Women take control and 'the men follow'

2016-09-13 06:00
More than 300 women from all over Cape Town packed into the Athlone Civic Centre on Wednesday 7?September to take part in an ongoing workshop to combat the scourge of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).Pic to come on Monday.

More than 300 women from all over Cape Town packed into the Athlone Civic Centre on Wednesday 7?September to take part in an ongoing workshop to combat the scourge of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).Pic to come on Monday. (Earl Haupt)

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More than 300 women from all over Cape Town packed into the Athlone Civic Centre on Wednesday 7 September to take part in an ongoing workshop to combat the scourge of foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

The workshop was hosted by the City of Cape Town’s social development and early childhood development directorate and has already yielded tangible results.

FAS is a widespread and persistent problem in South Africa and despite many awareness campaigns being conducted, the frequency of affected children born with FAS has not decreased.

Foetal alcohol spectrum disorders are caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy and have several negative consequences for communities. While it is incurable and the damage is permanent, FAS is entirely preventable. 

Suzette Little, Mayco member for social development and early childhood development, says the programmes specially focus on empowering women with preventative information that will eventually help to combat the scourge of alcohol abuse by pregnant women.

“The workshops highlight the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy and stress that FAS can only be diagnosed by a professional medical practitioner,” says Little.

Ferial Soeker, who heads up the prevention of substance abuse programme branch of Little’s directorate, says that although figures of FAS for the Cape Metropole are sparse at this stage, a study conducted on the West Coast found that for every 1000 babies, 80 are born with FAS. This means that the frequency of people born with FAS is at 8% for that specific area. To put it into perspective – the frequency of all people born with other disabilities is at 7.5% across the country.

“Over the past few years, we have increased our awareness regarding FAS, but on which level – have we really gone into communities? That is what the City of Cape Town has started. Our awareness has been in the print media, but a lot of our (target) people are illiterate, so they don’t really read that much.So now we are doing awareness programmes in communities and we are trying to support women in communities. Today is a one-day intervention, but this programme goes on with the women for much longer than today.”

Little also says that some of the preventative measures being implemented are aimed at teaching women and men alike to deal with their frustration rather than resort to drinking as a solution and says “it comes down to why people are abusing substances”.

Chevon Davids from Ocean View says: “(The programme) has given me more insight for awareness for my community and if we are learned, we can go out and educate people. Other than that, meeting new people is an awesome thing. I think that I am well equipped. If I feel that I don’t know how to deal with something, they have given us contacts where we can go in further.”

Nazeema Samuels from Hanover Park says the 60 women in her group feel empowered and the programme allows them to see things in a different light.

“We as ambassadors of Hanover Park – we as the women – lead and the men follow. From when this project started, we have had some stone throwing in our area where youth from primary and high schools have a tendency of throwing stones like gangsters, especially in the afternoons after school when they wait for a certain group from a certain school. But we as the women of this project stepped in and got a few of them in and told them we were going to take further steps with them if they did not stop. We sat around a table with them and told them that it stopped there and then. Since that day there has not been stone throwing or anything. Even the gang violence has reduced in our area.”


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