On November 22nd I traveled with the Institute to a place called Masipumelele. This place is on the opposite side of the mountain from me. I went for a workshop; the topic of the workshop was democracy. Democracy in South Africa is 20 years old and most of the people are well over 20 years old so they were born under the Apartheid government. We discussed what kinds of barriers do people experience in their own lives that stop them from participating and engaging their democracy.
It was a point of reflection for me because democracy has always been a reality. Was interesting to take a step back and to see how democracy is really put together, it doesn’t make much difference if the government says there is democracy if the people don’t believe there is and if they don’t participate. Because that’s how it works, democracy is about empowering people to make their own decisions.
I didn’t realize what was going to happen at this seminar, and I only started understanding days later after many of conversations. I was in the midst of a women’s empowerment movement. The seminar was mostly women, all women from the area and they talked about democracy in their context. What does democracy mean for a single mother with two kids? I couldn’t tell you an answer, but one of the defining moments of the seminar was a discussion on popular education. This is education that is based on the knowledge that we already possess, the things that we inherit or are taught by our parents and grandparents. The question was asked, so why aren’t we doing anything with this knowledge. Why aren’t we taking advantage of the skills that we already posses to make our lives better. If we can sew, why aren’t we making clothes to sell, if we can make the best curry why aren’t we making that for other people? One of the guest speakers spoke on exactly that, she went around collecting items that other people threw away and began to make crafts with those and she turned what started out as a hobby into a lucrative business that is growing and her products are being exported and sold overseas.
I was able to record what happened at this seminar and made it into a video. So take a look!