Elsa, Nonzuzo, Vuyelwa, Elsa, and Nomxolisi work together on filling in a job application.
Getting to know some of the young women of Itipini has been one of the highlights of my time here. I've seen our relationships grow overtime, and appreciate our conversations about music, family, politics, Mthatha, and about struggles in our lives. A major one for all the young people I've met during my time here is how to get into university and where to find work. The unemployment rate in South Africa is around 25%, with the latest figures showing rates of 26.9% for the Eastern Cape (as reported by Statistics South Africa at www.statssa.gov.za).
Much of the world is feeling an increase in job loss and financial constrain, and that is certainly felt in our community at Itipini where a majority of the residents are unemployed or semi-employed. Working with community members to find positive outlets to use their time and skills is a daily struggle experienced at the project. Many times factors such as level of education, children, transportation, and work experience make it difficult for Itipini residents to find work. Alcohol and drug usage impacts, either directly or peripherally, a majority of families living at Itipini who have members looking for work. Plus, numerous community members have shared with us the ways in which they face discrimination and judgment from potential employers who do not wish to hire them simply because they are living at Itipini and the reputation that connotes. Looking for work is rarely easy, however looking for work in Mthatha seems like a Sisyphean struggle to many.
This year is helping to teach me that there is so very much that I do not understand, and an area where more questions than answers have been found is the employment and education situation in South Africa, more specifically Mthatha. However, recently good news has been coming through on the employment and education front for some community members and friends. Recently Nonzuzo (second from left in picture above) was accepted as a student at the University of South Africa, and three other young women completed a security training course with flying colors. Maybe more good news is on the way...