Promoting Dignity

When a teenage girl living in a socially and economically difficult area of Cape Town becomes a young mother, she is thrust into bringing up and caring for a precious new life – and yet is often ill equipped to do so.

However, if a young girl is well equipped for becoming a woman, she is less likely to be at risk as motherhood arrives. It all starts with regaining her own dignity and knowing that she is of value.

Connect, Viva’s partner network in Cape Town, is helping hundreds of people to find their identity, belonging and purpose in God by promoting the Dignity Campaign, established by one of its members in the city. ‘Dignity’ comprises a range of training and awareness-raising programmes.

Last year it reached 295 girls and 30 boys, plus 30 facilitators trained to teach and mentor these young people. Additionally, 60 Child Ambassadors from Connect’s ten child protection groups took part in a Dignity Day, with awareness events reaching a further 2,500 people. An empowerment programme is teaching 13-19 year-old girls about subjects such as relationships, sexuality and choices.

There is a such need for a campaign like this to spread further into townships such as Khayelitsha, where 15 facilitators have been trained to implement the campaign with 300 mothers of  pre-school children. Here, the unemployment rate among women is 64 per cent, significantly higher than the rate of 21.5 per cent among women in the Western Cape. Almost a quarter of women in the township reported having their first child before the age of 20, and experience low education levels and high levels of abuse in the township.

The SOZO Foundation, a Connect member, reported that mothers felt very encouraged to have a programme like ‘Dignity’ in the community because they didn’t have the opportunities to learn topics that were seen as taboo. One mum in particular said that, “It was a privilege to be given a safe space to discuss self-esteem and confidence with my daughter because I don’t want her to struggle like I did when I was a teenager.”

Pray for the Dignity Campaign as it continues with the girls’ work and also develops a parallel programme, DARE, for boys and young men. Pray too that the network would encourage more churches to take part in it.

Training courses by Viva are consistently used by Connect for its members, including the capacity-building tool, QIS, and the Child Ambassador advocacy programme.

This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 11