Day four: 'The first time a girl told me she was raped'

Rashieda Nolan interviewing the Helenvale girls. (Rock Girls)

Rashieda Nolan interviewing the Helenvale girls. (Rock Girls)

Last year, when a group of high school girls from the social change movement Rock Girls heard about the missing girls in Nigeria, they wanted to drive there themselves to go find them. Inspired by their desire to help, Rock Girls – based in the notorious gangland of Manenberg in the Western Cape – is taking girls on a series of road trips around South Africa. The movement uses group discussions, art, photography, film, and radio to create and inspire more safe spaces for young women in South Africa. Their first trip from June 12-15 went from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape with ten girls, accompanied by Rock Girls founder India Baird, to interview other girls living on farms and in townships about their lives, and document their stories through radio and film. The Mail & Guardian will be publishing a series of diary entries written by the girls about their trip.

Day four, 15 June

Rashieda Nolan, grade nine, Manenberg High School                                           

Helenvale is just like Manenberg with the gang violence. The girls we met there told us the gangs are shooting in their area and one girl told us she was raped on her way home from school. He pretended he was going to help her get home from school and he raped her. It was the first time that a girl shared her story of a rape with me. It was so sad to hear. I told her she mustn’t keep that in her mind and she must go on with her life and achieve something in her life. And we were the first girls that she shared that with. Her parents and her teachers know about it. She doesn’t want to leave her house, she’s so scared now. We hugged her a lot. And then we all insisted that she and the other girls from Helenvale spend the night at the hotel with us.

We stayed up late talking and doing each other’s hair. It was 3am when we finally went to bed. In the morning we all went to the beach and took photos. 

Then we all went on the bus to Port Elizabeth to see Route 67. It’s an outdoor museum about the history of Nelson Mandela. Mr Uthando Budaza gave us a tour. 

We were so hungry waiting for lunch so we sang songs and danced for each other and shared stories until lunch arrived. Then it was time to say goodbye to the girls from Helenvale. It was sad, but we have their phone numbers and we are creating a WhatsApp group so we can all stay in touch. They are going to tell their friends at school that they met the Rock Girls and the safe spaces that we have been making. They are going to make a group in Helenvale and we will support them. Hopefully we can get them to Manenberg to visit us. 

Then back to the bus to visit Ubuntu Education Fund. Their space is creative. They can do everything there: study, soccer, learn how to cook, robotics classes. It’s an aftercare centre. It was very warm and cozy inside. It would be great for Manenberg to have a safe space like this to meet after school and on weekends. 

Then we drove all the way to Sedgefield to meet more girls who had come all the way from Smartsville to meet us. We had a great conversation on the bus. I interviewed them. There is only one school in their area.The nearest high school is in George and most girls drop out because it is too expensive and too far away. We all had a great dinner together by the fire and then we sang songs in our dormitory. They want to join us on our next trip. 

We are going to need a lot of buses.

Rock Girls chatting to girls from Smartsville on the bus. (Rock Girls)

Victoria John

Victoria John

Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011. Read more from Victoria John


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