For the 4th consecutive year a consortium of NGOs organized the Ulutsha Street Festival in Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth.
Through the transformation of Walmer Township’s open spaces, community leaders and citizens are encouraged to build a brighter future for all, through combining awareness-raising with sports and cultural activities.
For 2018, the Ulutsha Street Festival’s key message was “Stop Violence against Women and Children”. The focus of this year’s festival was motivated by the alarming findings of research conducted in 2017 by UMHLALI, an early crime prevention project implemented by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) and Masifunde Learner Development. The research provided further evidence that violence is a problem which affects all in Walmer Township, and that there is a need for concerted action to reduce this violence.
As part of this research, learners from five Walmer Township schools were interviewed. Findings from these interviews indicated that (85%) had experienced theft, (82%) corporal punishment, (75%) verbal abuse, and (74%) had experienced physical violence at school. Of these learners, 82% reported experiencing corporal punishment at the hands of educators. This corporal punishment included being hit by a whip/stick (76%), having objects thrown at them (34%), and/or being slapped (31%). Further, it was reported that 34% of learners drank alcohol and 8% of them had smoked marijuana. Substance abuse was found to increase dramatically once learners left school, with 83.3% of school leavers reporting drinking alcohol, 41.4% smoking Marijuana and 6.8% using other drugs. *School leavers refers to youth who either dropped out of school prior to matriculating or youth who matriculated but are currently unemployed.
Many of the learners also reported experiencing violence in their homes. Parents and caregivers used physical punishment against their children including, hitting them with a whip/stick (65%), slapping them (29.7%), and/or throwing objects at them (29.1%).
These findings on children’s experience of violence in the home, are seen to relate to some extent, to domestic violence and gender-based violence (GBV) in the home. There are no statistics which specifically identify the prevalence of domestic violence and GBV among families in Walmer Township, as SAPS official crime statistics are not disaggregated into cases of GBV in the home, including cases of domestic violence. According to the SAPS statistics for Walmer Township, in 2016/2017 there were 68 sexual offences, 10 sexual assaults, and 260 cases of common assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (assault GBH); such cases included cases of GBV in the home. These statistics, however, are unlikely to provide an accurate depiction of the extent of violence in Walmer owing to the likelihood of significant underreporting of these incidents.
This is where the network of stakeholders from Walmer Township play a key role. These stakeholders include IZIZWE projects, the Department of Social Development, ASSVE, UVIWE, UMHLALI/Masifunde Learner Development and GIZ’s Programme for the Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls in Southern Africa (VAWG). Together these stakeholders organized the Ulutsha Street Festival on Youth Day – 16 June 2018.
The Ulutsha Street Festival 2018 provided various platforms for creative expression of local cultures and values. Visitors to this year’s festival were able to enjoy choirs, such as the Masifunde Youth Choir; and popular dance groups, including the African Stars, African Renaissance and the Walmer Primary School Dance Club.
Sports was a key point of interest for both active and non-active youth. Girls and boys participated in basketball and netball games. Further, many of the children engaged in the street soccer tournament. Three streets were used as soccer fields for three parallel tournaments for different age groups. Each of the soccer tournaments involved a group phase followed by a knock-out phase. Prizes included eats and drinks for all the young soccer stars. All the games were organized by the NPO IZIZWE together with a group of international volunteers from Europe and America.
A Games Festival for the small children was held on the Walmer Primary School premises. As part of the Games Festival, unemployed school leavers facilitated eight different games with about 80 children. A highlight of this year Ulutsha Street Festival was the games, in particular a game which involved a big ‘earth ball’ and a parachute. There was also a colouring station and a face painting station for the children. The volunteers who facilitated the games, had undergone a one-day capacity building workshop, where they were trained as games festival guides. These youth can be booked for other games festivals or big birthday parties. A big thank-you to the more than 100 volunteers and performers from Masifunde and IZIZWE, who made Ulutsha Street Festival 2018 a very special and unforgettable event!
The Ulutsha Street Festival 2018 turned out to be an ideal family event on a typical windy winter day in Port Elizabeth. This year’s Festival once again highlighted how public spaces can be transformed into positive spaces for recreation and social interaction. Further, the Festival demonstrated how festivals can be used as both recreational opportunities as well as opportunities to raise awareness on key social issues, such as gender-based violence and violence against children.
*Note from the author: From June 2015 to June 2018, the UMHLALI project was involved in a wide range of interventions, including awareness-raising activities, to address numerous risk factors for violence in Walmer Township. Unfortunately, the project ended on 30 June 2018, long before the planned completion date for this intervention. Despite the completion of this project, it is hoped that in the coming years, Walmer Township will witness visible change and a reduction in violence consequent of the project’s interventions. The 2017 research report on this project can be accessed on the UMHLALI website.
Jessie Bohr is a Development Advisor for the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)’s Programme for the Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls in Southern Africa (VAWG).
This article was edited by Giselle Warton, Researcher at the Safety and Violence Initiative, University of Cape Town.