Social Justice & Active Democracy

DWF’s primary focus is on the most severely deprived and isolated areas of South Africa’s Eastern Cape

The Donald Woods Foundation’s primary focus is on the most severely deprived and isolated areas of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province where most of the more than 6.7 million residents survive without potable water, inadequate sanitation, electricity, roads or public transport. In the isolated parts of the region unemployment levels stand at more than 89%, and most people live at or well below subsistence level. Active democracy is an unrealised dream in such areas.

Local people also have to contend with the national epidemic of HIV infection and drug resistant TB, alongside high levels of crime, particularly crimes of sexual violence, without adequate police protection for the vulnerable. Psycho-social services to assist the victims of sexual violence are very limited at best in rural areas. Most areas have no such services and injured people are often referred to towns far away, an impossible burden for most people without means.

For decades, social and infrastructural investment in South Africa has prioritised urban areas, at the expense of the vast majority who live in underdeveloped rural areas. Even the most basic Government programmes for health and education struggle to make headway in rural areas where the few roads are often barely passable, and where people have to spend many hours just gathering water and fuel to meet the basic needs of their families. Many NGOs have also stayed away from the former Transkei area because the challenges of working there are so immense.

But the Eastern Cape is immensely wealthy in political heritage with its most important asset being its people, having produced many great African leaders and intellectuals. The Donald Woods Foundation is committed to prioritising the region’s poorest communities and is proud to work in partnership with its people. Together with our partners, we aim to nurture and develop the people of the region into active and engaged citizenry.

One of the most urgent interventions is building an active responsive citizenry together with a society where the gap between the haves and have-nots has been substantially narrowed.

Of the total population of the Eastern Cape – currently at 6,562,053 – just over 60% fall within the  economically active ages of 15-64. But most youngsters feel the odds are stacked against them with too few work opportunities and slow growth rates in a stagnant economy. Much has been written about the ticking time bomb of the one third of young South Africans (aged 15-24) who are not in employment, education or training (called NEETS).

With so many people falling through society’s cracks it is imperative to educate and inform people of their rights, duties and obligations as active South Africans from a young age – issues that first world countries take for granted.

The Donald Woods Foundation believes perhaps the worst legacy of colonialism and apartheid is that millions of people are without the skills they need to support themselves and their communities.

Enabling residents of the Eastern Cape to participate in active citizenry and become useful members of their own communities is the key to the regeneration of rural economies and communities weakened by decades of chronic deprivation.

How we are investing in people

ZITHULELE CLINIC_-12 copyTraining for local people in health programmes

Dozens of local people have received training as Peer Educators and HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) Counsellors so that they can support and advise other members of the community who may have, or be at risk of, HIV infection. Peer Educators run Wellness Groups which are critical in helping people maintain their health, make informed decisions and obtain full benefits from medical intervention.

Exercise is med 1Training for local people in supporting orphans and vulnerable children (OVC)

Many local people have been trained as OVC Supporters so that they can support vulnerable children in their own communities, monitor their needs and extend the reach of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children Programme.

Training camps for local professionals

Weekend-long training camps are held for health and education professionals across the region, to develop their skills, share and exchange their experiences and devise solutions to common challenges.

DWF-2013-TEAMS-AT-WORK_-55Increasing confidence through training

HCT Counsellors and OVC Supporters report increased self-esteem from the feeling of being a useful member of their own community. This is an often over-looked aspect of life in rural areas where many are spiritless, often depressed, disinterested and under-utilised, with very few prospects for the future. A fundamental aspect of personal and communal happiness and sense of well-being is to feel connected and of use in one’s community.

2012-0VC-(20)Rebuilding communities

Empowering people to look after themselves and their neighbours helps strengthen chronically deprived and shattered communities. The fact that family life was so badly damaged historically by the migrant labour system and that the effects are still being felt today, is often overlooked and forgotten.

IMG_3633 copyThe Training and Enterprise Centre at Donald Woods Centre

The Donald Woods Centre at Hobeni is able to provide training in many life skills areas in an effort to develop an active rural citizenry. These include: rights advocacy and active citizenship; adult literacy, numeracy, IT and money management; practical but essential everyday skills in plumbing, electrical maintenance and driving skills; business start-ups and development, planning and project implementation; farming skills in both traditional and modern climate smart agriculture; boosting food garden production and water harvesting; arts and crafts skills and production.