August 11

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Khayelitsha – New Home

To make good use of my free time in Cape Town I now volunteer for the UCT based student volunteer organisation named SHAWCO, (Student’s Health and Welfare Centres Organisation). SHAWCO, founded in 1943 has two arms: SHAWCO Health and SHAWCO Education. For both arms student volunteers (I can still pass for a student :)) go to townships in the surrounding cape flats to provide medical and educational support. Under SHAWCO Education I have signed up to mentor students aging between 17 and 18 years old in a township named Khayelitsha. I attend a session each Saturday entitled Careers and Communication, these sessions generally cover current topics and issues. Myself and the other new recruits were thrown in the deep end somewhat as the topic we have been covering is sex education. We started with a physiology orientated session detailing the reproductive organs. In the second session we moved on to a discussion on relationships covering the difference between “like” and “love” relationships. We will wrap up the segment next week with a talk from an external visitor on HIV and Aids. The aim of the sessions is to inform the young adults of the potential consequences of consenting to sexual relationships at an early age in the hope that they will be empowered to make healthy decisions in life.

A few statistics:

Approx 40% of all pregnancies in South Africa involve girls under 19 years of age.

At least 28% of schoolgirls across South Africa are HIV positive, a figure largely blamed on sexual relationships between young girls and older men.

The township I visit each week is called Khayelitsha which means “New Home” in Xhosa. Khayelitsha is one of the largest and fastest growing townships in South Africa with a population of almost 2 million. The township was built in 1985 during the apartheid under the principles of racial segregation. It was intended as a site to move all legal black people from existing townships, legal meaning people who had lived in the area for more than 10 years. The township is now a vibrant community with schools, churches, markets etc. However, unemployment, dire poverty and a lack of proper housing is still a part of life for many of its residents. Only this week there have been demonstrations hi-lighting the poor sanitation in Khayelitsha. The protestors are calling for the installation of flushing toilets as currently the community is only provided with portaloos, in protest five portaloos were emptied on the steps of the provincial legislature.