A country rich in beauty but poor in upholding fundamental human rights.
South Africa is a beautiful country. Its balmy surroundings are abundant with plant life and animals and the intense colours born from nature and man marry together and create a truly spectacular surrounding. Durban, a coastal city in eastern South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, is no different in it’s offerings. Firstly, the weather is subtropical (Let’s not forget, I am from England and in March am usually still sporting winter thermals!), and the vast coastline boasts picturesque beaches and rivers that meander around the hilly suburbs.
South Africa has eleven nationally recognised languages. Eleven! So it came as no surprise to find that Durban is one of the most ethnically diverse cities I have visited. The presence of Zulu, British, Afrikaans and Indian peoples is rooted in its extensive history and there is a cultural richness here which feels vibrant and warm. I have been introduced to some of the most gentle, kind and positive people I have ever met in my life, whose attitudes and outlooks can teach many of us lessons in overcoming life’s hardships.
As a tourist here, I am almost completely charmed by my new location in it’s beauty and initial appearance. Yet the last few days have thrown me straight into the deep end of a world I couldn’t imagine existed.
There is a dark and very real world here that thousands of children in South Africa are currently living in. A world beyond the realms of understanding to those of us lucky enough to be reading this blog from our laptops or tablets in the comfort of our homes. A world where people have such a lack of faith in the police, health, welfare and criminal justice system that crime remains unreported for fear of disbelief or shame. A world where children are being raped, frequently, by their friends, by their family members, and by strangers.
I have been in Durban for 4 days now and have engaged with 7 new cases of child rape victims aged three to fifteen years old. These children have been robbed not only physically of their virginity, but mentally of their identity, their purpose and their self esteem. These children often test positive for HIV, which causes social segregation and discrimination. From where I am sat right now, the country appears to be suffering from a rape epidemic to which the authorities and the government are turning a blind eye.
There are, however, various NGO’s I’ve contacted who operate within this remit and seek to reduce the number of rapes committed and provide support to the victims for those that are. Yet a bright star shines through the misery of rape and provides light and hope for these children when they need it most. The Bobbi Bear Foundation act principally as an activist for children, lobbying for positive change within the legal system and who have already been successful in implementing new laws to better protect the child. Its mission is to rescue and uphold the rights of of sexually abused children and minimise their risk of HIV infection. Their work goes above and beyond what I would expect from such an organisation and is fuelled by passion, love and absolute unfaltering dedication to the welfare, safety and happiness of their children. I will be volunteering with Bobbi Bear for the next 2 months and will be analysing and better understanding their work, the current rape epidemic and the overarching legal system in South Africa which has inadvertently enabled this crisis to continue. My blogs may be differing in their topics, tone and length, but I will write with passion, first-hand knowledge and input from local professionals to document my experience. One thing is certain, Bobbi Bear are attributable to some wonderful things happening in this country, and their work I will uphold as sacrosanct.