South Africa's Vulnerable Young Women (3-16-14)

For 20 years South Africa has had democratic elections. Yet it is a poor country, with 3.7 million orphans and extremely high incidences of HIV-AIDS. Post-apartheid children and youth--the so-called "Born Frees"--are particularly vulnerable. One-third of the population has experienced gang rape or other forms of sexual abuse.

As part of a forthcoming book on the Born Frees, Kimberly Burge traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in 2010 to launch a year-long writing club for young women 13-20 living in a black township near the city. Burge was well-suited for the job--a Fulbright Scholar and Sojourners contributing writer.

"You strike a woman, you strike a rock"--a slogan from the apartheid era--soon became the class mentra. One class member, "Annasuena," had been orphaned at 10 and lived from house to shack.  Her mother had been a famous singer and the first celebrity to admit to having AIDS. When she returned to public life she chose to use the money she would have spent on treatment to care for her four kids. After her mother's death, Annasuena lived with her uncle, who repeatedly raped her.

Here is a poem Annasuena wrote:
I am a writer by birth,
a vocalist by choice,
an expressionist by nature,
and an instrument by voice.

I pledge to speak my mind
and utter the words that define
my solitude, senses, and space.

I pledge to provoke all existing
thought and explore every and
any feeling and emotion of all
human race.

The Adult Ed session coincided with the Just Lent series at Dumbarton and the March 16 sermom on Sojourner Truth  (1797-1883), the African-American abolitionist and activist for women's rights.

--By Ginny Finch