In the gang-ridden township of Manenberg, Cape Town, children are witness to the horrors of violence and daylight shootings on a daily basis. Chances are high that by the time they are teenagers, they will have joined a gang or been a victim of gang violence.
In addition to the dangers such violence poses to children in general, South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape and sexual violence on the continent, putting girls at higher risk. The lack of access to reproductive health care and counselling leaves girls further isolated and scared.
Rock Girl’s first project was the design of a “safe bench” in collaboration with artists and designers. The colourful bench was placed in a school as a violence-free spot where the girls could gather safely. This inspired the Safe Spaces campaign which created real and symbolic art spaces in some of the most dangerous places in Cape Town and in Johannesburg in a bid to raise awareness about violence.
In 2015, Rock Girl on the Road began taking high school girls on road trips across South Africa where they are trained as reporters and photographers in partnership with the Children’s Radio Foundation and Iliso Labantu Photography Cooperative. The aim is to create a new generation of women journalists, advocates, and adventurers who are equipped with the skills and knowledge to speak out about the injustices they face. Girls discover their country, share their stories, and advocate for solutions to the common challenges they face. Their experiences are documented on social media channels and blogs, as well as in print and digital publications.
Girls are at the heart of the decision-making process at Rock Girl, with the Rock Girl Charter guiding all the organisation’s activities and reviewed yearly. Rock Girl has impacted 10,000 people since it was set up in 2011.
Photos: James Oatway