Event: ACP Women Entrepreneurs innovate using Digital Technology

Join ACP YPN’s Digital Inclusion Ambassador, Ms. Dana Schurmans and a host of the top ACP women innovating the entrepreneurship and digital technology scene.

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For more information on ACP YPN’s Digital Inclusion activities or to collaborate on issues, please write to dana.schurmans@gmail.com and acpypn@gmail.com You can also tweet to us @DanaSchurmans and @acpYPN.

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I’m a Pretoria School “Old Girl” and I Know the Global Struggle: From Pretoria to London to Brussels

On Sunday, the 28th of August, I arrived in Brussels from a month-long trip to my home-town Pretoria. That evening, as I was scrolling through my various social media timelines, I came across a short video clip of a young black girl in the green tunic and navy blue blazer that I wore as a teenager at the Pretoria High School for Girls. Her face seemed to bear the anguish and frustration of simultaneously being seen and unseen.

As I came to understand, young black girls, as young as 13 years old, had come out in protest of the School’s policies on “general appearance”, the ways in which their educators punished them for wearing their hair in the splendour of their kinks and coils, for speaking their mother tongues, and for gathering in groups. This story has engulfed the nation and has led to many “old girls” (alumnae of the School) and others to mobilise, pen articles, and voice their views on local radio (see statement from alumnae). The protest also resulted in meetings between the provincial Department of Education and the School, and the young protestors, to discuss the rules of conduct and how they are implemented. Among the Department’s findings were that:

1. Use of African languages on the school premises is not tolerated, yet the other [students] are allowed to express themselves in Afrikaans [Afrikaans is an official language in the country, but this grievance is presented in the context of some girls being given the freedom to express themselves in their mother tongue, while the same is not extended to others]

  1. Students feel that they are not allowed to wear Black hairstyles, such as [an] afro. Specifically, the school policy limits the length of the hairstyle, and this is arbitrarily interpreted by the educators.
  2. Racial abuse and victimisation by both white educators and white students, in particular the use of terms such as monkeys, kaffir [South African slur for “black”] […]

We can deduce that these young girls’ grievances at this particular Model-C school – a former white-only government school classification that should have been made more inclusive post-apartheid – is part of a wider societal malaise. The wider societal ill is the fact that a singular identity is normalised, while other ways of being are subject to ridicule, unwarranted discipline and racism. The attention on how black “natural hair” is subject to scrutiny based on its comparison to “normalised” straight hair has been much debated and discussed locally. However, it is only one manifestation of being told you do not belong. It is only one way in which we have been told to assimilate and minimise ourselves. As many have pointed out already, the girls should not be trotted out as courageous lionesses, stripped of their girlhood. The protests, and the deeper question of how our institutions silence black girlhood, and the types of girls we revere at the expense of others, represent an indictment on our society for not nurturing safe spaces for all young girls.

The protest could be viewed as an indictment on the country’s 22-year old democracy, and the failure to provide spaces for learning that celebrate different iterations of girlhood, than the stifling racism of assimilation. We have come to know that in these spaces, when contempt for your appearance is voiced, that it is in fact, contempt for your existence. This is not unique to South Africa, but it is a global phenomenon, not least in an “advanced” Europe, that is wrestling with the presence of people of colour, the history they represent and the disruptions they cause to dominant ways of knowing and being. The protests and the multitudes of issues that these girls bring to the fore have attracted international attention and lead to many girls and women, to share similar experiences in other parts of the globe. But now, I am sharing mine.

by Zama Nkosi

Zama Nkosi is a South African national, working on EU-South Africa trade and investment in Brussels, Belgium and a member of the ACP YPN.

#StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh

“Young, gifted and black” in 2016: How South Africa struggles are universal struggles #SDG5

In 1969, Nina Simone wrote the hit “to be young, gifted and black”. With the eruption of recent protests by young, gifted and black girls in South Africa, I could not help but recall this song. I also could not help but recall how far we have come from 1969 but how we still remain behind. The cyclical nature of prejudice, stereotyping, racism and xenophobia are plagues to our societies despite all our progress and conscientiousness to achieve sustainable development universally.

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In this light, I thought it was important to highlight how the struggles of 13year old girls in South Africa – based on the choice of a natural hairstyle – is the struggle of young, gifted and black girls throughout the world. In my case, I was not immune: not even on my natal soils of Trinidad and Tobago, or during my childhood years in London, or thereafter having studied in the prestigious institutes of King’s College London, Sciences Po Paris or the College of Europe (Bruges), or when interning in the European Commission in Brussels, where I now live. For this reason, I support the struggles of these young girls as emblematic of wider struggles we must face as young, gifted and black women globally. At the United Nations, the world’s leaders recently agreed to achieve 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) by 2030. In particular, SDG number 5, to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” will only ever be achieved, if we can all recognise that the struggle in South Africa is a universal struggle for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. Why should they be denied of their existence, to be young, gifted and black?

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In her song, Nina Simone admits that “There are times when I look back and I am haunted by my youth (…)”. I believe, that in South Africa where Nelson Mandela is iconic of the struggles against the evils of the apartheid system that sought to not only separate but also to permanently discriminate against black people, we cannot continue to allow a new generation of girls to be haunted by their youth. Not only would this be an insult to the legacy of Mandela and the global struggle against apartheid, but it would also be an insult to what we are aiming to achieve globally with the SDGs. The African Caribbean and Pacific Young Professionals Network that I founded provides a platform for professional development for young professionals, regardless of their nationality, colour, ethnicity, religion, ability or disability, in order to assure that all young professionals can be equal citizens, active and capable of positively influencing a world that embraces them and incorporates them from the local to international level. At ACP YPN, we support the struggles of the 13year old girls in South Africa. This struggle is not an isolated case, it is part of our universal efforts to achieve SDG5 on gender equality and empowerment, and we are taking the first step to achieving that by showing our international solidarity..

Join ACP YPN debate on  with Zama Nkosi, Pretoria High Alumna based in Brussels on 20th September, Aloft Hotel, Brussels at 6.30pm.

Yentyl Williams is Founder of the African Caribbean and Pacific Young Professionals Network (ACP YPN).

Have you got some questions? Write to us: acpypn@gmail.com or via@acpYPN

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