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Cabo Delgado - Mozambico. Photo Credit: Afp

Halting the War on South African Women

My You strike a woman, you strike a rock. That is the motto of the Mbokodo organization which focuses on supporting womens rights, peacebuilding, and helping victims of rape. The organization presented, among others, on December 13 at the Nobel Peace Summit in South Korea during a workshop that discussed human rights and how to fight human rights violations.
Coming to the summit and presenting their organization to the rest of the world Jessica Dewhurst (founder of the project) hopes to raise awareness about the constant threat that young girls across South Africa deal with every day.
Accoarding to the South African department of justice, South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world. There are several factors that contribute to the high rate of rape in South Africa including a culture of gender based violence and a lack of education. Fighting it requires a combined effort from politicians and other sectors of society to change cultural attitudes that condone sexual violence. This is when Dewhurst realized that change had to start from the young people.
The project started in 2013 after Dewhurst heard a girl say, “ Rape is like clockwork {in South Africa}, Its only a matter of time until it happens.”
That observation is very much rooted in fact; On average, every 60 seconds, a South African woman is raped. This trend is especially present in lower income communities and the South African townships. At the summit, the founder of the Mbokodo organization presented one of their goals of lowering that statistic to zero girls raped every 60 seconds. They do this by focusing their efforts on the townships, and instructing girls in three main areas, physical defense and fitness, women’s empowerment, and lastly mental health.
“We believe that by empowering ordinary people to understand and defend their human rights that they transform society in a sustainable way and create a more just world, ” said Dewhurst.
The end goal of the project is that each child that goes through it, is empowered and educated to lead change in their own community. The ten girls attending the summit are incredibly glad to have had this opportunity to share their stories with the world.
“ It’s my first time outside of South Africa, and I plan to make the most of it to drive a positive change in the world,” said one of the girls attending the summit.
In total, there are 107 girls currently in the project and 1200 total girls who have gone through the organization.
“ There is proof that our project is working, because just recently, one of our girls was able to escape human traffickers on her walk to school because of what she learned with us,” Dewhurst said.
The project however, is not only aimed at helping girls in need, it also works with young boys to challenge toxic masculinity and create male role models. The name of the parallel project is: The Intsika Yethemba project.
“ To end gender based violence from the male role we need to challenge toxic masculinity and create male role models,” said Dewhurst.
The boys in the program receive outdoor, human rights, and psychological training. The goal of The Intsika Yethemba project is to create a safe space for boys and men to be the protectors of women in South Africa.

The majority of the boys in the program are fatherless and thus look up to gang members as their only male role models.
“ What we do to bring in role models is we have men from different parts of society with different occupations undergo a training course. After the course, they are ready to interact and impact the lives of these young men,” Dewhurst said.
The Intsika Yethemba project is having similar success to its sister project in that its members are now aware of the problem.
“ Before I could not see if someone was abused, but now, I am able to identify the problem and help solve it,” said a boy from The Intsika Yethemba project.
The Mbokodo organization is one of the many youth led initiatives presented this year at the Nobel Peace Summit. This story is a demonstration of the success of the Leading by example program of the Nobel Peace Summit, which provides youth with an invaluable and powerful platform to share their stories, raise awareness about important issues that affect them and their communities, while connecting with others who are also interested in making a difference and reinforcing the message of “stronger together”.

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