The Songe Social Change based in Mthatha launched a programme to make young girls in rural areas aware of the social ills that continue to affect them on a daily basis, this includes teenage pregnancy, HIV infections and gender-based violence.
The programme was launched at Makhotyana Village in Libode and seeks to empower girls from the age of 15 to 24 years.
“The programme teaches us how to carry ourselves as young girls. It also assists those who drop out of school to go back to school. It has encouraged us to approach social workers whenever we experience problems at home,” said one of the girls who is part of the programme.
“It helped me a lot because I am now aware of the things I was not aware of before. The problems we are facing right now as you girls is teenage pregnancy, HIV and AIDS. The mobile clinics will help us deal with these challenges,” said another girl who is also part of the programme. Additionally, the programme also offers HIV/AIDS testing and counselling.
The NGO comprises of Social Workers and nurses. Its aim is to educate young girls about channels to take when facing these problems. Teenage pregnancy, a major challenge in the area, has also resulted in many young girls dropping out of school. Centre Manager for the Songe Social Change, Nontsikelelo Masindwa, believes education on life skills is important for young adults.
“We are here to assist and advocate for them. The main problem is teenage pregnancy, girls dropping out of school at an early age of 16 years, girls drinking and abusing substances, girls who do not know how to access funds so that they can further their studies. Most of the girls are the victims of gender-based violence. They’ve been directly affected and indirectly affected. They experience GBV from home and they also experience it themselves, ” she said.
The local Chief, Mthawelanga Ndamase and Thandokazi Gqetywa, one of the parents have welcomed the initiative.
“These programmes are very helpful to the communities because after engaging these children, boys and girls they tend to shift their mindset in a way that they do not engage themselves with things or issues that will lead them to get teenage pregnancy and also separate them from using substance abuse such as alcohol and those things called drugs,” said Ndamase.
“The programme of social change is a programme that gives them the future of our children because it reduces the pregnancy at an early age,” noted Gqetywa. The Safe Space project has also expanded to other villages in Ngqeleni and the organization plans to launch it around Port St Johns in the near future.