02 April 2015 Volume :3 Issue :10

UKZN Partners with Agenda Feminist Media for Feminist Dialogue

UKZN Partners with Agenda Feminist Media for Feminist Dialogue
Participants at the joint Agenda and UKZN Feminist Dialogue.

The Feminist Dialogue - How does/would a girl-led response(s) to sexual violence look like? – was presented at the New Conference Centre on UKZN’s Edgewood campus. 

Leading the presentation were UKZN’s Professor Relebohile Moletsane and Agenda Feminist Media representative, Professor Claudia Mitchell of McGill University, who is also an Honorary Professor at UKZN.

The Dialogue launched a six-year (2014-2020) collaborative project titled: “Networks for Change” and “Well-Being: Girl-led” ‘from the ground up’ policy making to address sexual violence in Canada and South Africa.

In launching the project, the dialogue invited girls and young women, feminists, activists, academics, policy makers and others to come together to reflect on what such responses might be.

Opening the dialogue, the Dean and Head of the School of Education, Professor Gregory Kamwendo, observed that the dialogue was important and central to humanity and targeted an issue prevalent in society. Lamenting the absence of men at the event, he expressed the hope that such open discussions would attract a greater male presence in the future.

In her opening remarks, the Chair of Agenda Feminist Media Board of Directors, Ms Janine Hicks, expressed confidence that the research would allow the experiences of rural girls to be heard so as to enable change in messages to communities and government, and ultimately change in policy.The event featured case studies of Girl-led responses to Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Sexual Violence.

Dr Rekha Mahadev, who graduated from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in 2014, shared her research on using participatory video research to address GBV in an Indian High School. Her study focused on how Indian youth understand, experience and relate to GBV.

The youth in her study identified cultural influences, social normative influences and intrapersonal influences as influencing GBV. ‘As a survival tactic, women rationalise and trivialise abuse and see it as an act of love. They are also imprisoned by culture, patriarchal norms and succumb to peer pressure.’

Mahadev sees her participatory video research as a powerful tool for addressing GBV in communities. ‘It can be seen as an intervention by addressing the abuse and violence with the learners, adding to their knowledge base on how to take action, giving them a sense of accountability and responsibility. The learners see this research as socially constructive and transformative to them as they effect self-directed changes and shift existing norms on gender roles.’

Mr Ndumiso Ngidi of the Durban University of Technology looked at Transformative Pedagogies for addressing GBV in a township school in Ntuzuma. His presentation centred on his Inyathelo Lethu (Our Initiative) Project.

‘The project brought together two groups of peer educators, one being a newly established group at Senzokwethu Secondary School and another group from the Durban University of Technology. The two groups collaborated in developing and implementing a GBV prevention curriculum in the secondary school. The project reached 200 pupils through workshops and weekly dialogues.’

Ngidi told of how the initiative enhanced the learners’ confidence in identifying gender violence in their own lives and the lives of others.

Some of the 200 learners reached in the project commented, through letters, on the value of peer educators in their school and started to communicate about various issues affecting them. According to Ngidi, in their letters some of the learners told of their experiences of abuse and their appreciation of the project in helping them identify these and work towards finding solutions. Serious cases were referred to Childline.

Ms Melissa Lufele and Ms Zethu Jiyana, BEd students at NMMU accompanied by Professor Naydene de Lange, presented on the work of The Girls Leading Change initiative. The project involves 14 young women students from NMMU’s education faculty who came together in their first year in 2013 to address the issue of sexual violence on campus.

In this session, the two women presented on the work of the Girls Leading Change, in which they developed cellphilms (videos made using cellphones), policy posters and action briefs to stimulate dialogue in their university community around sexual violence and safety. Lufele and Jiyana spoke about women students’ experiences of violence and feeling unsafe on campus, issues which their project aimed to highlight. Said Lufele: ‘The issues raised in the cellphilms were used to generate a set of policy posters and action briefs that we shared with university policy makers to work towards addressing the issues.’

The three collaborators: Naydene de Lange, Relebohile Moletsane and Claudia Mitchell, initiated Girls Leading Change as a pilot initiative that will feed into the bigger project launched at the feminist dialgue.

Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the project, Networks for Change and Well-being, co-led by Moletsane and Mitchell, focuses on indigenous girls in four provinces in Canada and rural girls in three provinces in South Africa. The overarching aim of their partnership is to study and advance the use of innovative approaches to knowledge-production, policy-making, and communication, in addressing sexual violence against girls and young women in South Africa and Canada.

In particular, their work examines how girl-led media production might influence community practitioners and policy-makers. In so doing, the project aims to shift the boundaries of knowledge production and inform policy change.  

Melissa Mungroo

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