It is rainy and overcast today in Obs. As a woman from the desert, it’s a treat to feel the protective surrounding of low-hanging clouds. It rained all night last night and the noise is something I’d not anticipated. Our home is constructed out of metal and paper insulation and our community is surrounded by sand. As the wind blows through the neighborhood, it sweeps up and scatters granules on the sides of the homes, making a smattering sound around the home throughout the storm. The contents in the house sporadically displaced as the wind blows pushes in on the walls and sneaks in though more porous areas of the home.
Last night I was probably awake until sometime after midnight, I didn’t look at my watch before falling asleep so that’s my best guess. Our lives here have been regulated more closely by the rise and fall of the sun, so most days we get to sleep much earlier. This day, we rise at the same time, feeling a lot less rested, the world has its own kind of fog for me today, regardless of the weather.
The Clouds Descend on Obs
As I’m typing this, I’m occasionally glancing out the window to look at Table Mountain. I have a gorgeous view of the mountain reserve at the base of the peaks. Super green dotted with patches of broccoli-looking trees. The clouds are hanging so low I cannot see the tops of the mountains. Nor can I see the middle, for that matter. Looking down the street, closer in from the mountains, the visibility is limited to the second closest home on the block. A visual distance of perhaps 300 feet or so.
My mind wanders to the drive home today. Travelling into Khayelitsha today and out of Obs for the last time, I likely won’t be able to see a thing out the window. Just gray clouds hanging over Table Mountain and resting low over the city. It’s a little after 3:30pm now. Perhaps I’ll grab a coffee and a samosa from downstairs or walk around the town for a bit. It’s my last day in this town and I’m not certain I’m ready to leave.
Rape Crisis and The Last Day Here
We’ve accomplished a great deal today. This afternoon, I met with Nolitha (Noh-lee-tah) we discussed the advocacy aspect of Rape Crisis in great detail. Up to this point, I’ve mostly been involved with transcriptions and helping with the minutia necessary to bring their internal administration online. Over the past few weeks I’ve been able to tag along to a few political meetings and participate in educational events with young adults and children. Until now, the history of institutionalized rape culture was not something made known to me. After all, I am an outsider peering in on the social movements of this country. Like most countries, it takes time, open eyes and ears, to understand the cultural intricacies unique to each society.
So from Nolitha’s vantage point, the government has a long way to go towards fully addressing the problem of rape in South Africa. Police stations are not currently trustworthy sources to report sexual violence. The survivor could face an officer of opposite gender and as Nolitha explains it, the officers are “insensitive at best” a great deal of the time. Once the survivor moves forward, the courts are overloaded and assigned social workers are buried in cases. Rape Crisis takes it upon itself to meet the needs of the community, counselling policemen/women, counselling survivors, etc.
I’ve been doing research today into the reported needs of the community. I’m using information given to me by the other volunteers at Rape Crisis as well as Nolitha. It’s heartbreaking to know that there are so many women out there trying to deal with this trauma and violence all on their own. Rape Crisis has always worked to get out the message that rape is wrong, it’s punishable by law, and there is support for the survivor.
It’s been my assignment following my research to help designing training for counselors with the organization. At this point it’s a lot of reading and watching how the organization works. This organization is a source of strength for the women in this community and are a key component for helping to end violence against women in South Africa. Their mission is not only to reduce the suffering experienced by survivors but through this to also help prosecute and convict the criminals who committed the violence. This is an organization who is working all sides of the problem and I have so much respect and admiration for everyone involved. They’re a vocal advocate for women’s rights and they will likely help many more women for decades to come.
For those who are interested, here’s the website for Rape Crisis in South Africa.
See You Soon
This will be my last entry for some time. I’m unsure whether or not I will have the opportunity to access the internet before we leave so let’s take this as my internet “see you on the other side” speech. Thank you to all of you for reading and for all of your kind notes of support. I wish I could stay here, my time with this country doesn’t feel like it should end this briefly and who knows how long it will stay with me after I leave.