Monday, November 29, 2010

As Seen On TV

Check out The Girl Effect video, courtesy of Sarah and Oprah!
Also, I've added a new sidebar called "Xhosa Word of the Day" which will offer a new word each day to learn.  Just click on the word to get its definition and some usages!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Frightening Mathematics

reprinted from the Mail & Guardian's November 25 article by Faranaaz Parker

The preliminary findings of the study, titled The War at Home, was released at the start of the 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children. "The survey in South Africa's most densely populated and cosmopolitan province shows that while political conflict in the country has subsided, homes and communities are still far from safe, especially for women," said the authors.

South Africans and the international community were shocked last year when the MRC revealed that one in four men surveyed in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal admitted to committing rape. But this new survey shows that gender-based violence may be even more widespread in Gauteng than in other provinces. More than one in three men in Gauteng admitted to perpetrating sexual violence.

Rachel Jewkes, director of the Gender and Health Research Unit at the MRC, pointed out that only 18% of rapes were perpetrated by partners. "This is a unique and special feature seen in South Africa, that to rape a stranger or acquaintance is more common than to rape an intimate partner," she said. In most countries, rape is usually perpetrated by someone close to the victim.

"We're often told by the media and others that we're exaggerating the problem, that abuse is not rife. But only 21,7% of men said they'd never perpetrated a form of violence against women," said Jewkes. She said this said much about ideas of sexual entitlement and gender hierarchy in South African society.

Overlapping forms of violence
The survey data was gathered by interviewing a representative sample of 998 men and women in Gauteng. Researchers say the survey is unique in that it is the first baseline study that looks at various types of violence; the survey investigated emotional, economic, physical and sexual violence.

The MRC and Gender Links will release the full findings of the survey in March next year. They say they will encourage government to replicate the study in other regions to get a better understanding of the extent of gender-based violence in the country.

"The preliminary findings of the prevalence survey show why this is important as police statistics either fail to cover many forms of gender violence or understate the extent of the problem," the authors said.

The survey found that although one in four women in the province said they had experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, only one in 25 rapes was reported to police.
Almost 80% of the men in Gauteng admit to perpetrating some form of violence against women. This was revealed through a prevalence survey on gender violence conducted by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the non-governmental organisation Gender Links.

The most common form of violence against women was emotional abuse. This included being insulted, intimidated, threatened with violence or humiliated in front of others. It also included women being stopped from seeing their friends and their partners boasting about or bringing home girlfriends.

Physical violence was the second most common form of violence reported. However, most women suffered more than one form abuse from their partner.

Gender equity still a pipedream
South Africa's constitution may guarantee gender equality but that ideal has yet to trickled down to grassroots level. The study showed that more than 80% of men and women think that people should be treated the same regardless of their sex. But at the same time 58% of women and 87% of men think that a woman should obey her husband.

These views were amplified when study participants were asked about community attitudes towards men and women. For example, 80% of women and 95% of men said their community thinks a woman should obey her husband. This implies that while people's views on gender may slowly be changing, there is still strong pressure from communities for men and women to behave in certain ways.

More than a third of men also think that men should have the final say in all family matters, that a woman needs her husband's permission to do paid work, and that if a woman works, she should give her money to her husband.

Kubi Rama, deputy director of Gender Links, said that when it comes to gender, there is a mismatch between what is said in public and what is practiced privately.

"There's a general acceptance that men and women are equal but in practice we haven't moved very far. Gender roles are very static in the home," she said. "In the public space we're saying politically correct things but in our homes we go back to very patriarchal values."

Rama said South Africans needed to shift private abuse into the public sphere by making it a community issue. She said many people may not realise when hearing signs of a struggle at a neighbour's house, often it takes nothing more than a knock on the door to avert violence.

"Communities need to look after each other … Churches, temples and mosques are well placed to get involved and to promote and grasp that truly about safety and equality and the need to respect each other's rights," she said.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

For You, Your Mother, Your Sister,Your Daughter, Your Wife, Your Girlfriend


by Favianna Rodriguez, more info at the click through (findingagency)

Today marks the beginning of South Africa's annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence to Women and Children.  The 16 days start on November 25 to commemorate the International Day for No Violence against Women and will end on December 10 to honour International Human Rights Day with World AIDS Day on December 1 right in the middle.

The Mail & Guardian is running an online special series with articles, archived stories, and commentary to document what is being done nationally and internationally.

Gender Based Violence and the abuse of power against women and children is a global problem that demands our attention, our outrage, our support, and our action.  If you know a woman, wear your white ribbon.  There is simply no excuse.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Machine Guns in Parking Lots

Enough time has passed where I can safely say that I have made it through the stages of culture shock with little or no negative repercussions and am accustmomed to many of the different day-to-day routines here.  One part of daily life in South Africa that will never leave me with a warm and fuzzy feeling are the armed guards and tanks that pick up and deliver cash to the ATMs.  There's nothing like watching men in bulletproof vests with giant automatic rifles in their hands stroll through a mall parking lot to really put me at ease.  As a peace-loving Canadian who's never held a gun or even seen one outside of action films or a police officer's belt, my obvious reaction is sheer and utter panic followed by the primal instinct to get as far away as humanly possible in a short period of time.  The paranoia instilled in me before even arriving in South Africa about the perils of withdrawing money from ATMs has only now abated to a reasonable and healthy fear with Sarah as my bodyguard.  Being confronted with a machine gun on your way to pick up milk is one thing that I probably won't be too homesick for when I return home!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Strolling the Aisles

Haven't actually seen this yet but I can imagine...

14 cent rubies

There's a complex formula to ensure you
always have a ripe avocado in the house

 I know this blog is meant for exhilirating travel stories of far flung places I visit and summaries of the professional development and fulfilment I experience.  But, you know what?  I love food and I love writing about food and I love sharing about food I've eaten.  I've extolled the virtues of the meat and its starring role in society and culture and I've expressed my love for the Xhosa plate.  But here's a dirty little secret, one of my favourite places to visit in a new place is a grocery store.  Now that East London feels like home and I have had the time and hindsight to properly observe the various grocery stores here, let me take you down the aisles of the delicious and the unique. 

When you set out grocery shopping, you never know what is going to be on the shelves.  In Canada, you're guaranteed to see the same fruits and vegetables regardless of the season or weather or whether they actually look and taste like what nature intended.  Here, there might be yellow bell peppers one day and then you won't see them for a couple weeks.  Or the spinach bin might be overflowing with emerald bunches or it might be a pathetic wasteland of wilted leaves.  And one day the poultry fridge will have packs and packs of chicken and tomorrow will only have leftover scrapes.  We can get a bunch of spinach (not the delicate baby leaves) for just under 50 cents or a sack of perfect grape tomatoes for $3.  And I get to eat fruits that I haven't had since leaving Maui!

Who needs more in life than fresh from the field spinach?


Certain staples dominate the stores--there is a whole aisle dedicated to bags of samp, beans, maize and mealie meal.  On the other side of the aisle, you have flour, white sugar, and vegetable cooking oil.  Chutnies and mayonnaise also constitute almost an entire side of an aisle as does long life milk and cream.  Decent butter is hard to come by, but you can buy a lifetime supply of margarine.  I'm in the birthplace of rooibos tea and amazing honey, but coffee afficioniados may have trouble with the instant freeze dried particles.  They even sell chicory--I thought only cowboys and the dad from "Little House on the Prairie" indulged in that.  Good luck finding pasta sauce or chocolate chips or tofu.
Sarah and I end up going grocery shopping about 4 times a week and I live in a constant fantasy of fruits and vegetables.  There is much less emphasis on organic, free range, local--perhaps it's just asumed that that's how it is and should be.

My long lost love-where have you been all my life?

1/2 of my stipend goes to these ruby gems

As with any place different from your home, there are unique tastes and combinations that are a novelty.  A few of them are just plain weird and some others have been amazingly pleasant surprises. 
Here are a few of my favourites from strolling the aisles...

Smoked Beef flavoured

Mrs. Balls chutney (delicious as a chip flavour)

Booerwors--throw it on the BBQ

Pine nut flavoured-Who knew?

Tangy mayonnaise gets its own aisle

For Scott & Brianne

Best biscuits ever--"made with real butter, real coconut, and real syrup"
Cashew & Coconut

Current Events

This story has been dominating the news over the past week--check out this Mail & Guardian article and some of the follow-up.

In other related news, Thursday November 25 marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism  which focuses on the awareness and ending of Gender-Based Violence in South Africa.  I have been invited to an event at the University of Fort Hare to mark its beginning.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Your Sunday morning service

Check out this BBC article on the Pope's softening stance on condom usage and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Farewell and A Bowl of Meat

Last Friday, Sarah and I were invited to the going away braai (traditional BBQ) for Mawethu Zita, an honourary Canadian who was a jack of all trades at Ikhwezi Wellness Centre.  There were tearful speeches, singing, and lots of hugs!  I even got to say a few words thanking Mawethu for welcoming us to South Africa and Ikhwezi and congratulating him on his new position on behalf of Niagara College and Canada!  Although some staff members encouraged us to bring a big bottle of cheap whiskey as our contribution (saying it was a customary gift to bring), I believe now that perhaps they were testing how naive two Canadians can be.
In true Xhosa and South African style, the heartwarming ceremony was capped off by the giant bowl of meat I was served.  Featuring a chicken leg, 2 sausages, a T-bone steak, and a porkchop, Sarah and I dug in with reckless abandon with our hands to strip those bones clean of delicious meat.  This seems to be a running theme, but I still cannot get over how much better meat tastes here and the role it plays in every social gathering. 

Work is picking up here--I hadan interesting meeting with the Commission for Gender Equality earlier this week and am very excited about future work opportunities there.  Also, get ready to order your subscription to the Eastern Cape Women's Magazine where yours truly could be a featured editor and contributor! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Table Mountain

Rising 1086 metres above the Atlantic and Indian oceans, Sarah and I took advantage of the late afternoon sun on our first day in Cape Town to take the revolving cable car up to the summit of Table Mountain.   We had just landed in Cape Town after a very bumpy ride and my first zebra sighting!  It was a perilous and spectacular 2.5 minutes ride to see the 360 degree views of the entire city, Robben Island, and the wild coast. 
At the base of Table Mountain

City views from the base of Table Mountain
Looking up from the base

Cable cars

Views as we revolved

A long drop

On top of the world

Lion's Head and Signal Hill

World Cup 2010 Green Point Stadium

Wild coast

Robben Island

Far from home

Founding Fathers of South Africa (and giant Coke man)
Robben Island ferry ride


Our second day in Cape Town was dedicated to the tourist mecca of the V&A Waterfront (still a working shipyard) and the Robben Island Museum Tour.  Robben Island holds an infamous place in history as a place of banishment for indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British soldiers and civilians, and anti-apartheid activists, including South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the founding leader of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.

The UN World Heritage Site is accessed by a ferry ride through shark-infested waters where you then take a bus tour around the island before being ushered into the prison by a former political prisoner turned guide. 
On the ferry ride, Sarah and I elbowed elderly French tourists out of the way to get a top seat on the boat and ended up seeing one of the famed shark fins.  We saw the lime quarry where prisoners did hard labour, Robert Sobukwe’s private prison, and the former houses of prison wardens.  Once in the prison, we were given a guided tour by a former prisoner involved in political student activism in the turbulent 1970s.  He showed us the communal dormitory cells, playing fields, typical menus (even food was determined by skin colour), and then the star attraction-Nelson Mandela’s cell.  The tourist frenzy ensued to capture the perfect photo, but I think many missed out on the stories told by our guide.  Sarah and I were curious about Walter Sisulu’s cell, but Nelson Mandela’s is the only specifically identified cell of the anti-apartheid freedom fighters. 
It was a fascinating glimpse into a dark history and gives even more context into the country we are guests of.  Never having been in a prison, it was an eerie and disturbing experience to walk through cells and being on an island so close to Cape Town, yet so far away.
Communal room

Row of solitary cells

Our guide

Nelson Mandela's cell
Handprint mosaic

Walking in Cape Town


We were warned about the tempermental coastal weather in Cape Town, but we were pleasantly surprised by the near constant sunshine! Much of our long weekend was spent walking around Cape Town and it was a huge novelty to roam around, especially at night!  We meandered through Bo-Kaap, the heart of the Islamic community with its rainbow rows of fairytale-colour houses.   

View from our Long Street hostel (next to the Turkish Baths!)
Old Town House-abolition of slavery was read out in 1834

We checked out hipster vintage stores, kitschy tourist warehouses, hunted for Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama fabrics (successful!) and did some amazing people watching from our patio of Long Street, the official tourist boulevard.  We admired the national museums and libraries and galleries, Houses of Parliament, University of Cape Town, Provincial Legislative Building, St. George’s Cathedral (Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s diocese), and Company’s Gardens and its beautiful rose gardens. 


Across from Company's Gardens, we checked out the Supreme Court and benches they had left as legacy of the Race Classification Board and other apartheid legislation.

We bargained at Greenmarket Square with West African merchants for scarves and stood under the Old Town House where the proclamation of the abolition of slavery was read out.  We searched for Denzel Washington in the huge film set in the city centre and politely declined the latenight offers of marijuana.
Company's Gardens

Company's Gardens

Company's Gardens

St. George's Cathedral

Archbishop Desmond Tutu's legacy

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

Outside the Supreme Court

Outside the Supreme Court

Provincial Legislative Building