaving relief to millions. It is our obligation to take the necessary action to offer hope where there is none. It is our responsibility to create opportunity that will transform lives. We must focus our efforts to offer possibilities that do not currently exist for a billion human beings in extreme poverty. To not use our abilities to their fullest in the effort to end suffering is disgraceful. We must use our time and talents to extend hope to those who need it most. To do any less is immoral.” Michael Crawley

There is no doubt that hope is the only thing that can keep people going when surrounded constantly by poverty, substance abuse, domestic violence and a host of other negative situations often experienced in the Rooigrond Informal Settlement area. In such conditions, hope is as necessary as the air one breathes.

All our efforts are geared at providing hope for this community. Through empowering them; through educating the children and all our operations, we seek to give them hope that change will come- that in time the cycle of poverty will be broken and that they too will rise and go beyond their circumstances.