Projects Abroad Human Rights Office – Cape Town, South Africa – Monthly Reports
Projects Abroad Human Rights Office - Cape town - Monthly reports - September 2011
This month has been very productive for PAHO with new ideas and new projects, adding to the already successful projects currently running. Volunteers have been planning new soccer tournaments, developing new relationships with other organisations, organising a jewellery sale for the women at St. Anne’s, and working hard on a variety of different legal cases. The office continues to evolve and grow as do the volunteers working in the office.
The volunteers have been very busy at Bonnytoun over the last month, and are facing the challenges that are posed by a lower number of volunteers in the Human Rights Office, which is inevitable at this time of year. Volunteers have been getting the boys involved with a lot of work on life skills, trying to encourage them to develop and nurture a positive outlook on their future prospects, and rewarding their efforts with some outdoor sports, when the weather has permitted. We have also uncovered a lot of hidden artistic talent among the boys, and are hoping to present them with opportunities to showcase their skills.
The Women’s Shelter: St Anne’s
We have had an interesting few weeks at St Anne’s. The volunteers have been running a series of workshops with the ladies on various topics including marriage, divorce and child maintenance, sexual offences, legal assistance and counselling services. It has been great to exchange experiences with the ladies and we have enjoyed coordinating lively discussions withthem about how these issues affect their lives. In addition to the workshops, St Anne’s has also hosted a jewellery sale this month to raise money for the home. The sale came about after some of the ladies at St Anne’s revealed to the volunteers that they make some stunning pieces of contemporary jewellery. When the human rights volunteers saw how beautiful the jewellery was, they thought it would be great to hold a jewellery sale for the rest of the Projects Abroad volunteers. The sale was a success and we are now hoping to make the St Anne’s jewellery sale a regular event.
This month we started a new program in Nyanga East. ISIBANE is an anti-crime organisation that works in various communities in the townships and aims to empower street communities so that crimes can be reported in the appropriate way as well as looking at ways to teach vital skills to youth and parents. PAHO volunteers attended a two-week conference hosted by ISIBANE and went to various communities with ISIBANE volunteers. A week later, ISIBANE volunteers came to our office to discuss PAHO’s involvement with their organisation. We are looking forward to further developing this relationship and working with them in the future.
We are currently recruiting new participants for the Manenberg Girls program. Once we have a sufficient number of participants we will begin planning workshops focussing on life skills and self-empowerment.
For the Manenberg Boys, we are currently in the process of establishing an indoor five aside soccer league at the Silvertree Community Centre. We are in the course of registering players and teams at present, with the league hoping to be under way by Monday the 17th of October. We hope the league will last for approximately four weeks, with a Finals Day to be scheduled immediately afterwards with all teams participating. We feel this competition will be an excellent way to benefit young males in Manenberg who are particularly at risk of being absorbed into the 5 local gang culture. Our long term aim is to build stronger ties with the Silvertree Community Centre, extending the sports available to the people of Manenberg and improving the facilities as a whole. We are hoping to do this by gaining both council and local business support, and we have had some success so far in contacting the South African Soccer Foundation who will be able to supply equipment and additional coaching for junior age groups.
Mock Trial/Debating Workshop
The last month has been a very exciting time for the Mock Trial program. Our new mock trial program in Ruyterwacht has stabilized with regular members. The kids are older and knowledgeable about the state of their country and passionate about their beliefs. We have been honing in on developing logical and coherent arguments which they have been very receptive to. We will kick off their study of the South African legal system by a visit to the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court where our the Athlone mock trial group will have their final presentation of their court case hearing in front of Advocate Mr. Ruiters. The Athlone group has worked very hard to perfect their arguments and speeches, and this is a great accomplishment for them. The kid’s will get individual certificates recognizing their dedication to the Mock Trial program.
We continue to get many interesting cases from our Lavender Hill clinic. One of our volunteers had a client named Gertrude. Gertrude is trying to divorce her husband (and father of her children) because he is abusive and controlling. Moreover, he is a police officer (so who knows the extent of the control he exerts). Gertrude is a qualified teacher and manager; yet she has not been able (or allowed) to find employment in these fields. She has been trying to leave her marriage for the past 10 years, but to no avail. Gertrude told one of our volunteers that she "...came into this marriage a poor person, and I don't care if I leave a poor person. I just want my independence".
- Elaine came to us at PAHO as she needed assistance in appealing a sentence for a criminal conviction against her. Elaine had been the victim of an attack and attempted rape by an ex-boyfriend (in which she suffered multiple wounds, on her body and even genitals, inflicted by him with a beer bottle). The attack was executed in the presence of her son. In self-defence, Elaine had reached for the bottle and struck back. Because of the seriousness of her injuries, Elaine was hospitalised for a few days. Upon being discharged, she was arrested by the police. Due to certain connections that her ex-boyfriend had within the community (and, therefore, with the police), Elaine was beaten by the police and charged with the attempted murder of her ex-boyfriend. The charge was downgraded to assault, but not before Elaine had spent the better part of 3 years in prison. She is currently serving a 3-year sentence under house arrest, which means she risked a lot even leaving her house to come to our office.
- We have had some interesting results in some of our cases. In one case, our client had been bitten by a dog. He believed it to be a racially motivated attack and chose to seek justice instead of a financial payout. Unfortunately, the dog owner left the 6 country before the case went to trial and the prosecutor dropped the charges. We are currently in the process of writing a letter to the prosecutor, asking why he dropped the charges and to see if they can be reinstated. In another case, we were able to assist our clients in getting their child returned to them after the child was taken from their home on charges of neglect. The police failed to follow proper procedure which resulted in our clients not being able to see their child for months. We wish them all of the best.