“Safe Space” for girls in Alexandra (Alex) Township in Johannesburg

Not having access to basic and essential facilities such as a library, meeting space and restrooms will soon be a thing of the past for some of the young ladies from Alexandra (Alex) Township in Johannesburg.

This year, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), a global non-profit organisation partnered with the Ntethelelo Foundation, an AHF Fund recipient, to purchase and install two converted containers to create a special “Safe Space” for the girls, which launched on Monday, July 18.

It was opportune and significant that this event took place on Nelson Mandela Day, as it took on the theme of “It’s in your hands” encouraging artists & guests to put their hands to work to assist the children in painting the containers. The containers have been converted into a meeting place, a library, restrooms which include a shower, a classroom and a kitchen. These are basic and essential facilities that most girls in Alexandra don’t have access to, making it the ideal safe space for girls and young women.

Ntethelelo Foundation (NF) is a women-led organisation based in Setswetla Squatter Camp – Johannesburg , that uses drama with interactive techniques and various art methodologies as facilitation tools for dialogue to foster social change and help end violence against women and girls. NF’s ethos is “Self-love, self-respect and build community,” and its programs are designed to break the chain of gender inequality and oppression, to dismantle toxic masculinity and eradicate poverty.

NF was founded in 2017, as a sustainable project, by Thokozani Ndaba, Glamour Magazine Women of the Year 2018 Honouree. Ndaba had been involved in the drama scenes in New York and Paris and was drawn to home soils to develop a programme to support girls, this was the foundation of the NF project.

The event was attended by globally acclaimed visual artists, Mimi Mmathabo SelemekaMncedi MadoloAzeal LangaMbali DlaminiThokozani MadonselaNene Mahlangu, and Tivani Mabulele, who all contributed their time, by planning the design of the artwork for the containers with the girls.

“The visual artists spent time with the kids on Sunday (17th July) in one of the studios. They worked on canvas and their artwork will be exhibited and put on auction in August to celebrate Women’s Day. Renault South Africa sponsored shelves for the library that the team from Renault spent the day installing. They also donated poles for the fence and an invertor,” said Ndaba.

There was a carnival atmosphere as the music and activities got underway, with the girls getting the chance to interact with the Miss Teen South Africa contestant Oyama Tsazibana who planted a tree and hails from Alexandra Township. Miss South Africa 2020, Shudufhadzo Musida read her mental health book Shudu and Olwethu Leshabane was the programme director for the event.

“AHF is privileged to have attended the opening of the Safe Space at the NF on such a significant day. We are also honoured by the tribute to our AHF Chief of Global Advocacy and Policy, Terri Ford, whom the library was named after,” said Dr Kate Ssamula, Country Programme Director for AHF South Africa.  Ssamula went on to say “South Africans have all been hit hard over the last couple of years intensifying an already difficult and dangerous situation for girls and young women living in the country’s overcrowded informal townships. Owing to high poverty rates, crime and a lack of social support services, women and girls are at an enormous risk of rape, abuse and gender-based violence. This is safe space will give them a haven to come to daily”.

NF is a project that is based on the principles of sustainability and constantly engages to take on the responsibility of creating a better world for all who live in it.