Six M&G employees' thoughts on the #6Rand challenge

Solidarity or privilege - the M&G newsroom has been abuzz with discussions surrounding our #6Rand challenge and whether to do it or not, and why. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Solidarity or privilege - the M&G newsroom has been abuzz with discussions surrounding our #6Rand challenge and whether to do it or not, and why. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

1. Feeding into ‘awareness’ by Samina Anwary
I won’t be doing the R6 a day challenge. While well-intentioned, a day of living off R6 just results in a group of middle-class folk forming a cutesy, temporary and ultimately false sense of solidarity with the truly hungry.

At the very least, a month-long attempt would make more sense. Participants could bulk buy supplies and ration themselves over that period, coming closer to what it might really be like living off so little.
But even this is not enough.

That we have to have gimmicky schemes like this and the Ice Bucket challenge, for example, is an indictment on the middle class at large. That we have to feel something on our own backs, or in our own stomachs in this case, to care about what the majority of people in our country are going through strips us of our humanity.

People of means should contribute time and money regularly as an individual responsibility for those who don’t just have less by mistake or by choice, but because of greater unjust systems — historical or otherwise — working against them.

We shouldn’t help because someone convinced us to. We should help because we’re human.

2. My R6’s worth by Garreth van Niekerk
I’m not doing the #6Rand challenge. I had every intention to challenge my routine but this morning when I woke up and checked my emails on my MacBook and realised that I was late for work (again) after my cursed iPhone alarm didn’t go off because I forgot to charge it. I had to sprint through my regular morning rituals and, in a proper tizz, made use of every convenience at my disposal to make that hustle go as quickly as possible.

In my beloved New York loft-style apartment I quickly rolled out of my Nasa-engineered mattress and peeled off my freshly laundered Egyptian cotton sheets and began my day, like I do everyday, with an espresso and some sliced organic pawpaw drizzled in Karoo honey and sun-dried sunflower seeds. 

The Fair-trade Kenyan espresso boiled on the stove while my only remaining pair of beige socks (South African designed!) freshened up in my washer/dryer combo while I took a hot shower and conditioned my hair with my sensitive scalp hair products – this morning I used the Egyptian fig and rosewater one because I needed a break from the olive and beer version that is making my hair limp.

It was only when I arrived at work at the M&G’s offices in Rosebank, crossing through Parkhurst (which is particularly beautiful at this time of the year), parked my car in our 24-hour patrolled parking lot and finally passed the homeless men who live on the steps that lead up to the entrance of my office that I realised that today was the day I was meant to spend R6 until midnight, when my deadline day shift ends. I felt bad for an instant but I was already half an hour late and needed to get in.

I sat down at my desk to a flurry of emails from colleagues pro and against the challenge, defending why and why not they should participate. A more sombre response from one colleague suggested instead of us participating in such bourgeois, neo-liberal campaigns we should donate some money to a worthy cause that would result in a more long-term solution to the hunger problems of the world. 

I figured that since its already too late to participate, the least I can do is contribute to the cause, so the minute I’m done with this exhaustively long explanation I’m going to run across the road and draw some money from the ATM to donate to something more meaningful than my rushed, forgetful morning.

3. Food is essential to life, don’t take it for granted, by Lauren Clifford-Holmes
Responses to the #6Rand M&G challenge have been super mixed – some see it as a great awareness campaign, others feel it’s simply a gesture to “salve the consciences of middle-class journalists”. 

I want to fully acknowledge that this is a totally imperfect campaign because it comes from a place of privilege and we can’t be fully aware of what it takes or feels like to live like this every day. Yes, I had a good dinner last night and will have a proper breakfast tomorrow. Yes, I drove my car to work. Yes, I will sleep in a comfy bed tonight, even if I am hungry. BUT – this campaign has got me thinking so much about what it takes to live on so little, it’s made me aware of how much I spend on food every month and how well I eat and yes, I often take that for granted. 

If this gets other people thinking about that and more importantly ACTING on it then it’s worthwhile. Get involved with feeding schemes or soup kitchens, volunteer, make donations. Realise how essential food is to life. Don’t take it for granted.

4. Because privilege, by Stefanie Jason
When a colleague participating in the R6 challenge asked me why I wasn’t taking part in it, I responded snidely: “Because privilege”. 

Yes, that’s colloquial and Twitter speak, but that’s what came to mind when I received an email asking M&G employees to take part in it. As the one-day challenge aims to “raise awareness” about people who do go to bed hungry, my question is: who are we raising awareness for? 

In a country where millions live in abject poverty, and one of these people might be you or someone in your immediate family or a close friend, then you might already be aware.

Even if you live comfortably in society, you have to be quite actively oblivious to issues such as hunger or other social issues when people beg on street corners or live in informal settlements across South Africa. 

And if this is the case and your unawareness is a symptom of privilege; then will a day’s challenge help make you conscious of what is the blatant reality in South Africa? Or will you just return to life in your privileged bubble?

5. Working together to create a real impact on food security, by Victoria John
I chose to do this challenge because I think it is important to raise awareness about hunger, even if it makes just one other person think about this problem, and to show solidarity with others who are trying to address it. 

This campaign is not the only or best way to raise awareness about hunger. It needs to be done alongside many other things to have any real impact, like writing about how hunger affects people living in poverty, talking about possible solutions, protesting, donating time, effort and money and putting pressure on government. 

Only if all of these things are done together and with understanding of our positions of privilege or no privilege will there eventually be any real impact on food security.

6. Disability and hunger, by Nikita Ramkissoon
Living on R6 a day is not difficult – it’s nigh impossible, especially for people with disabilities. Yet people do it every single day.

Having a mental disability myself, the thought of living on a mere R6 a day is terrifying. I have to have breakfast that includes roughage and protein just to take my morning meds. I have to have lunch else I could black out. I have to have a full meal for supper before taking my evening meds.

And over and above that is the cost of the medication itself. 

In a country where mental illness as seen as a “white people problem”, having the means to get treatment for the likes of epilepsy or depression of any kind is a privilege. And today’s challenge has brought into a very stark light the plight of those less fortunate than I, who have to deal with disability along with hunger. 

Hunger takes preference. The monsters in your head remain. I can’t do the challenge today, and my heart aches for the people who have to live with this reality every day.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee became Africa’s first social media editor in a newsroom at the Mail & Guardian, where she went on to work as deputy digital editor and a disruptor of the peace through a weekly column. A stint as the program manager for Impact Africa – a grant-disbursing fund for African digital journalists – followed. She now pursues her own writing full time by enraging readers of EWN and Women 24 with weekly and bi-monthly columns respectively. She also contributes to the Sunday Times and a range of other publications. Mohamed Dawjee's inaugural book of essays: Sorry, not sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa, is due for release by Penguin Random House in April 2018.Follow her on Twitter: @sage_of_absurd
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