This weekend, we had an event through the Proudly Female program I work with in conjunction with Stop Harassment Week. Not only is the event something I want to share, but also it gives me an excuse to share with you one of the hardest things about my life in Cape Town.

In the eight months that I have had the blessing of living in Cape Town, I have also had struggles. For me personally, one of the most difficult things about life here is harassment. I deal with harassment on just about a daily basis. My walk to work is only 10 minutes, yet I rarely manage to get to and from work without someone whistling, cat calling, making kissy noises, making obscene gestures, or otherwise verbally harassing me. This has been true in every place I have lived in Cape Town and every various work commute I have had.

I am lucky- the harassment has remained verbal. It puts me on edge, but I am not in danger. The thing is, though, that doesn’t make it okay. It is unacceptable that women all over the world deal with harassment. It makes me angry that I have to deal with it, but the anger I feel for myself is nothing compared to the heartbreaking realization that this is the norm in my community here.

In an average week, I interact with about 140 girls between the ages of 11 and 14. For all of these young women, harassment is a part of the only life they know. To them, it is the norm to hear men call out “Hey baby” or “Vanaand is die aand.” It is a part of their life to walk to school to the tune of House Music mixed with “psst” or kissy noises. I want, more than anything in this world, to change that. I want these girls- these vivacious, funny, passionate, goofy young women- to have freedom and safety and comfort.

I am not the only person who wants this. Joy Warries, my supervisor and mentor and the woman I am in awe of most on a daily basis, is working to change that. One step in the process is raising awareness. So, Saturday morning, about 50 girls we work with showed up at the Youth & Women Center, painted posters, and took to the streets. The posters said things such as “Stop calling me baby” and “Hands off” and “Stop harassment.” We walked down the main road in our community singing some lyrics from the Tears For Fears classic “Shout.”

As we walked, we laughed and sang and danced, and handed out pamphlets to every person we walked past and people in passing cars. The pamphlets, in Afrikaans, explained what harassment is, why it is not okay, and what to do when encountering harassment on the streets.

There is a long road ahead for the girls in my community. Unfortunately, I will not be able to travel that road with them in person after July, but I feel so blessed to have been a part of this first event. This event, while just a first step, was a step in the right direction.

Here are some pictures from our wonderful day of activism!

ImageImageImage

 

Image

Image

Image

 

Here we are afterwards. This chaos is what happens after you yell “funny photo!”

Image

Advertisements