As we wrap up, I reflect on my time here in South Africa and I look back with the utmost pride. Being here and being afforded this insanely generous opportunity. Most importantly, I look back and am grateful for being able to work at an NGO that I look at with the utmost respect because of its determination to create awareness and ameliorate the conditions of people in South Africa. My experience in South Africa has been made amazing because of this beautiful country, its generous locals, and rich culture and language. However, my experience in South Africa has been one I will never forget due to my time at my NGO, Sonke Gender Justice.
Like I’ve alluded to before, my NGO is focused on gender justice, gender equity, HIV awareness, and the ending of gender-based violence in South Africa. Before I came here, I assumed my position and contributions would be confined to the walls of an office in a way that would be completely isolated from the people we were serving. Boy, was I wrong and I’m glad I was. The whole motto of DukeEngage is “Challenge yourself, change your world.” Honestly, I was skeptical of my ability to do this in South Africa in my eight short weeks here. And, I’m not saying I’ve been able to accomplish that, but what I am saying is that Sonke Gender Justice showed and continues to demonstrate to a skeptical me that this feat of ameliorating and changing your world for the better is actually possible.
In my weeks here at Sonke, we have done incredible things for the benefit of South Africans. We drove nearly two hours away from our office to a school to talk with and discuss matters of safer sex, gender norms, and the prevalence of gender-based violence with schoolgirls between the ages of six to eighteen. Although these brilliantly confident girls knew so much regarding these topics, it was clear that we as Sonke workers were able to leave them with some knowledge that I am sure they will carry with them for a long time. In addition to, we’ve been actively monitoring and supporting the case of a South African child who was abducted and raped by a 27-year-old man. My Sonke coworkers and I rallied and sang outside the court the first day to show that there was a stalwart support base for the family of the victim and to also pressure the court to enact justice for this family. In addition to showing up at court to pressure the criminal system, my unit at Sonke and I organized a lively march in the suspect’s neighborhood of the suspect create awareness for his neighbors and to allow them to know that such a heinous crime occurred in their backyards. Lastly, I am working with the head of another unit, Policy and Development Advocacy, to help in the decriminalization of sex workers in South Africa. All of these things I could have never believe that I could have participated in and I am so grateful to the DukeEngage program that I was afforded this opportunity.
I am so grateful for my time here because it wasn’t like most other internships that are usually shallow and just things to add to one’s resume. My time here in South Africa and especially Sonke has really allowed me to see that myself and my actions can truly result in the motto “Challenge yourself, change your world”.