Is it fine to name this blog post “Vagina”?

As I arrived at the Madlala High schoolyard two weeks ago, I was met with a scene that was alive with an energy that was new (and Madlala isn’t a place that lacks energy). It was actually quite dramatic. The Madlala school girls were lined up in rows practicing a now iconic dance performance called “Break the chain”.

So many of the high school girls were moving, stamping and dancing that they had created a dust cloud around them.

At the front of the group was Busisiwe Mkhumbuzi, a young lady full of confidence and presence, leading the way in her leopard print leggings and knee-high leather boots.

The girls owned the space. They were moving the Earth.

You could feel “sisterhood”, which is so important in a traditionally patriarchal setting, but more than that, you could feel a sense of communal joy and confidence.

Of course, around the schoolyard – looking on hesitantly – there were a few perplexed boys taken aback by all this “girl power” and open talk about vaginas.

In a space where the “the world’s most important natural resource” (as Busiswe refers to the vagina) has not always been given the respect and acknowledgment that it deserves, who can blame them?

Let me give you some background. Busisiwe “Busi” Mkhumbuzi – a member of the V-Girls activist team – recently spent three days at Madlala High School in Justicia, Mpumalanga, coordinating role-play activities, open dialogue sessions, performances and other activities.

“V-Girls” is an ongoing activist movement inspired by V-Day, an organised response against violence towards women. This is a global network of girls empowering themselves and one another to change the world, one girl at a time.

V-Day is inspired by American playwright and author, Eve Ensler’s famous play “The Vagina Monologues” which many of you may have heard about and so the culture of the movement has to a large extent been driven by “performance”.

That held true at Madlala and you can click on the video below to see Madlala students performing the V-Girls anthem, “Break the Chain”.

“Abuse against women in our community is prevalent, there’s no doubt about it” says Linky Nkuna – Centre Coordinator at Good Work Foundation’s Madlala Digital Learning Centre, “but it is almost always invisible. Kids are not getting enough support from adults in the community and, as mentors, we need to think outside the box. What better way than to OWN the schoolyard? It is the centre of the school. It is visible to all. And it is in that space that girls should be proud to sing, dance, stamp their feet, make a noise, say “no” to violence against women. Girls need to know that they can talk about it. Perpetrators need to know that girls will not keep quiet.”

I had a chance to speak to Busi while the girls were rehearsing and I asked her to expand on the concept of “V-Girl”.

“In many communities – especially the more conservative ones found in rural areas of South Africa – women are oppressed and silent. Part of being a V-Girl is to get solutions coming from women within the community. That is based on two of our organisation’s core beliefs:

  • Lasting social and cultural change is spread by ordinary people doing extraordinary things
  • Local women best know what their communities need and can become unstoppable leaders

Busi added that “politicians do not have the answers to our country’s horrific record of violence against women and children. As V-Girls we have to act as a single, stronger unit and look to each other for solutions.”

So to return to the original question, “is it fine to call this blog post ‘vagina’”. Yes it is. The vagina – despite what some might say – is still taboo, and by extension, so is violence and sexual abuse against women and girls. In many corners of society there is NO respect for the female body, and in South Africa our track record is one of the worst in the world.

So well done Linky for creating a dust cloud in Madlala. Well done Busi for travelling the length and breadth of our country inspiring more young girls to “break the chain”. And last, but not least, well done to the girls (and boys) of Madlala for creating a real space of awareness.

Yours in sorority,

Kate Groch

Moving the Earth: One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That is one billion women. That figure inspired V-Days “1 Billion Rising Campaign” – a campaign that encourages women the world over to harness their collective power to continue rising and demanding an end to violence against women and girls. The girls at Madlala are moving the Earth. Let’s make sure we all do.