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KSS symposium to peel away the layers of communities in conflict [Q&A]

Reinventing Lives has been the foundation of development based NGO, Khulisa Social Services for over 20 years. The organisation is known for adopting systemic approaches to their community development projects. Khulisa Social Services addresses the challenges faced by communities in a holistic and comprehensive manner, and in a number of areas that desperately need that level of intervention.
Keeping to this ideal, the organisation will be hosting a national colloquium scheduled to take place on the 26th – 27th November 2019 in partnership with the Department Of Justice and Constitutional Development. The event will see Khulisa Social Solutions and its partners unpack a number of issues under the following themes: access to restorative justice, the promotion of social cohesion, informing the public , research and economic inclusivity.
We talk to the Managing Director of  Khulisa Social Services Leslyann Van Selm with the intention of expanding on the work the NGO has done to date and to further investigate the intricacies of the upcoming symposium.
Q) Social-TV: Lesley could you briefly outline the objectives of Khulisa Social Services and its history to date?

A) Lesley Ann Van Selm – MD Khulisa Solution Services:

For me, justice is the first condition of humanity

Wole Soyinka, Nigerian author, born in 1934, the 1st black African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1986

As a proudly South African NGO of 22 years existence, Khulisa Social Solutions stands by these simple but wonderful words of insight from Wole Soyinka and re-sets its compass each day in pursuit of justice for the most marginalised, most misunderstood, most ostracised and most maligned individuals and communities of our society.

But society and its communities are no longer viewed as ‘simple, clearly delineated’ – and can no longer be easily defined and confined. Our world of applied learning has yielded insights of such complexity that critical thinking has become an essential tool of development agencies, not-for-profits, thought leaders and influencers. Blessed with modern communication tools and channels, it is now possible to follow the full spectrum of world events in real-time, accompanied by juxtaposed tv screens of fake news and brilliant, insightful commentary. How is sense made of all this?

In our own country, South Africa, levels of violence appear to be more frequent and more severe. Our community problems seem to be more intractable than ever, and our children more robbed of a future than previous generations.

Q) Social-TV : What are the critical questions that are being answered at the upcoming colloquium in response to this?
A) Lesley Ann Van Selm – MD Khulisa Solution Services:

With gender-based violence, school violence, violations of human rights and the recent xenophobic attacks, Khulisa practices and promotes various forms of restorative justice that should and could be applied in order to tackle the factors that are at the base of the eruptions of these acts of extreme violence.

Khulisa believes that its evidence-based interventions of the past 22 years certainly contain more than kernels of hope – Khulisa’s interventions offer a road map of change towards a more stable and enabling environment for all current and future generations.

Into the scenario of futures-planning, we could bring in the historical and current evidence demonstrating the court backlogs, victim satisfaction surveys in domestic violence issues and how we are now applying this as a collaborative approach with the Department of Justice as a launchpad for the implementation of the National Action Plan that promises to heal our society.

The case studies that we have conducted have shown that how through Dialogue Circles, family mediations and multiple restorative interventions, the victims have in many cases got closure on issues that have plagued them for, in some cases, decades.

For example, our work with people with albinism (PWA) for example has been so successful as the starting point has been the lens of the offenders. This is an approach that has been supported by PWA’s themselves … ”let’s have the conversation, let’s talk to each other, let’s understand what albinism is, let’s learn together”.  What are the belief systems, circumstances, blighted interpretations of those who commit vile acts against PWA’s? What are the origins of thinking that drive such hatred? Legislating against acts of violence against marginalised people doesn’t remove the cause – it simply drives it underground, increases the street price and perpetuates the ugly mysticism that surrounds it.

Another compelling example is Khulisa’s operating victim services at four different police stations in Gauteng and two in the Western Cape. Depending on the circumstances and background of the cases, Khulisa facilitates interventions that surface painful histories, unresolved damaging experiences involving both victim and perpetrator, family, work colleagues – whoever is implicated. Skillful practitioners guide participants through difficult “Dialogues”, unpeeling layers of lived experiences that have a bearing on the current cases. Family members are supported throughout the process, their key roles in the healing and expected resolution painstakingly and professionally guided.

Khulisa’s purpose in pursuing restorative processes (as opposed to punitive processes) is to highlight the productivity and positive gains that are seen when we turn things around.

Q) Social-TV : What impact does the Dare to Dream concept hope to achieve by launching  research at the symposium?

A) Lesley Ann Van Selm – MD Khulisa Solution Services:

Khulisa knows no other way, other than to try, with every case of victim and perpetrator, to follow a process of unpacking the past, engaging with all involved, facilitating difficult dialogues, forging supervised paths of reconciliation.

Khulisa is appealing to the criminal justice sector and the public in large to take a brave approach to dig deeper into the broader circumstantial evidence surrounding certain categories of crime that our work suggests, lends themselves favourably to being rehabilitated.

Victimology” is an unfamiliar term to most of the public sector discussions around the increase in crime statistics, and the Department of Justice shows extraordinary innovation in promoting the unpacking and consideration of the evidence that might point to a kinder, more harmonious, more successful (in terms of crime recidivism) outcomes than the usual road of incarceration.

Ultimately what new thinking can be surfaced, unpacked, considered and launched?

Q) Social-TV: What were the building blocks needed to provide a platform that is using impact-driven storytelling to heal disadvantaged groups and communities?

A) Lesley Ann Van Selm – MD Khulisa Solution Services

The platform works by conducting public discussions reviewing the evidence of 22 years of Khulisa’s programmes that have successfully reintegrated offenders into families and communities without a recurrence of the crime. The inclusion of the individuals involved in the original interventions outlining their subsequent lives would be an authentic experience but should not detract from the focus of examining Victimology as a complex, multi-faceted process in how South Africans investigate innovative and lasting solutions to our country’s alarming crime statistics.  [End]

The upcoming colloquium by Khulisa together with their social justice partners aims to provide the basis for the development of a comprehensive public policy against all forms of discrimination, the platform will ultimately work to give effect to international human rights obligations related to the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance.


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