The “short” of it:
Yes, I am a small, white American guy (child activist, social worker, rapper, blah blah blah!).
Yes! I will be living on the streets of downtown Cape Town for the 16 Days of Activism against violence towards women and children (25 November – 10 December 2008)!
The “long” of it:
I have lived in Cape Town for more than eight years now, working amongst the youth living on the streets of Cape Town, and in the various communities that they come from. I have seen quite a few “16 Days of Activism” come and go, and I always experience mixed emotions; I think it is wonderful that we have dedicated 16 days towards speaking out against violence of women and children, but I also feel that 365 days of our year should be dedicated to this cause! Since I do spend 365 days out of the year fighting for this cause, this year I decided to spend the “16 Days” doing something a little more radical.
From the 25th of November to the 10th of December 2008, I will be living on the streets of downtown Cape Town, in protest of children being “allowed” to live on the streets. In my work with the youth of Cape Town, I have found that the children who find their way to the streets of Cape Town have been failed by their communities, let down by their families, disillusioned by the education system, and “aborted” by society as a whole. Though they come from impoverished communities and difficult situations, they, as children, have been given the “choice” to live on the streets, and many of them chose the streets over their previous situations. Life on the street sucks the child in and that child soon becomes a small adult, taking part in various activities of street life that rob them of their innocence (drugs, child labor, selling their bodies for money, violence, to name just a few).
I feel strongly that it is child abuse to allow a child to make the choice to live on the streets! A child should not be given a decision to make that he or she is not mature enough to make. That is why we have ages of consent for things such as alcohol and tobacco consumption, voting, sex, and so on. However, by “allowing” children to live on the street, we are allowing them to forfeit each and every right the constitution lays out for them. As the 2010 Soccer World Cup approaches, and the pressure mounts to “put on a good face” for the rest of the world, our efforts and initiatives to “clean the streets” should be with the best interests of the children in mind, and not the best interests of business or tourism! We have to take this “adult decision” away from our children and allow them to be children!
So, for the “16 Days” I will be living on the streets in protest of this; calling for more structures of support (for youth) to be built up in our communities, a revival of the education system in impoverished communities, and a general awakening of society to see that these are OUR children and we have the responsibility to look after them! I will sleep on the streets, rely on handouts and various feeding schemes for food, will not wash or brush my teeth unless I come across the utensils needed to do so, and live and survive on the streets in the same manner that our children do. I will only be taking a blanket, the clothes on my back, and a couple of books with me; no money, no cell phone, or anything else. I am asking you to give whatever support and coverage you can for this cause!
During the 16 Days I also hope to give daily reports on this blog (with a prepaid internet account at an internet cafe in downtown Cape Town), so watch this space!!