New World Foundation (NWF) is a not-for-profit (NPO) which was founded in 1980 in Lavender Hill on the Cape Flats. At this time, the Apartheid system caused great hopelessness, injustice and violence. NWF was established with the vision of “building a new world of hope, justice and peace”.
The organisation was founded in affiliation with the United Reformed Church and it weathered the storms of intense political instability during the 1980s. NWF started with a crèche for 27 children in the Vrygrond informal settlement.
Now 40 years later, NWF continues to conduct its work in the communities of Lavender Hill, Vrygrond and surrounds on the Cape Flats in the Cape Metro. In these under resourced areas, there are not enough accessible social and community development services, safe spaces for people to gather and learn because of extremely high levels of violence and substance abuse.
The context is characterised by extremely high levels of poverty as evident by the rates of unemployment, violence and substance abuse. Gang violence is pervasive and symptomatic of the underlying issues such as absent positive male role models. The high unemployment rates are fuelled by lack of skills and scarcity of job opportunities and low educational outcomes. Violence, both psychological and physical, has become the norm. In particular, challenging the social fabric of the family and broader community. Over the years, NWF had been very active in supporting families, women, youth and children. The NWF services has had to evolve to meet the needs of the beneficiary groups.
Over the last few years NWF has been operating a Safe House and over the last 8 years Gender Based Violence (GBV) services are mainstreamed through all preventative, curative, responsive and referral interventions. Clients are received through the Advice Office where they are assessed for GBV. Thereafter clients are referred internally and externally. All external follow-ups continue to receive support for the NWF services even if they attend referral services. Street and Court Committees (SCCs) are involved in setting up community dialogues with GBV as a focus area as well as cover topics such as toxic masculinity, gender norms, gender equality, HIV and risk reduction. As most residents from the affected communities do not know about the services, community outreach takes the form of dialogues in streets and courts, at school events and at a special dialogue series at the NWF.
The dialogues focus on prevention of GBV, violence against women, child abuse and neglect and the intersectional topics of HIV, health and mental health. “The proportion of women killed by their husbands, boyfriends or same-sex partners rose from 50% in 1999 to 58% in 2009” and “a woman is killed every eight hours in South Africa”, according to the Medical Research Council. Only 1 in 9 rapes are reported to the police hence the “1in9 campaign” started by Gender AIDS Forum in 2005.
Gang wars result in a pervasive lack of safety, which is symptomatic of the underlying issues such as absent positive male role models, high unemployment rates (fuelled by early dropout, lack of skills and scarcity of job opportunities) and high levels of poverty. Violence, both psychological and physical, has become the norm. In particular, there are high levels of gender-based violence. These factors contribute to persistent levels of trauma for NWF’s beneficiaries, affecting children, youth, women and men alike.
The pervasive violence of gang wars means that children and youth are exposed to violence on the street, in community, at homes and in their peer groups. Fathers are often absent or emotionally uninvolved and mothers struggle to raise families on meagre income or grants. Our beneficiaries are also the neediest of the needy and often require additional social assistance. The Cape Flats area is ridden with violence by gangs, drug and alcohol abuse and gender-based violence. NWF’s beneficiaries are the victims of the violence and these are mostly women and girls, but also men and boys. Our Afterschool programme plays a vital role in providing our younger primary and high school children with a safe and conducive environment, where they are able to attend programs that improve their life skills and academic skills.
The gang wars flaring up during various times of the year means that youth and adults have to be more cautious and some even stay away from programmes that could potentially lead to a better life. NWF constantly needs resources to ensure that more people take up our services, to ensure that they can safely walk / or we can transport beneficiaries to their homes when needed. Many of our youth beneficiaries attend the programmes because we offer a nutritious meal, which often is the only meal they will have for the day. There is high demand for training and skills programmes in communities like Lavender Hill and Vrygrond as people are keen to escape the shackles of poverty. With the current estimated rate of unemployment at 55.75 percent in 2020 in South Africa, it is estimated that the unemployment rate in Lavender Hill and surrounding areas can be as high as 70%. It is imperative that our youth be provided with programmes that assist them to recognise their potential and that contribute to their improved educational and employment outcomes. Our Education for Work programme provides various employability, life skills and thematic courses that assist our youth and community members with training and skills needed to help them become more employable and self-sufficient.
NWF strongly believes community development is an integrated, holistic engagement with community which necessitates a focus on sub-groups in the community, namely children, teenagers, youth (young women and men) and women of all ages. The organisation utilises a whole community focus, where the community activities are clustered around main themes that include a strong focus on addressing gender based violence, equipping youth and community members with education, knowledge and skills on a variety of topics, improving employability and educational outcomes and providing safe spaces where youth and community members can come to learn and support one another within a facilitated environment. The intention is that community members can learn how to support one another as well as participate in lobbying and advocacy to bring about community level and large scale social change.