Author: Rethabile Mashale

No Rapists, Misogynists or Homophobes in my Village

A few weeks ago I ‘checked-out’ of reading the news online and watching on TV. It wasn’t anything specific; rather it was the ongoing trauma I was experiencing as a result of reading about the brutal rape and murder of children, increased child violence and female genocide daily. The South African media in their frenzy to sensationalise news reports, manage to traumatise an entire nation into a state of desensitisation and acceptance of sexual violence as normal.  As I was reflecting on these issues, my mind kept revisiting the well-known African proverb:  It takes a village to raise a child I’ve always wondered who lives in that village and what messages those villagers transmit, directly and indirectly, to the children they are raising. In South Africa, we have villages made up of silent observers and do-gooders working among rapists, murders and homophobic misogynists all intent on putting women and children in their ‘place’. As we begin the 16 days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, I’m grappling with how relevant that proverb …

The Need for More Active Role Modeling for African Girls

Drawing on my experience in youth development, particularly within the non-profit sector, I have tried to understand the experience of black youth within development. I don’t care for the experiences they describe on the evaluation forms we coerce them to complete, but insight into what they really think about the work being done. So I started listening in on the informal peer chats after workshops, graduation events and outings. What I heard was a longing and need to identify with and be inspired by people like them, people of their colour and social and economic upbringing. In our work with young people, particularly girls, we take so many things for granted. We build on what we understand to be assumed knowledge. As development workers, we seldom take context into consideration. We sell a lie to black children that if they work hard enough, they too can achieve great success without acknowledging the barriers they will face. We make success seem effortless. What we don’t ask is how many graduates are sitting unemployed drinking in shebeens …

A call for intersectionality in the feminist debate

Quite early in my life I felt and spoke out like a feminist. I didn’t know what a feminist was, let alone know that this feeling and way of being was in fact called feminism. It was in my final year of high school I learnt the term feminist and about the feminist movement. Suddenly, I had a name for my constant behaviour of speaking out on injustices against women, minorities and what I perceived to be injustices in my society. As I became more immersed in this new identity and new group of like-minded people, I realised my references were very white and that there were several areas of conflict with my culture and heritage. I was a white feminist in a black woman’s body. I had little understanding of the concept of intersectionality of race and always argued women’s rights and topical debates from my white feminism vantage point. I have since learnt that one can’t talk about feminism, particularly of women’s rights, outside of race and class. Black women and by extension, black feminism, is …