Peer educators from the Birds and Bees project are challenging rape culture and building a culture of consent in their schools.
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In these moments it is okay to feel hopeless, helpless, vulnerable and angry. The past week has highlighted horrific incidents of violence against women. People have expressed their rage, helplessness and hopelessness at the situation and rightly so. Many of us are experiencing moral fatigue on social issues in South Africa and globally.
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I have a vision of a South Africa where women feel safe in their communities. But can you truly imagine it? I can’t.
At Rape Crisis we see the most extreme result of discrimination against women every day. We see a woman after a man has raped her. In the immediate aftermath, or some months later, or after years and years of isolating silence. A silence built on the stigma of being a rape survivor. On the fear of being blamed for wearing a short skirt, or for being out after dark, for being drunk, or for changing her mind in the middle of a sexual encounter. In South Africa these myths are strong enough and the stigma is high enough to stand in the way of this vision.
We believe that the best way to challenge these myths and build a new set of beliefs based on mutual respect for consent is to support communities so that their capacity to address the problem of rape is strengthened. We believe that doing this with teenagers while they are still at school means they are more likely to challenge their own ways of thinking and take that challenge to their peers. Teenagers love to challenge the adult norm.
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Being a peer educator (peer ed) is so much more than just a label that was given to me because I completed a course. It’s a responsibility that I need to fulfill with the utmost seriousness. Many might feel that being a peer ed is a burden; I see it as a privilege.