After today, our blog will “go quiet” as we conclude our month-long series of essays from those working in the nonprofit sector in South Africa. And after Sunday, the shouts, the cheers and the “trumpets” of the World Cup will fade. But we at the Mott Foundation hope the insights shared by our guest essayists – about their disappointments and setbacks, as well as their reasons for faith and hope – will stay with you for some time to come. We intend to leave these posts available online and hope you will send new visitors to this site. You can be assured that even as I write this, we are looking for new and interesting ways to shine a spotlight on this “blog” and the work of our grantees in South Africa. For us, the game is not yet over. Not by a long shot!
Throughout the World Cup games, which began June 11th, representatives from Mott-funded organizations in South Africa shared personal reflections on the nation’s past, present and future by writing brief essays from many of the communities where the matches were played. For more information about the Mott Foundation, please visit our Web site.
Throughout the World Cup games, which began June 11th, representatives from Mott-funded organizations in South Africa shared personal reflections on the nation’s past, present and future by writing brief essays from many of the communities where the matches were played.
For more information about the Mott Foundation, please visit our Web site.
A common marketing tagline for my country goes, “South Africa: alive with possibilities!”
That’s how I feel about this country. Sixteen years into democracy, I wouldn’t be anywhere else. The World Cup has brought some excitement that we haven’t seen for a while and, as a friend often says, South Africa is blessed. Just when we think the country has taken a turn for the worse, something magical happens.
Sports has been a great unifier. The rugby World Cup in 1995, through the magic of Mandela, united the country to support the national team in ways that could not have been imagined. The 2010 soccer World Cup is doing the same. The world did not believe that an African country could pull off the event, and not only did we prove them wrong as the country exploded in yellow on the 11th of June to support the national team, but the dose of optimism throughout the country has been priceless.
As South African flags fly from cars, homes, shops, offices and street corners, you see a nation united. One, however, hopes that this will spill over to our everyday lives. The big question is: “When the last vuvuzela [plastic trumpet] is blown on the 11th of July, what happens then?” We remain hopeful that the spirit will be sustained and that race relations, which have threatened to explode out of control during the past few years, will improve. The Mott Foundation has supported initiatives during the past decade that address racism and discrimination. It is not always easy, but there are certainly success stories.
Civil society remains a critical part of South African life. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) not only contribute to policy formulation, but also provide a lifeline to many South Africans who sometimes fall by the wayside and don’t enjoy state benefits. While there are still glaring challenges – poverty, homelessness, inequality – it would be naïve, and even irresponsible, to pretend that all is hunky-dory. Yet, the success stories need to be celebrated.
I’ve had the privilege of working with many organizations throughout the country that are Mott grantees. I’ve often been moved by the passion of many NGO leaders who, against all odds, make things happen. I’ve also been disappointed by others, who lead “successful” and well-resourced organizations but whose impact is sometimes questionable.
There is no doubt that our civil society has weakened since 1994 as a result of declining dynamism and passion for community development work. For many, working in an NGO is no longer only about a passion to contribute to social change, it has become a job. But we would be over-indulgent to start focusing on what cannot be. Therefore, we need to focus on the possibilities. But where are they?
Mott continues to support efforts aimed at strengthening the NGO sector, and while there are many challenges, there also are opportunities. But sometimes we’re too blinded by pessimism to see them. I choose to be optimistic. I believe in this country and its people, and I know we can make it work!
Following the announcement May 15, 2004 that South Africa will be hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the country was in the grip of an exciting countdown to the last day, hour, minute and the final second to see the games begin in earnest on June 11, 2010.
The six years that stood between that dream day and actually living the dream on June 11, 2010 stood apart like goal posts on a soccer field, with understandable anxiety over whether things would come together to make the country ready for the games. Those six years simply whizzed past in the exciting preparations that went with the countdown until the first whistle was blown by the referee for the games to begin.
For an organization steeped in a child-centered tradition, not only did the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund look forward to children being part of living the dream, but also found it most opportune to rally peer organizations within the sector to do their utmost to ensure that each game begins and ends with little or no tears for children. This could only be if no child got lost, went missing, was left unattended or neglected or unfed; and avoided any harm or exploitive treatment.
As new roads and stadia were built; airports spruced up or newly constructed buses and train scheduled coordinated for ease of public transport use, we too, travelled the length and breadth of our country to spread the word that children’s safety should, at all times, be part of the plan and a factor in the world’s most loved sport. This plan came in the form of the “Champion for Children” campaign launched on December 9, 2009, at which our Trustee, Graca Machel, became patron.
Since then, all sectors of society have added their weight behind the campaign. The Champion for Children Campaign is truly cementing the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. One of FIFA’s sponsors, Sony, suggested that children be part of the World Cup games as flag bearers. For children, there was no better way to bring the games closer than to be part of the games, see the stars within touching distance and then be pampered to sit back and enjoy the games under the care of guardians. The Flag-bearing experience ignited in children the idea that there is a world waiting for them to claim their space and find their role in it. The challenge now is how to translate that idea into actionable programs that speak to children on a massive scale.
That our children should remain safe, protected and cared for at all times is the greatest goal of all who care now, and beyond the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in South Africa became weak after 1994, the year the country got a democratically elected representative government. Most activists in the NGO sector joined either government or political organizations.
Many activists in community-based organizations and NGOs joined trade unions that, in general, openly declared alignment with political organizations. Such developments made some political organizations strong, together with newly established NGOs and community-based organizations that had decided to form alliances with registered political organizations.
The reality of the South African society is that NGOs and community-based organizations continue to strengthen democracy in South Africa. Political organizations simply do not have the will nor the power to effectively oppose political leaders or to expose identified incidents of abuse of power. Only NGOs and opposition parties in parliament have the ability and power to keep government controlled, in check and publicly accountable. This is what NGOs do all the time.
At the same time, NGOs and community-based organizations in South Africa focus more on welfare services. Such services include: management of HIV/AIDS; promotion of early childhood education; delivering health, and humanitarian services; securing immediate shelter to victims of natural disasters; reducing abuse against women and children; providing assistance to poor families; and caring for the elderly.
Establishment of community foundations in the late 1990s helped strengthen the capacity of NGOs and community-based organizations. In the process of developing local communities, community foundations – working with and through NGOs and community-based organizations – provide services for a wide range of community issues.
Community foundations, in particular, are currently viewed as the most sustainable of all NGOs and community-based organizations to mentor and guide other NGOs and community-based organizations on their road to participatory democracy and sustainable and accountable socio-economic development. However, the culture of philanthropy in South Africa still remains under-developed. This is quite often ascribed to a lack of, or limited information about, how philanthropy could be used to pull communities out of poverty and underdevelopment.
In 2010 NGOs and community-based organizations mainly need capacity and resources to share, advertise and market goods and services. It is often costly to do this and one also needs the skills to do so. This is considered another factor that retards an accelerated development of NGOs and community-based organizations in South Africa.
We can’t underestimate the positive strides that women in South Africa’s official political offices have made. For example, South Africa has a gender caucus, which is a multiparty platform for women in politics. It also has a Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disability.
South Africa has passed the Equality Act, the Domestic Violence Act, the (Child Support and Child) Maintenance Act, the Civil Union Act and the Sex Offenders Act. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) played a significant role during the consultative processes leading to their passage. Also, South Africa has among the highest percentage (33 percent) of women serving as Members of Parliament and Ministers of national ministries.
Economically, South Africa has an increased number of women who are chief executive officers and women serving as commercial board members. There is tangible evidence that women are drivers of economic growth through their spending power. Also, the spending power of the poor is now being recognized by businesses, and funds for development are flowing through businesses of women who are working at the grassroots level. Additionally, NGOs put considerable pressure on the private sector to include rural women in their corporate social responsibility programs.
For staff at WHEAT Trust (Women’s Hope Education and Training Trust) – also known as WHEAT Women’s Fund – development is a positive term. It refers to sustained growth, progress and planned expansion for the benefit of women.
WHEAT experienced the effects of the global economic downturn and got a double whammy when already reduced corporate sponsorship was withdrawn entirely in favor of sport sponsorship coinciding with the World Cup soccer games. Clearly, women would again bear the brunt of the downturn and reduced funding. However, borrowing a saying from an American sister, we embarked on raising our profile with renewed vigor and a mantra of “Never waste a crisis!”
We started educating individual givers about the importance of supporting women’s funds, and we were pleased that our fund received its first 1 million rand donation ($127,933) in 2010. We also have increased our corporate income, formed new corporate partnerships and retained our past partners at the same level of support. So, I must repeat what I said at the start: “We can’t underestimate the positive strides that women in South Africa have made!”