Walmer Township – situated just next to the Port Elizabeth airport and the more affluent Walmer suburb – remains one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Eastern Cape. Common challenges facing township residents include unemployment (53% in 2016), HIV/AIDS, alcohol abuse (especially among younger women and men), child neglect, crime, and illiteracy (Phyfer & Jules-Macquet, 2016). Walmer Township (Walmer) is home to approximately 26,445 people. Fifty-six percent of residents are female. Most of the township’s inhabitants have not completed secondary education (72.9%). Walmer lacks sufficient resources to address these challenges; there are only two primary schools, one high school, one police station and one clinic in the township.
Research conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) in 2016, found that 77.1 % of women and girls do not feel safe in Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth. This fear is understandable, with SAPS annual crime data indicating 76 reported incidents of sexual violence in the township over the April 2015 – March 2016 period.
Despite these alarming rates, the actual prevalence rate is believed to be far higher with many cases going unreported. Unsurprisingly, female community members are finding experience and fear of this violence to be unbearable. This worrying trend has continued in 2017, with SAPS identifying an increase in reported incidents of violence against women in the township. From January until June 2017, SAPS recorded: 28 cases of common assault, 32 cases of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (assault GBH), 18 cases of rape, 9 murders, 1 reported attempted murder, 2 reported incidents of sexual assault and 13 cases of robbery. Some of these cases were incidents of domestic violence, but as incidents of domestic violence are not recorded as a separate category its prevalence in this township is difficult to accurately determine.
With the support of UMHLALI, an early crime prevention project implemented by the CJCP and Masifunde Learner Development; as well as the GIZ’s Violence and Crime Prevention Project (VCP); the ULUTSHA street festival took place on Youth Day (June 16, 2017) under the slogan “Report cases of violence against women and children!”.
A key aspect of this year’s festival was the street soccer tournament, organised by IZIZWE projects. For the first-time sports activities specifically sought to include girls. In addition to being able to participate in the netball and basketball tournaments, more girls were given the opportunity to play soccer owing to a newly introduced rule of the street soccer tournament, which only allowed mixed soccer teams with a minimum of 3 girls, to participate.
The Games Festival, which was organised for small children and took place at the Walmer Primary School grounds, also sought to specifically include girls. In preparation for the Games Festival, 30 out-of-school youth underwent specialized training to equip them to coordinate play activities with approximately 100 children at nine different games stations. As part of this training, the youth received a training certificate which will better enable them to procure work in the events management sector in the future.
The Ulutsha Street Festival has provided different platforms for creative expression of local cultures and values: the visitors could enjoy three choirs - the Masifunde Youth, Masifunde Children’s Choir and the John Masiza Choir. Dance groups from Walmer Primary and from “African Renaissance” also entertained the audience. The future “Dupre’s'' of the Masifunde art group painted scenes from the festival.
Poems on contemporary and youth related issues from Sakile and Dan MSS gave a special poignancy and depth to the day.
This year’s ULUTSHA Festival had strong core messages, aligned with the overarching theme of gender-based violence (GBV). These core messages were communicated through the various events, including: the Mob Fashion Show against GBV; the drama presentation on the history of Youth Day; an awareness campaign by a boy’s group (grade 5 – 7) on children’s rights; and the mixed basketball and netball matches, which aimed at promoting tolerance towards the LBGTI community (who are also targets of GBV).
At least for a whole day the women and youth of Walmer Township had the opportunity to go about feeling safe and having lots of fun. Now it is up to the authorities, together with the community, to create more permanent safer spaces in Walmer Township!