Making a Difference in People’s Awareness

Posted by Carrie on Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
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Today we were able to sleep in, as our first meeting/interview was not until later in the day. We walked over to the “strip mall” for breakfast - now, it’s a strip mall, but has the feel of being on 50th and France - very oola la! We had breakfast at this little place called- Redemption Cafe. We ate outside - sort of - right now it’s the tail end of the windy season - so the outdoor seating has a huge clear tarp that is pulled down when really windy- you can see out of it, and you can have the feel of being outside without the wind- and I’m talking wind! I’ve never felt anything like it! Course we are also right next to the beach, so it’s even worse! Because it’s so windy it is not very warm right now - at least not to me. Everyone knows how I’m cold all of the time!

After breakfast, our driver- Denver- took us around Cape Town so we could get our “B” shots- I’ve learned that “B” shots are the shots of the surrounding area that help a viewer capture the feel of a place- okay- that’s my definition, but I think that works pretty good. Denver is hilarious and we’re having good time with him. As he told us, he is considered colored, and he then went on to explain a little of how South Africa has changed since the end of Apartheid. Actually he said that although the majority - all of the non-whites (blacks, colored, Asians) now have the vote and other rights, for the most part, the life of the majority has not changed that much- residential areas are still segregated, and the only time one really sees blacks or others in the area we are staying - haut bay - is in service jobs - store clerks, waiters/waitresses, etc. And, for the most part this has been true of what I’ve seen. Now, of course this is only Denver’s opinion and really, the first one we’ve heard- we’ll see what else others have to say. Denver also talked to us about the Townships, which I’ve mentioned before, they are still lacking so many things- and with such huge populations- Denver thinks it will take a miracle to make real change. He said that many people were not happy with Mandela’s administration because he promised a lot and none has occurred - still no jobs, no running water in all houses, not enough houses for everyone, not all have electricity etc.

Denver took us into the downtown area of Cape Town and things looked different- it was not simply a white area - it looked very much like being in New York city - maybe not quite as crowded - but so many different types of people - all walks of life - all races, many different languages - South Africa actually recognizes 11 national languages! There were people in suits and people in flip flops- just like you’d see in any major city in the U.S.- you can find most of the same major stores one might see in the U.S. as well - course there isn’t a Starbucks, which Dominic really wanted! So, we took a few city street shots and then we headed to the port and took more shots there. I remember hearing Joel say that the city shots weren’t that interesting to him because it’s basically like being in the United States. For lunch we stopped at a local internet coffee shop - which was right across from an arts market. We spent a few minutes looking around the market and then headed to our first interview of the day.

At 4pm we headed out to Khayelitsha, the biggest township in the western cape- and maybe even Cape Town, but I’m not sure. Khayelitsha has a population of 500,000! It is HUGE! And, 10% of the population of Khayelitsha is HIV positive. The number of people with HIV is growing, it is not dropping- this is something we’ll be looking into here. There is a big unemployment problem in the townships-and the poverty rate is incredibly high- I think I’ve already told you that 50% of the South African population lives below the poverty line. Khayelitsha is approximately 30 minutes from our place in Haut Bay- the change is incredible- I can’t even explain it- I am staying in the lap of luxury- while 30 minutes way people are living in tin shacks- literally! 500,000! It goes on for miles! I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve never imagined anything like it! This is not what I expected to see 12+ years after the end of apartheid. But, there is a township not even 5 minutes from where I’m staying- although not as large, the conditions are the same - people in the area I’m staying drive past it every single day- it’s called MANDELA PARK! This entire thing makes me angry, sad, - emotions I can’t really explain. There are no real jobs in the townships so people must head into the city - by train, by taxi, by simply getting lift.

So, on the way to Khayelitsha we picked up two men, Temba and Sam, and a woman, who’s name I cannot remember. Temba and Sam work with an organization called: Ikhwezi. Ikhwezi is a performance group, which through its performances teaches others about HIV/AIDS. In South Africa, some schools teach kids about sex/education and others don’t. One cannot count on a school to teach a child about such things. Many schools believe to teach is to give kids the go ahead to engage in sexual relations. Other problems include the stigma of HIV/AIDS- this has been a huge problem - no one wants anyone to know, so people do not get tested and continue with their daily lives. In addition, cultural/traditional ideas keep women from having much control over what happens in the bedroom - what I mean is that they do not have the “power” to ask/demand that a man wear a condom. The women really do not have a choice because this is a patriarchal society, the men make decisions and the women follow. Because of a lack of employment, there are also people who turn to other ways to make money to survive- this will include prostitution. On top of this, as I mentioned before, the South African government has not made this epidemic a priority. So, there is a big lack of education, the stigma which keeps people not only from getting tested, but also from getting treatment, the fact that women do not have a lot of control over their bodies, and the government has not been on board. All together this makes for a big problem. There is also, and I could not believe this when I heard it- a “vitamin entrepreneur”- Matthias Rath - he speaks out against anti-retroviral treatment (ARVs) for HIV and instead pushes vitamins - he targets those in poorer areas - so there are people who stop taking their ARVs and use the vitamins instead - even though we know there is a clear link between taking the ARVs and being healthy and living longer with HIV. I can’t believe the problem here! It’s staggering! And, yet, people are trying to go on with their lives - it’s actually amazing to see the positive attitude and hope that people do have.

Okay- back to Ikhwezi - this organization goes to areas such as Khayelitsha and puts on performances to get the word out about HIV/AIDS. They use actually stories and real life situations. They give out information about prevention, getting tested, clinics, getting treatment. They show people that there is hope, that one can live a normal life- being positive does not have to be a death sentence. They have worked incredibly hard to get rid of the stigma of HIV/AIDS and they are having success! This group also addresses other issues- child abuse, rape, and TB, which is also on the rise because of the number of HIV cases. Rape has become a big problem here- violence against women is not a big deal. Again- women do not have a lot of say- this is changing slowly, but not enough has been done- women are afraid to speak out. The Ikhwezi members met and practice at a community center in Khayelitsha- we were able to meet with the group - a wide range of ages - and is co-ed. We will be meeting with them again on Friday in order to interview the group - today we were only able to meet with Temba and Sam. The group travels all around South Africa and is doing great work! They are making a difference in peoples awareness!

Whew! I’ve written a lot! There will be more to write about tomorrow!


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