Powerful words can fuel positive change in the fight against gender-based violence
The FunDza Literacy Trust’s free online platform gives female writers the freedom to tackle SA’s pressing issues. Read their stories now — or write your own
Diamonds and pearls. Roses and chocolate. Manicures and massages. This is what women want, right? Wrong. At least not according to the passionate women writers at the FunDza Literacy Trust who take on the mammoth subject of what it means to be a woman in this world.
FunDza is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to getting young people reading, writing and learning. FunDza runs an online site, live.fundza.mobi, that commissions and publishes relatable and appealing local content, and also publishes young people’s work.
Every day there are about 15,000 readers who spend time reading original stories, blogs and poems on the platform that is zero-rated by all mobile networks, so completely free for anyone to access.
November 25 marks the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in SA. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the affect of GBV on women and children. In an ideal world, this campaign wouldn’t be necessary. However, SA’s GBV problem is a scourge that, during lockdown at least, intensified.
In a society where women are marginalised, abused and discriminated against, female voices are becoming more and more important. FunDza is providing a platform for such voices to challenge patriarchal norms and tackle some of SA’s most pressing gender-based issues.
FunDza is providing a platform for female voices to challenge patriarchal norms and tackle some of SA’s most pressing gender-based issues
One might say that subjects such as consent, relationship power dynamics and teenage pregnancy are hot potatoes, but FunDza writer Tamica Mopp has taken on this challenge in her column Girl Talk.
With ease and finesse, Mopp speaks to the readers as if she were a long-lost friend, a sister even, shining light on her experiences as a woman with the hope that her readers will relate, find hope and be inspired.
The bravery and vulnerability Mopp exudes is immeasurable. In one particular article, Dealing With Sexual Abuse, Mopp says, “One afternoon in December, that musician with beautiful hazel eyes took the one thing I had hoped to save — he never asked for it, he simply took it. Yes, I was raped. Raped at 19 by the one person I thought wouldn’t do that.”
Mopp ends the piece with a call to action, a hallmark of her columns, showing a responsibility to her audience not only to share her trauma but also to help her readers feel less alone.
“If you are being sexually assaulted at school or work, report it to the school principal and HR. Always talk to someone you trust, and if that person does not believe you, tell someone else, but do not keep it to yourself. Your healing is important.”
To date, this column has received 72 likes and 16 comments. The comments overwhelmingly show appreciation for what Mopp is doing with her writing and is testament to her ability to connect to the heart of FunDza’s women readers.
The need for articles such as this one is greater now more than ever. While statistics on rape and sexual violence in SA are difficult to come by, it is possible to say that the numbers are frightening.
In a 2010 study by Gender Links, it was estimated that 25.3% of women in Gauteng had been raped. While this study was done a while ago, there are few signs that things have changed, and it is a clear indication that more needs to be done to end sexual violence.
Mopp is not the only writer tapping into this need for more depth when it comes to women’s issues.
During Women’s Month in August, FunDza hosted a special series called Women in the World. This series aimed to encourage debate among readers by exploring unpopular opinions.
Take, for example, I Don’t Want to be a Strong Woman written by Simamkele Matuntuta. In this powerful essay, Matuntuta argues that the widespread trope of the “strong woman” is unhelpful.
“It [the strong woman trope] allows the othering of women, and it further embeds the narrative that women are inherently weaker than men. This narrow viewpoint gives society the green light to perpetuate sexism, misogyny and patriarchy without any consequences,” Matuntuta writes.
Readers are active participants in the storytelling journey on the live.fundza.mobi platform
As a writer, it can sometimes feel as if one’s words are lost in a black hole. This is not the case on the live.fundza.mobi platform. Here, readers are active participants in the storytelling journey.
“I feel exactly like the author but sometimes I would feel like maybe I am weak,” one reader comments on Matuntuta’s article. “But today I learnt that am not weak but a human and I deserve to be treated like one.”
It is safe to say that SA has a long way to go to before women experience true freedom, but writers such as Mopp, Matuntuta and others are doing their bit by using their words, words which have the power to catalyse positive change.
As Margaret Atwood famously said: “A word after a word after a word is power.”
In many ways, this is what FunDza aims to achieve — it provides a platform for readers, writers and beneficiaries to realise their power and agency thus flipping the narrative about how this world could and should be.
What do women want? If these articles and comments are anything to go by, it’s not what people are sold in the mainstream media. Women want respect, dignity, fairness and justice — the basics that should be afforded to every human being.
During this edition of 16 Days of Activism, FunDza will be highlighting some of the most powerful writing on the topic on its home page. This is in an effort to emphasise the importance for change in not only SA, but also the world.
If you’re interested in exploring the power of story, a quality evident across FunDza’s work, head over to live.fundza.mobi. Rest assured: you will leave thinking deeply, feeling inspired, and ready to challenge societal norms.
This article was paid for by the FunDza Literacy Trust.