LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

A six month leadership curriculum both in South Africa and Washington, DC,  supplemented by ongoing alumni opportunities.

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ENGAGEMENT

A core element of SAWIP, expressed through individual and team projects, both in South Africa and
Washington DC.

PROFESSIONAL EXPOSURE

Real world experience provided through six week work exposure in prestigious environments in Washington, DC.

 

 

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The South Africa-Washington International Program is helping to prepare, inspire and support diverse new generations of emerging South African leaders to serve our people.

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Being Raw

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

During the change process, when one transitions and becomes a better version of one's self, when pre-existing paradigms are done away with and new ones take shape - one is in one's most vulnerable state.  During that time, that transitional period, all emotions become heightened, internal turmoil surges as comfort zones are abandoned and immigration into unfamiliar internal territories commences.

 

 

It's easy to become overwhelmed during that time, particularly if there is a challenge in not only articulating what is happening to you, or even understand it. People have always called me 'deep', which I have never really understood. Perhaps it's because I am in-tune with myself and all the things I go through. I always look for the below-the-surface meaning.

 

 

Before I deviate from the point, let me qualify this transitional process even more. On our journey to self-discovery and starting the loving and mutual relationship with our purpose and what we were born to do, we undergo a process of inquisition; here, we question our values, morals and beliefs in relation to this identified purpose. The newness of the opportunity to become even greater or the possibility to become better versions of ourselves then becomes intimidating. Simply because it requires us to be completely honest with ourselves or even modify our beliefs and values to the point where they may no longer be recognisable. Ofcourse, this becomes overwhelming because of those stifling comfort zones, anything is better than leaving that beloved comfort zone right? Right.

 

 

That inner turmoil then creates the breeding ground for increased vulnerability and rawness - we become raw, stripped, and having to rebuild paradigms and start afresh. This process is amazing, this process is necessary. It can be said that my blogs are always speaking about emotions. I believe that self-awareness is a prerequisite for effective leadership. You need to develop your core before you can lead. How can you serve when you are internally emaciated? It's imperative to allow that transitional process to occur, it's imperative to allow change to occur...

 

 

 

 

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Just Like Home

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

Travelling to Anacostia (from Bethesda) every morning is quite an adventure. I always happen to find myself in the most bizarre and funny situations.

 

 

It takes me an hour and a half to get to work every day, I have to leave home at 6 in order to make 7:30 at my work placement school.When I step out of the metro, in Anacostia, it feels different and familiar all at the same time. It feels different because it's not like Bethesda or anywhere else I've been to whilst here in in the U.S; the socio-economic realities are different here...It feels familiar because it's just like home, it's just like my Gugulethu. It's hard to find the tranquility of opportunity when disadvantage screams in such a chaotic manner from all angles of the community.

 

 

In Anacostia, I feel so much at home. I feel at peace. Primarily because here, I do not have to try and articulate my struggles, because I am immersed in a community which experiences them. Here, I feel free, away from the eyes of pity or buildings and social constructs which always unsuccessfully try to make me feel inadequate. Here, I am with people who respect how much effort and determination it has taken to rise above my circumstances. Even when the doors of opportunity violently closed in my face, these people know that I have had to find underground tunnels and have had to squeeze myself through the windows of hope; hope for a better life, hope for opportunity..

 

When I think of Anacostia, I think of its beauty - how it continues to exist even when structures in society attempt to deny its existence. When I think of Anacostia, I think of its people - the many times complete strangers asked me, "Are you alright? Do you need anything?" Or even the genuine smiles I got, especially on days when I felt under the weather. Even though I am thousands of miles away from my Gugulethu, my beloved native yards and the community which collaboratively raised me, the people who helped my family and I during times when food was scarce and our only means of survival was our faith, the people who bought us clothes or even donated them to us, I know that I have them here with me, in Anacostia. As children run in the streets, neighbours meet and converse over a fence, I know that I am home. This place feels just like home....

 

 

 

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Where is the love? Where is the Freedom and the Solidarity?

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Wednesday, 16 July 2014
Experience 2 Comments

 

So I have been very fortunate that my work placement is at Achievement Preparatory Academy (as part of Higher Achievement) in Anacostia. I have had the pleasure of teaching the writing workshop at the school, to 7th and 8th graders in order to prepare them for writing their applications so that they may gain admission into prestigious high schools -to close the opportunity gap.

 

 

I am the kind of teacher who believes in holistic education; I believe that learners should be taught subject matter but also engaged in topics and issues which will enable them to become active and conscientized members of society. During a lesson, I asked the learners what freedom and solidarity are and whether or not these two concepts are central to cohesion. We had a robust discussion, during which I did more listening than actually speaking. I think it is important for classrooms to become a space in which learners can freely and respectfully express themselves and are able to engage with issues that affect their daily lives. I then asked them to write an essay explicating their point of view and also providing sound arguments for their position (it was, after all, a writing session). When I read some of the answers that the learners gave, I became very emotional. It made me feel so happy to know that at that age, they were able to think so critically and analytically and able to articulate points which I know that a lot of adults tend to take for granted. One student said, "Freedom, to me, means living without chains; physical, spiritual, psychological or otherwise"....

 

 

 

The way in which I interpreted that statement was that being free means being able to fully exercise all the various components in our make-up; not being bound by inhibitions or what society deems as acceptable or even tolerable. I began to think of my South Africa. Was this freedom,defined by this incredible 13 year old, true for us? Were we really living without the confines of chains which imprison our identities? Were we allowing others to assert who they are and not feel subjected to judgement or persecution? Another student said, "Without freedom, we would not have the crutches that allow us to stand up to injustices". South Africa permeated my thoughts once more, I thought about the xenophobic attacks, I thought about the racially-motivated actions of university students, I even thought about something more closer to home - 'corrective rape' and the vicious assaults on those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transexual. Is our society doing enough to stand up to these injustices? Why the hell are we so quiet?! How many people need to experience gross human rights violations before we declare that enough is enough?! Does it first need to be your cousin? Your sister? Your brother? Maybe even your friend? Your mother? Your father?.......

 

 

 

Why are we letting our differences divide us and entrench the barriers which the Apartheid government relentlessly sought to establish? Are we not one people, fighting the same cause? Fighting against inequality, poverty, gender discrimination,  no access to education, and sub-standard living conditions. Why are we allowing our differences to polarize us like this?

 

 

When I posed the question of , "What is solidarity? And is it important?", one of my students aptly said, "There is strength in unity, we are only strong if we are united". That statement is incredible...It summarizes everything I have said, everything I have ever believed and hoped for my South Africa: unity, love, unconditional acceptance...We need to regain that. We need to become a united force if we are ever to surmount the many obstacles that lay on our path to prosperity. As I sat in the classroom, I looked at the faces of those young, incredible and brilliant minds. I was in awe of them. I felt honoured to be in their presence, their young wisdom completely humbled me. As I journey back home in 3 days time, I'll be sure to ask that burning question again, "Where is the Love? Where is the Freedom and the Solidarity?"

 

 

 

 

 

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Concrete Jungle!

by Sechaba Nkitseng
Sechaba Nkitseng
Sechaba Nkiseng has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment
"To start with, I love New York... It's a little bit of the whole world... In New York, the whole world comes to you."-Billy Graham. Skyscrapers, fast cars, people marching together from one street to another like colonies making their way through the New York jungle. I get onto the subway, the air thick with the smell of strong fragrances, dirt mushrooming out of the concrete walls that make New York what it is. This is the Big Apple! I rub my eyes to take it all in and before I knew it I find myself in the middle of a diverse,vibrant colony, adapting to the concrete jungle before them.Yes my SAWIP family. Brave and strong like little Simba's and Nala's (characters from the lion king, by the way I watched the Lion King at the Kennedy Center.....AMAZING!...Thanks host mom.) always up for an adventure. Billy Graham's words began to echo in my head. I love New York. its vibrant, diverse with a good dose of history, from Harlem to Brooklyn, Manhattan to Queens. It is here where I saw a wider perspective of the United States of America. I realized that although the U.S may be a first world country it like many other countries in the world is still battling with poverty, racial divide, gender inequality, crime and other injustices which plagues mankind. I went from sitting in a boardroom with esteemed leaders to a private Jazz performance at the Jazz at the Lincoln Theater to sitting next to a family from Harlem, who express their desperate cries for a future that promises freedom and opportunity. This made me reflect on my life. I have been privileged to have come from Soweto, a township in South Africa, the United states of America, I have witnessed what poverty can do and seen how wealth can pollute the mind. I have vowed that in my journey of realizing my full potential as a servant leader, it is upon my shoulders to forever echo the cries of the marginalized, to afford them the opportunities that I was fortunate to be afforded and to help them find their own freedom. New York is an amazing city but for a brother from Brooklyn or Harlem its a concrete jungle where he fights for survival.
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Aftermath...

by Velani Mboweni
Velani Mboweni
Hand to the helpless, Friend to the lonely. Wears glasses that are prescribed fo
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on Tuesday, 15 July 2014
Reflection 1 Comment

As we enter the final week of SAWIP DC, a sense of calm wraps around me. Not because I'm glad it's over (certainly not) but rather because I am glad i've had this experience and I look forward to what will become of it in the days, weeks, months and even years to come. Amongst many feelings in me, I know peace is one of them...and God on my side, I know that all will be well in the Aftermath of SAWIP DC. Speaking of Aftermath, here is a song by Hillsong United with the same title; it's clear and calm mood reflect how I feel in this moment of glorious surrender.... sing along with me:

 

The skies lay low where You are
On the earth You rest Your feet
Yet the hands that cradle the stars
Are the hands that bled for me

In a moment of glorious surrender
You were broken for all the world to see
Lifted out of the ashes
I am found in the aftermath

Freedom found in Your scars
In Your grace my life redeemed
For You chose to take the sinner's crown
As You placed Your crown on me

And in that moment of glorious surrender
Was the moment You broke the chains in me
Lifted out of the ashes
I am found in the aftermath

And in that moment You opened up the heavens
To the broken, the beggar and the thief
Lifted out of the wreckage
I found hope in the aftermath

And I know that You're with me
Yes, I know that You're with me here
And I know Your love will light the way
And I know that You're with me
Yes, I know that You're with me here
And I know Your love will light the way

Now all I have I count it all as loss
But to know You, to carry the cross
Knowing I'm found
In the light of the aftermath




- Vela Di Vela -

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Doorman.

by Sechaba Nkitseng
Sechaba Nkitseng
Sechaba Nkiseng has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, 14 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment
Its 7:00am, I am running down F street on my way to the Willard Intercontinental hotel for the Corporate Council on Africa's event, Doing business in Kenya. After an amazing night out at the Kennedy Center watching the Lion King and thereafter doing my laundry till 3:00am, I had to down as much caffeine as I possibly could if I were to survive my day. It then hit me that for the past four weeks I had operated on minimal sleep, running from one place to the other, subway to subway. This is what it was all about, No sleep and hard work. So I arrived at the hotel, mandated to be the doorman, welcoming the guests as they arrived. Esteemed guests after the other, businessmen and women, ministers and congressman. At that moment I had an epiphany, I was the doorman, the first face each guests saw on arrival, I was the face of the company. This got me thinking on how in South Africa we somehow seem to see the man sweeping the hall and the lady making the tea even the receptionists. we often never remember their faces or bother that much to meet and greet them, I say this without any generalization. What if I told you that the doorman is just as important as the CEO of the big corporation you just walked into. Think about, had I arrived there looking down, not interested in what I am doing, merely directing the guests with no enthusiasm in the way I was doing my job this would have left a very bad impression on the guests, right? This experience mad me reflect on the current issue in South Africa in terms of the ongoing mining strike. I think its fair to say that without the mine workers there would be no mining sector and without management, there would be no mining sector. Thus it is important that all those involved in any sector, be treated with a sense of respect and dignity, understanding that there is no task more important than the other. If the doorman does not greet the guests with a smile on his face and be as passionate as the CEO is, the image of the whole business, country, whatever the case suffers. Oh by the way in the United states, during the summer break, college students seek jobs throughout the city in every sector, so the lady you might be ordering coffee from at Starbucks this afternoon might just be a semester away from graduating with an engineering degree.
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Global Think Tank on Sports for Development (Part 2)

by Bongani Ndlovu
Bongani Ndlovu
Hey There, glad you finally found your way to my SAWIP Blog. I am a Finance and
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on Monday, 14 July 2014
Reflection 1 Comment

There is a lot of magic in sport and youth participation in sports within their communities. Not every citizen will simply take me for my word especially in academia when I say there is magic in the involvement of youth in sports. This is a great prerequisite for organizations who partake in sports for development. How do we measure the magic that comes through the participation of young people in sport? Not everyone believes in magic, not everyone is a sportsman or woman. There is a great need for organizations within the sports for development realm to make this magic visible for all to see. More importantly for heads of state and also the people who hold the funding for development.

 


Not everyone will take my word but at least hear the words of our most love Nelson Mandela. I quote, ‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.’

What I take from the first International day for Sport for development and peace, is the fact that I believe that “Sport has its own language, and everyone can speak it. It’s a language of hope, where anything is possible.”

 

People who partake in sport have the chance to improve their communication skills and gain valuable experience in partnership and teamwork. Sport brings the masses and together and often people who might not have had a chance to meet and allows them an opportunity to share their experiences of triumphs and failures. These communal expertise and experiences are easily exchangeable to other aspects of life and may improve a person’s ability to succeed as a student, employee, and community member, or advocate for a particular cause.

 

Much work must still be done to fully link the international movement to grassroots organizations in the field and to bring the sport and development sectors together. If carried out wisely, however, sports programming has the potential to play a crucial role to play fostering international development and peace.

 

However until of late, sport has remained on the secondary activities of mainstream humanitarian and development programming, considered a luxury in the context of other development objectives. Now, though, there is a growing understanding that sport does not have to compete with other priorities but can actually be a means for addressing them. Now sport will take a lead in development on a global scale.

 

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A new narrative

by Joshua Nott
Joshua Nott
I am a proud son of Africa. Political science and law student at the University
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on Monday, 14 July 2014
Experience 0 Comment

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Of late the SAWIP team has been discussing the issue of ‘race’ in both the American and South African societies. On Monday night the SAWIP hosted historian Sonja Wood. Ms. Wood walked us through African American history from the civil war to the civil rights movement. In this discussion she made compelling arguments, which showcased the similarities between black South Africans quest for freedom and the struggles of African Americans.

Having reflected on the discussion and the issue of race in both of our countries, it seems to me that the problem is not necessarily a racial one. It has been widely cited that colonialism in South Africa, prolonged by apartheid, can be assessed as a system of racial capitalism as opposed to a system of mere racism. I am not discounting the very obvious racism, which took shape during our history; I am merely attempting to introduce a new narrative.

Currently in South Africa there exists an overwhelming poor black majority in comparison to the predominantly wealthy and minority white population. However, the wealthy elite of our country has become increasingly multiracial. The apparent transformation of the elite thus indicates that South African society may rather be divided along class lines as opposed to racial ones. Ms. Wood in her address identified that the U.S. is stratified according to class. Moreover, Ms. Wood suggested that class and race are inextricably linked in the American context.

The lesson I took from this session was a simple one. I learned that the most powerful and wealthy nation on earth is yet to successfully confront issues of class and race. With this realization I have been able to reassess the gains that South Africa has made in confronting division along many lines.

 

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Work place in world affairs

by Imaad Isaacs
Imaad Isaacs
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on Wednesday, 09 July 2014
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As part of the SAWIP program, one of the key foci of the Washington, DC Curriculum is the “work exposure” component. The SAWIP work exposure component consists of very short-term internships at various places including The World Bank, Capitol Hill, Government Departments and NGOs. Due to the time constraints of the program, VISA requirements and the minimal number of days we actually spend working at our respective placements, we call these placements work exposure as opposed to internships. Nevertheless, the benefits are the same.

 

My work exposure placement has been at the World Affairs Council, Washington DC (WAC-DC). WAC-DC is a member of the umbrella organization World Affairs Councils of America (WACA), which seeks to educate the public on international issues and current affairs. The staff is friendly, supportive and engaging, while the other interns are plentiful and very active. Given my less-experience background in world politics and international relations, I look forward to making the most out of the remainder of my exposure period and learn as much as possible.

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All work and no pay

by Imaad Isaacs
Imaad Isaacs
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on Wednesday, 09 July 2014
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In light of the upcoming departure to Washington DC for the work exposure component of the SAWIP curriculum, here are five quick reasons that may have you considering an unpaid internship.

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The Honourable Imaad of Crawford – Part 4: Actionable Knowledge

by Imaad Isaacs
Imaad Isaacs
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on Wednesday, 09 July 2014
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This penultimate post in the series: The Honourable Imaad of Crawford, is intended to be a light-hearted reflection on the final two values embodied in the coat of arms. The handdepicting action, and the pen symbolizing knowledge.

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Open Letter to men: Redefining diversity and freedom

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo Mokoena has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 09 July 2014
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Today was one of the richer experiences of my SAWIP journey so far here in D.C. We had a very candid conversation with the team about race and diversity, and as usual, my fellow Tukkie Brynne Guthrie, being the advocate for equal justice for all- brought a perspective I'd forgotten all too easily.

 

"What about the struggle of emancipating women in society?". I thought this apt, partly because we're so often confined to the box of race, class and culture when posed with the challenges of diversity, that we often forget the first and arguably most distinct one, gender.

 

On Friday, the 11th of April 2014, news broke that a rugby player from a local university had assaulted a young lady in what seemed to be a brawl between opposition rugby players post the Varsity Cup final. I knew the victim personally, and at the time, decided to write the following piece. We are all a part of the problem!

Puzzle Pieces: We're all a part of the problem

Written on the 11th of April 2014.

This blog post is written quickly, expediently in fact, not in a way to be sloppy or contemptuous of the content, but more to ensure that the urgency I feel in this moment is well documented in its acme as apposed to the diluted fuel it often becomes, after we rationalize, contextualize et al. the ills of our society. This will make more sense later on.




Firstly, I would like to send my sincerest apologies to the Agathagelou family. I cannot begin to understand the indignant anger you must feel to your own daughter, princess and jewel, being hit by a man, for being an upstanding citizen and patriot in defending her fellow student. This, simply put, is an act of heroism worthy of being noted. Irini, I know you, so I hope you get better soon. Let your story liberate the thousands of women in townships, small towns, farming communities and maybe even rich suburbs, who will never have the courage to stand for the right to not being a punching bag.



I would also like to send an apology to the family of Anene Booysen. You lost a daughter, a child, both brutally and senselessly so. I want you to know that her life has sparked something in me- a desire to bring this beast to shore and if need be, die wrestling it. I will speak of her wherever I go- all around the world. I will speak of how a teenage South African was brutally assaulted, raped and killed, essentially for being a woman. How sick is my land? Her name will be remembered. Her life remembered. Her contribution celebrated. God keep you.

Lastly, I would like to apologise to my mother, Khumi. I am sorry I have not owned this problem South Africa has. The anger we both release on women and freely so. I apologise for not working harder to be the stamp out- to wrestle it, choke it. I'm sorry I come back here all too often, indignant at the injustice; only to walk away watered down and 'contextualizing'. To all our mothers; rich and poor, young and old; married or deserted; adorned or battered- I apologise, on behalf of all of us, as South African men. Your sons, brothers, husbands and often objects of affection.

To us, as men- I am deflated. Kyle Kriel- you have not only disappointed yourself, you've let us all down. Same for Oscar. Same for OJ. Same for the millionaire who can afford to buy his wife expensive make-up to cover the marks of leafy suburban blows; same as the construction worker who beats his wife as therapy. This event, Irini's and Reeva's; is but a microcosm of the broader depravity we're faced with; mere fruits of the chronic illness the Y-chromosome so richly bestows. How we raise our voice at or mothers in frustration, slam doors to prove a point with our girlfriends, or simply wont vote for a competent, highly capable leader to rule our country for a tenure, because 'we don't want a woman for a president'. 

All this, a microcosm, a snapshot, puzzle pieces to the grotesque expressionist piece we call 'the problem', 'the man-issue', a battle that can only be won by men but we refuse to face. I choose to own my anger- my misogyny, my deeply ingrained sense of entitlement because I am a man. And no- I do not do so proudly. 

Today I posted a question on social media:"Ïf it was another women, poor, nameless, who'd been hit, would we care?"

This is largely on the basic premise of the Reeva Steenkamp vs Anene Booysen saga; one famous, one not so- but was also in response to the Irini Agathegelou situation, as I know her in person. The question doesn't wrestle with the nature of the injustice. Irrespective of where you come from, your economic or social status- as my father would say- depravity is depravity. It wrestles with us, the hands of justice, or selective justice. What about the 1,000 women across the world, young and old, rich and poor, who were 'hit' in one way, form or another? The poor, maimed.

Like I said, this was not written to trivialise the matter at hand for certain individuals (It is in no way a comparative analysis between the injustice itself and/or its perpetration) or the painful experiences of all these women. It is written to question us, all of us, as puzzle pieces- to look at the macabre reality being strung together by us. People may say one still lives, the other is dead, one can afford a good lawyer, while the other is from a rural karoo town. Even though these factors may contribute in some way or form, I pray that the South Africa I'm a part of, am helping build and leading is one that says: 'Though your background and experience of life may be different; it is not deficient'. 

Maybe your mom may have never been struck like ours, or your father wasn't a violent individual? Maybe Irini is just a name to you, and Anene Booysen just a news-header you read 14 months ago? Regardless of what your reality is, here, on the same canvas of South African reality, lies a sickening underbelly of violence against woman some deal with constantly, weekly, daily, even hourly. Here, lies a truth, that we are the problem- men. Look at us, be honest, look at yourself, be honest. Yes, you, us, we need to win this battle.

I pray we become better men.
The battle continues.

Sincerely,
Lehlohonolo 'Nolo' Mokoena

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Beautiful Encounters

by Kabelo Gildenhuys
Kabelo Gildenhuys
Young Urban Gentleman. Passionate about leadership and contributing towards buil
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

Having spent a wonderful weekend with my brother and his family for the 4th of July celebration I opted to take the Monday morning train back from Baltimore.  As I got seated in the train I would have never guessed that my morning would start with such a beautiful encounter.

Sharing seats next to me where two women, both making their way towards Washington.  The one advised me to put my bags closer the door as to not take space (and avoid being disciplined by the train conductor), while the other offered to swap her seat with me so that I could keep a vigilant eye on my belongings.  She then asked where I was from (clearly sensing that I do not use the train on a daily basis). I briefly introduced myself and then proceeded to read the newspaper. Next thing the two women, now seated opposite one another and having only met one another on the train, started talking and there was an instant connection between the two.

When their conversation touched on US politics I briefly intercepted but that was it. Somehow I knew that I had to keep my engagement on the minimal side. The one woman works in DC and takes the train everyday; the other woman was on her way to the city to take care of some family related issues and clearly in distress. Yet the conversation that followed between the two women was nothing short of an “a-ha” moment.  As the DC woman enquired   the reasons for the other woman’s visit to the city, she in the process re-affirmed the other woman’s value foremost as a person and secondly as a woman. Yet what mostly stood out for me was the way in which she delivered her caring words of motivation; with the utmost passion and vigor - so much so that even I was move!

Needless to say their conversation ended with me hugging them and the three of us acknowledging what a special moment it has been for all of us (although I was mostly just an observer).  The detail of their discussion is irrelevant for this blog, what is important is the way in which these two total strangers were able to engage and reaffirm one another’s humanity and in the process elevate and secure their mutual sense of worth.

This brief heartfelt on-the-go counseling session was such a serendipitous moment for me as I received renewed evidence of the ever present beauty that is always around.  The fact that I was over observant, being a foreigner, allowed me the opportunity to witness this simplistic beautiful encounter as it happened.   Sometimes traveling abroad is not so much about learning but also about affirmation. This encounter unequivocally affirmed to me the goodness that is possible for our world. If these two strangers could spark a light of hope between one another using merely their kind words and total compassion it is clearly indicative that we as humans are capable of bringing about the positive change our world so desperately needs.   Having been witness to this authentic encounter definitely stands as a turning point of my DC experience.  South Africa needs more ‘beautiful encounters’.

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Dear 9 year old me

by Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Li'Tsoanelo Zwane
Affectionately known as Lee, I am a lover of nature and all things wondrous and
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

 

Right now you're in Grade 3 in  Miss Silinga's class, at St Agnes Roman Catholic Convent School. With those pig-tails and inquisitively big, brown eyes, you are seated in the front row - not wanting to miss anything, particularly those specks of knowledge which protestantly bleed from the black-board. You love learning, your curious mind insatiably devours newspapers and books, which often allow you an escape from your realities.

 

 

Things aren't so great at home; mum and gran are struggling to keep everything afloat, financially.  Don't let that deter you, we both know you were born with the ability to overcome any adversity. You're privileged to have had the opportunity to go to good schools and that will continue throughout your schooling career. I know you will make the most of the opportunities which you will be given. Don't lose sight of the ultimate goal, though, which is to become a voice for the socio-economic issues of your community.

 

You are going to make good decisions, trust yourself. You are also going to make mistakes which will be so crucial to your growth. These mistakes will provide you with a deep sense of wisdom and knowledge,  and they will enable you to become who I am today. You don't have to pretend to be strong, you will learn that there is a lot more power evident in the ability to allow yourself to be vulnerable or even perceived as 'weak'. Don't be afraid to be who you are, in all that you do.

 

You are going to experience a huge loss on your 21st birthday. Give yourself time to grieve and reflect on the situation. Although it may not seem that way at the time, but that experience will be one of the things which propel us to where we are today.

 

 

Realize the potential that lies within you. Do not doubt the things that you could become. You are going to evolve into a great, passionate leader. A lot of opportunities will come your way and you will find yourself on a journey of realizing your true leadership potential, who you are at your core, and you will be enabled to answer your country's call for leaders; leaders who not only lead, but leaders who also serve...

 

 

P.S Do not lose the afro and not conforming to a particular cultural and tribal identity is a great thing.

 

Love

23 year old you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reason I chose 9 year old me is because of the fact that at that age was when I made the decision that I would be an agent of change; for not only my family's socio-economic circumstance but also my community's reality. I feel like I have come full circle, that through the things that I have been through and my SAWIP journey, I am making 9 year old me's affirmations a reality...

 

 

 

 

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Post Conflict Communities: Part II

by Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo "Nolo" Mokoena
Lehlohonolo Mokoena has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

“Embracing community- especially through diversity”

 

Diversity has always been a source of great contention in most post conflict societies. I mean, one need not be a genius to understand that you have a very polarizing social dynamic at the point of emancipation, or freedom of one from another. Firstly, you have a perpetrator who now must co-exist with those they’ve wronged, and secondly, you have a society that is structured in a way that systematically benefits one and takes from the other.

 

These conditions are the convention, sure, but they are huge challenges in forging a sense of community. It would seem natural that some form of justice would be necessary, but that is impossible without hampering the benefactors- though not necessarily perpetrators- of the injustice suffered during prior “conflict”. This, at a very subtle level, will always threaten to dismember the components of a united community, regardless of the understanding for the need for reform, redress, restitution or re-appropriation by both ends of the spectrum.

 

However, these are components we cannot run away from; a reality of justice we must fight relentlessly to institute. The question of diversity has always been at the core of the matter. In the case of South Africa’s history, the divide was racial, and though systematic- at face value at least, it seems as though this was the root of necessity the policy implementation. There are other nations where the reason was different, be it in the Rwandan or Bosnian genocides, or the Troubles in Ireland- each nation must stare its own “monster” down.

 

The challenge for any leadership in post conflict circumstances is to use the attribute which caused the divide and inspired the perpetuation of the various forms of injustice to unite the people again; almost in an attempt to trivialise the divisive nature of the root of the conflict. Instead we magnify its pietistic qualities- a messianic unifier of sort. Though I am a fan of this approach, the reality is that unless there is some sort of tangible change, there is NO community- the nation is STILL divided, merely in a diversely different way.

 

The understanding of diversity in a greater sense will aid us in cultivating a sense of belonging. Essentially, coming from a historical context of chronic exclusivity and division, both as a general global community and in our own nuanced experienced as citizens of various nations; how do we bridge this divide and embrace community- even through diversity?

 

As multifaceted and complex as that answer may be, the first step is not to equate our diversity. Though we reinforce the idea of equal intrinsic value of every human being, and we believe that all people of all nations are born equal- we must understand that we are not all the same. Trying to equate the two will continue to entrench the traditional sectarian divisions; as it is based on a flawed concept of comparative analysis as though the yardstick for each individual is identical- (while I agree it should meet some standard of uniformity)- in reality, it must be nuanced to accommodate the diversity of people. Simply stated, we are dealing with human beings with capacity, not livestock.

 

Now, I understand this view can be discussed further to include the role of paternalism and governance in the ecosystem of community (which I will do in my next blog), but I need you to come to the cinch understanding that the first step to community with diversity, is not equating the one’s differences. That has often been the fundamental flaw in our understanding and implementation. The idea is not to recreate the imbalance of the past, but to address it in every way possible. This is not an arithmetic path to success, where free education and a monthly grant stipend will address the issue. This is a very dynamic, ever changing struggle we have yet to diagnose clearly, and thus tackle it successfully.

 

When we understand that our diversity is not the same, not equal- there is no room to say my difference is “better” or of “greater worth” than yours. When we understand that our diversity is of equal importance though they cannot be measured comparatively- we will begin to see the beginning of a new social order, one that is far less cynical to discourse about what divides us, and far more optimistic about the prospects of real, functional community.

 

As we build our nation, and the nations of the world!

 

Nolo Mokoena!


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Highlights

by Boipelo Ndlovu
Boipelo Ndlovu
http://www.sawip.org/sawip-team/sawip-team-2014
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

 

 

Those moments you get to spend by yourself or with others, which have such a formidable impact on your being, that you recognise a renewed person the more you turn to the mirror. Amongst the many wonderful experiences I have had while in Washington DC, two have left me with a more positive perspective and have changed my life.

 

On 2 July 2014, I attended my very first Baseball game, the Washington Nationals vs Colorado Rockie at Nationals Park. It was the atmosphere at Nationals Park that changed how I used to view support. People came out in numbers. I could not believe it.

 

There was a time when I was trying to make my way from buying food, to my seat, before the game started. While I was hustling and rushing to get to my seat, everyone starting singing the national anthem. I did not realise that everyone was standing still and so i keep walking until someone stopped me and said that I could not go up the escalator until the singing was done. I guess I have never seen my country having that much respect for sport. Atleast not to this extent. Perhaps I needed that to happen so that I could realise that there is a need for a deeper spirit of patriotism in South Africa. It should not matter that some of teams keep losing games over and over. I realise now that sometimes players stop caring when fans stop caring. Think about how you feel when someone gives up on you. So, I think we need to stop giving up on our players too quickly and actually allow the humanity that I know is in all of us, to surface.

 

I saw both teams that were playing try their level best on the field. It did not matter, in this context, which team was ahead in points or which one lost for that matter. Everyone was still cheering for their teams. I truly believe that both teams saw the game through because of their supporters.

 

That day and the 4th of July truly taught me what patriotism means. On the 4th of July, my SAWIP team members and I made our way to the Lincoln Memorial to go see the fireworks in celebration of the U.S. Independence Day. Even greater numbers showed up that day. I could not help but feel a little jealous because ideally, that is how I think South Africa should celebrate days like Freedom day. I could be generalising, maybe I am the one that has not been focusing much on being a patriot. The barriers that were broken down by our freedom fighters is exactly what we should celebrate or atleast acknowledge but we don't. We see those days as opportunities to either sleep in, go on holiday with family or friends, or just as an opportunity to go on a rampage of having 'fun'.

 

Where is the disconnect? 20 years of Democracy and it seems as though we have forgotten. I certainly forgot. I am so happy that this quest for learning has left me digging deep into who I am and why I am not the patriot that I should be in my country. As a young South African, so many issues leave one angry, but that should not necessarily take away from celebrating our country. One may say, 'but there is nothing to celebrate'. Oh yes, there is. For example, if you go to http://www.gov.za/issues/20years/index.html, you will see some of the progressive steps we have taken as a nation. Some are flawed but its progress nonetheless and so we ought to be more patriotic. We have reasons to be.

When I go back to South Africa, the shift in my perspective about what it means to be a patriot will reflect in my actions. My hope is that others will join me too. I don't know why I had to leave South Africa in order to recognise its beauty but i'm glad I did sooner than later. Now I can be active in a space that I now see as positive.

 

Tags: Patriotism
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Rock ‘n’ Rye

by Erwyn Durman
Erwyn Durman
Erwyn Durman has not set their biography yet
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on Tuesday, 08 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

I’m sittin’ ‘n’ rockin’, in front of the fire,

Watchin’ the flames as they dance,

Sippin’ a glass full of old rock and rye, and

Drinkin’ a toast to the past:

Here’s to the people and places I’ve known.

Here’s to the love and pain that is gone.

Here’s to the joy and sadness I’ve seen.

Here’s to the unfinished dreams, and

Here’s to what memories mean.

Rock ‘n’ Rye, rock ‘n’ rye,

I’m sittin’ here rockin’ with tears in my eyes,

Sittin’ here’ rockin’ with tears in my eyes,

I’m sitting ‘n’ rockin’, in front of the fire,

Thinkin’ of things as they are,

And how all that I am is just pieces and parts

Of the memories I’ve gathered so far.

Here’s to the goodness and kindness I’ve shown.

Here’s to the people I’ve treated wrong

Here’s to the mistakes that I wish I could change.

Here’s to the pride and the shame,

And the growin’ that comes with the pain.

I’m sittin ‘n’ rockin’ in front of the fire,

Thinkin’ of things yet to be:

How the present’s a doorway that leads from the past

To a future that I’ve yet to see.

Here’s to the man I was in the past.

Here’s to the man I am now at last

Here’s to the man I someday will be.

Here’s to the hoping he’s better than me,

Because of these old memories.

Mike Cross is an American singer and song-writer, who blends the genres of rock, country, pop and folk music. The words to this song are a sentiment to an old American tradition that seems to be fading out of their society.

My work exposure is at the Faith and Politics Institute and I have recently read an essay by our founder Doug Tanner, entitled: ‘The Truth Can Set Us Free’. Doug references the words to this song in his essay and alludes to an American society that has on the face of it lost this age old tradition and with it a time set aside for reflection.

The idea of ‘reflection’ as a value was first introduced to me on selection camp. It was during an activity of identifying what values were important to each of the individuals present to determine the commonalities between our value sets and to see how they aligned with the values of SAWIP. In a world where improvement is predicated on acceleration, it is a struggle to find time to reflect. As I explore this new founded value, I have made a commitment to myself: To preserve time in my day to allow for reflection.

 

Other than this high frequency tempo that our lives are expected to move at, another obstacle we face in finding time to reflect is of the constant background noise that fills the void of silence. Remedial tasks that can be used for reflection (washing the dishes in my case) are surrounded by a bombardment of white noise, often presenting itself in the form of TV, social media or youtube. Doug expresses his thoughts, on the song Rock ‘n’ Rye, that there is no better moment to reflect than rocking in front of a fire or on the porch of one’s house. The depth of consciousness, required for true reflection, is unattainable when this white noise, pollutes our minds with a myriad of thoughts other than our own.

 

Reflection is a cornerstone of the Faith and Politics Institute and the work that is done here is centered on this idea of going back to remember the struggle that was faced to achieve democracy. A major chapter of the SAWIP experience has to do with reflection. These BLOGS serve as one expression of the emphasis SAWIP places on re-visiting your thoughts to allow for assimilation of the week’s events.

 

I am but a novice in learning how to reflect but a novice that is cognizant of its importance. In my next blog I will share with you more on the purpose behind the retreats and pilgrimages hosted by the Faith and Politics Institute. I will also provide a backdrop of how the institute supplies, nourishes and sustains many of the Congressman and notable government figures with a sacred time of remembrance.

 

This week Wednesday we will be heading off to the big apple, it is said to be the city that never sleeps. I do hope for my sake that it is not too busy so I able to safeguard a time for reflection.

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ON THE SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

by Kessler Perumalsamy
Kessler Perumalsamy
Law student with an appreciation for wit, irony and humor. Frequent tea-drinker
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
Experience 1 Comment

About a block away from where I work, sits the most important and powerful court in the United States. The Supreme Court is the highest court in all federal matters, and has the final say on the interpretation of the Constitution. Its impressive and gargantuan structure, which directly faces the Capitol reflects the grand authority and power of this institution. One of the most profound things about the building, I find, is the inscription that sits atop of it: “Equal justice under law” is a salient feature of the jurisprudence encompassed in the Constitution of the United States, and more directly the values and terms of the fourteenth amendment. The most apposite visual of this is perhaps the picture of Nettie Hunt and her daughter sitting on the stairs of the court, holding a newspaper that reads “High Court Bans Segregation in Schools”, a day after the sagacious decision in Brown v Board of Education.

 

Courts, by their very nature, are a bulwark against the overmighty power of the executive.  They exist to protect the liberties of the individual, where they may be so encroached upon by the state, and to interpret the law so determined by the legislature, provided the terms of the Constitution are satisfied. It is, perhaps, for this reason that the institutions of the judiciary are the most respected organs of the state, when compared to the other two organs of the state. In South Africa, the Constitutional Court is seen by most South Africans as a bastion of security for those who are on the outskirts of society- the poor and the marginalised.  There is no politics in court: whatever political views you may have cannot influence the decisions you make.  All you do is interpret the law in the most reasonable manner required by the circumstances of each case.

 

Many of the discussions America still has, South Africa has had many years ago. Debates about abortion rights, voting rights, and the rights of same-sex couples to marry, no longer enter our public discourse with such force because they have been decided such a long time ago.  The decision of our Constitutional Court in the case of Fourie, for example, almost a decade ago found that a definition of “marriage” that excludes same-sex couples, unfairly discriminates against them, and fundamentally affronts their dignity.

 

It is thus troubling to see such an important institution in the United States being a masked extension of the legislature. The House of Representatives is startlingly divided on almost every issue. The pervasive partisan lines bolster a great deal of progress that could be made. The approach many South African judges take when interpreting the law is not to protect or advance a certain political ideology- it is to decide the law in the most reasonable, equitable and fair manner demanded by the circumstances of each case.  The Supreme Court does the exact opposite: it seems to ignore a rational consideration of multiple factors, and rather easily, without any mental effort, decides matters on political preferences. This too, is masked under the “orginalist or textualist” form of interpretation in which some judges- most notably, Justice Scalia, argues that the Constitution must be interpreted as it was originally written (Yes, so women and black people don’t have equal protection before the law). If this is the case, it would perhaps be more expedient to appoint a bench of historians to decide matters rather than jurists.

 

A recent example of this is the decision of SCOTUS in the case of Burwell v Hobby Lobby in which the majority of the court (all men by the way and Republican appointees) ruled that “the owners of many closely held corporations could not in good conscience provide such (the right of workers to have abortion costs covered in the Affordable Care Act) coverage”. Essentially, the court decided that religious views of owners could be used to discriminate against that of workers who may not share those views. One important thing the court seemed to have forgotten is that corporations, unlike religious organizations, don’t exist to serve a community of religious observers, as Justice Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent.

 

 

For any democracy to properly function, an independent judiciary is needed to safeguard the liberties of peoples and prevent abhorrent discrimination. This cannot be done when judges sit on the bench to advance a political agenda, and casually ignore a mass of information that is required to make a considered decision. America’s progress on social and economic issues, when compared to the rest of the world, is vastly backtracked, and a great deal of this can be attributed to a bench of pseudo-legislators in jurists’ clothing.

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Power families - A Continued Dream Over Two Generations

by Ishara Ramkissoon
Ishara Ramkissoon
Ishara Ramkissoon has not set their biography yet
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
Experience 0 Comment

"Without a family, man, alone in the world, trembles in the cold" - Andre Maurois

Halfway through the D.C.  our SAWIP journey, I find myself missing my family more and more each day. As I mentioned in a session previously, I am really close to my family so the time difference doesn't really help! Living with the Pace family has been great in this regard as it feels just like home. During this trip, I have had some time to reflect on my own family, our dynamics and what represent in South Africa.

Being really close to my parents, I really enjoy learning and meeting Parent-Child power houses and how the idea of a shared vision or ideal is carried across two generations which can further strengthen the goal. The idea that a parent(s) can "dream vicariously" through their children and instill the necessary values in order to carry forth this dream. Meeting Congressman Clyburn and Commissioner Clyburn was especially profound as I had been reflecting so much on my own relationship with my father and how our lives journeys are so similar the older I become.

As I shared the story of my life and views at Orientation Camp( too long to post here but I'd love to share it with anyone that's interested), the session with the Congressman and Commissioner once again reminded me of how much of an influence my parents have had in my life; so much so that I can only fully appreciate it years later. The value of positive role models, particularly a parent, is often forgotten in modern society as a sport player or pop star seems far more glamorous than mum and dad. Just hearing the pearls of wisdom that the Congressman and his wife passed on to the Commissioner, which very much made her who she is today; I felt excited at the prospect of sitting on a couch with both my parents sharing our story as a family and the struggles we faced and success we celebrated in reforming religious education in South Africa.

Of course I wouldn't be me if I didn't share something medical with the team - so this is a TedTalk about a mother-daughter power team that transformed Woman's Healthcare in Somalia. Even though this video is three years old, it still bears relevance today, especially in light of the recent Hobby Lobby ruling and that many woman are still marginalized in Somalia because of religious and political beliefs.

{video:"http://blog.ted.com/2011/02/09/mother-and-daughter-doctor-heroes-hawa-abdi-deqo-mohamed/",width:"400",height:"300"}

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No 'sad pandas' here!

by Lauren Hess
Lauren Hess
Hi, I'm Lauren Hess - tea drinker, critical thinker and lover of all things witt
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on Monday, 07 July 2014
Experience 0 Comment

- Is this what Dante’s Inferno feels like?

- Is it this little boy’s goal in life to be the most annoying organism on Earth?

- Surely having this many people here can’t be legal…

- Can someone push me around in one of those kiddie strollers? I’ll squeeze!


These are but a few of the thoughts that swirled around my head (and believe me, there were some less PC ones floating around too) as we waited in line to see the giant pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo. A spur of the moment plan saw myself and a few of my teammates exploring the beautifully green environment of the zoo where weird and wonderful creatures alike are all housed.


Although we are spoilt for choice when it comes to nature reserves in South Africa, where a wide variety of animals can be seen, pandas remain unheard of. As my love for these furry animals is no secret, I enthusiastically bounded in the direction of the panda exhibit as soon as we entered the zoo. Unfortunately, my path came to an abrupt halt when I encountered a line of about 100 equally eager visitors who were all waiting to see Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their little cub Bao Bao. After a moment of slight deflation, we resigned ourselves to standing in line.


After about 15 minutes of stop-start movement, we finally saw one of the pandas! All the little frustrations of waiting seemed to melt away as I observed what must be the most content animal I have ever seen, munching away on his bamboo leaves. The more I watched, the more I thought about what it would take to reach my own level of ‘panda-esque contentment’ and the answer appears to be surprisingly simple (and ever so clichéd): it’s the little things. So, with each day that goes by, I’ll be looking for my bamboo leaf equivalent – no matter how small – to get myself ever closer to that level of ‘panda-esque contentment’.

 

(On a somewhat related note – here’s an example of a less than content panda that clearly needs professional help; enjoy!)

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