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Sun International empowers learners to speak up about gender-based violence

For the second consecutive year, Sun International has partnered with Father a Nation to host workshops on Gender Based Violence at two Soweto schools, empowering learners to seek help about either being a victim, or knowing someone who is suffering from sexual abuse.

The hospitality group, which has a stated socio-economic development focus on education, funded the 90-minute workshops for grades 9, 10 and 11s at Eldomain High School and Klipspruit Wes Senior Secondary School in Soweto, aimed at teaching learners’ important lessons on positive masculinity.

“The interactions with the learners centred around teaching youth in schools about GBV and the many different forms it takes and how they, young as they are, can form part in the fight against this problem,” said Father a Nation facilitator Sydney Madibo, a qualified educator and seasoned trainer.


“I ask interactive questions to facilitate discussions, but sensitively so as not to trigger anyone,” said Madibo. One of these exercises asks learners their opinion on if male learners whistling at a female learner who walks into their class, is a form of abuse. “A female learner shared her own opinion as to why she considers this abuse, that it made her uncomfortable and feel like a target, or a piece of meat. The learners were not aware this was a form of abuse, rather that it was just ‘boys being boys’, so it’s an ‘aha’ moment which is interactive and the kids love it. We get them thinking about what is wrong and why.”


Male learners who stood up to share their opinions received snack packs and females received a copy of Smile, Shimmer, Shine, an inspirational book for high schoolers written by Sun International’s Transformation Manager, Ashnie Muthasamy.


“Learners see challenges in their communities such as substance l abuse, risky sexual behaviour, bullying and criminality; and bring them into the schools believing that these behaviours are normal. Unfortunately, negative results are seen in teenage pregnancy, drug and drinking abuse, smoking and gang violence within schools.”


Challenges faced by teachers include that they often refrain from reprimanding learners and talking to them about their behaviour, fearing that learners could react with violence. “A lack of parental involvement is pertinent, and some learners are hostile and aggressive in the school as a result of having to take on adult responsibilities at a young age, others do not receive the guidance and lessons from home,” Madibo said.


“There are a lot of questions after the workshops, and we hope that learners will become more confident to open up about if they are in an abusive household or know someone who is being abused. Our objective is to get them conscious about what is happening, and what they can do about it.”


Madibo said most victims of sexual abuse were closely related to their abuser, “so if they are kids who have never been taught that someone is not supposed to touch you, they may not be able to understand that it is wrong”.


“Other schools have pleaded to be included on the Sun International programme,” said Sun International Socio-Economic Specialist, Heidi Edson. “Teachers feel they lack the skills to deal with challenges such as learner violence. They request assistance in the form of encouragement for the learners and some psychosocial support, and we are happy to assist wherever possible.”

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