by Athiphila Sidondi and Sonwabise Dick
On 29 June 2015, the Cape Town media barely covered a terrible tragedy at Osi’s Tavern in Khayelitsha, in which eight young women died in a stampede. Yet only days prior, a non-fatal shark attack in the Eastern Cape received worldwide attention.
What is the value of young, black, females in the media, and in South Africa especially?
“Let there be 1,000 or 10,000 people in Khayelitsha trying to make a change in the community.”
We wish to be a voice for girls and women in our community, and to let them know about how sport has helped us to be strong, healthy and safe young women.
We express our deepest sympathies for the tragedy at Osi’s, and condolences for all the girls and their families, and indeed for the entire Khayelitsha community. Osi’s is only a few streets away from where we practice as members of the RV United all girls football team in Harare. Passing by Osi’s and seeing blood on the ground and the staircase destroyed was a truly painful sight.
But the real tragedy here is that this incident was preventable. Across Khayelitsha, we see underage youth gaining access to taverns and clubs; anyone is allowed, particularly at this time of year when students are writing exams, graduating and celebrating. It is a devastating loss for all of Khayelitsha, when incidents like this happen. We can’t help but think that if there were security personnel to screen for IDs and weapons, the girls would still be safe in their homes. People are looking for a place to have fun and be entertained, and in fact it wasn’t safe for anyone.
Being a teenager, and particularly a female, in Khayelitsha isn’t easy. We need guidance and support from our elders, parents and guardians. We need someone to guide us, a life coach. We are facing abuse, drugs and alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, gender stereotypes and gangsterism. Peer pressure brings all these things together. Young women and girls are pressured to go out at night, some even sneaking out. Others don’t have guardians who keep watch over them, so they can easily get up to dangerous activities.
Support from parents and guardians is very slim in our community, and some youth feel they don’t have enough support. For example, there is a lack of information about what sport can do for a child. Many guardians don’t see the value in playing a sport like football. Sport can help a child to be more focussed on schoolwork, and marks can improve when a child is happy and excelling in sport. We hope the communities of Cape Town and Khayelitsha can stand together in a time like this to call for more facilities, safer activities, and guidance for our children.
There are safe activities for young people in Khayelitsha, like the Football for Hope Centre in Harare, but we need more options. There are so many benefits to gain from football, like life skills and confidence – and if you aren’t confident, you can’t be a complete player or a complete person.
Young people come together to play soccer, make friends, have fun and learn about healthy living. Our all-girls football team, RV United, started at the Grassroot Soccer centre and is now a member of the SASOL League. All the RV United players know that if we were ever out late on the weekend and couldn’t perform, we would let down our teammates and coach. Being a part of RV United has made us more confident, and helped us avoid peer pressure and alcohol, so that we can be dependable teammates. It builds leadership skills in each player so we can motivate each other and be more supportive. Playing football has taught us to be accountable to people who care about us – our teammates, friends and family. Being involved in programmes like this, and community activities like playing sport with RV United, doesn’t allow any time to be involved in a gang or other dangerous activities.
We know first hand how hard it is to stand up to abuse or peer pressure. Through our experience as RV United players, we guide and support our younger teammates and sisters every day. We provide a safe space for girls and gives a chance to all girls and young women through our three divisions: juniors (ages 9-13), second team (ages 14-18) and first team (ages 19+). We don’t only focus on playing football, but also on shaping a girl’s life and being there for her. We teach girls to stay true to who they are and motivate themselves.
We are calling on people across Cape Town to join us, and other young people in our community. Let there be 1,000 or 10,000 people in Khayelitsha trying to make a change in the community. Let us not allow the voices of these girls be lost in vain. Let us have support from the wider Cape Town community to prioritise development and improve the lives of young people in Khayelitsha.
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