Community Engagement & Service

South Africa -- Gender Equality, Youth Empowerment, and HIV/AIDS: an Ubuntu Perspective

Alt Break South Africa 2012

The Trip
Through grassroots community immersion, participants on this trip will learn about the inter-related issues of gender equality, youth empowerment, and HIV/AIDS through the philosophical lens of ubuntu. Ubuntu, as defined by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, “speaks of the very essence of being human.” Rather than a self-centered outlook on society’s strengths and weaknesses, ubuntu is a community-centered, inclusive paradigm that promotes cooperation, empathy, and forgiveness.

In Johannesburg, we will focus on understanding the history and legacy of apartheid in South Africa. The Apartheid Museum, Workers’ Museum, and other historical areas of the Soweto township, home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, are included in our itinerary so that participants will have a sense of the reality and the complexity of today’s post-apartheid South African society.

When we arrive in Cape Town, our main focus will shift from learning to serving the community partner organizations American University has maintained for years. Students will serve in small groups at three different sites, and the entire group will travel together to meet with other community organizations and leaders to learn more about various comprehensive, creative initiatives working to achieve gender equality, empower young people, and fight HIV/AIDS.

The Social Justice Issues

In the spirit of ubuntu, participants will look for connections between the three themes of gender, youth, and HIV/AIDS: how are they related? How has the community’s response addressed this relationship? Can we look at similar issues in the US with the same complexity?

Just to give you a sense of the numbers, about 11-17% of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS, but only a minority of those know their status, and everyone is affected in some way by the disease. HIV infections are on the rise in younger populations while scientific advances have allowed more people to live with AIDS later in life, which accounts for the growing number of cases, even though it seems like progress is being made.

HIV is also known to affect women disproportionately: the unequal power relationship between men and women in South African society is made apparent in women’s relative inability to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy, and sexual assault; there are an estimated 1.3 million reported rapes in South Africa per year.

As a group, we hope to delve into this relationship between gender-based violence, unemployed and often poorly educated youth, and the spread of HIV/AIDS. These three segments of the population reflect the nuanced responses that community leaders have led in the wake of apartheid.

Student Leaders

Rebekah Israel is a second year master's student in Sociology at AU. Her main research interests are race, class and gender disparities in health and education. She co-led the 2012 Alternative Spring Break to Haiti which focused on women's and youth empowerment. She wishes to share with the participants of this trip her passion for learning and social justice.

Sarah Palazzolo is a sophomore studying Public Health. She participated in the 2011-2012 Alternative Break to South Africa focusing on youth empowerment, where she was inspired by our community partners in Cape Town to learn more about the social factors that influence disease and disparity, and to apply that knowledge both globally and locally.

Tentative Itinerary (subject to change)

Days 1-3
Johannesburg: Constitution Hill tour, Apartheid Museum, Gold Mine Museum, Newtown & Workers’ Museum tour, Soweto tour including Vilikazi Street (home of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu), Mandela House, Hector Pieterson Youth Memorial

Day 3 (Dec. 31, 2012)
Fly to Cape Town; program orientation & Xhosa language lesson; free time in Observatory neighborhood
Group dinner and reflection each night

Day 4 (Jan. 1, 2013)
Cape Pointe; visit Simons Town & Boulder Beach (Antarctic penguins!)
Group dinner and reflection

Day 5
Morning Service
Ubuntu on Bikes: tour of Khayelitsha
Visit Africa Jam
Group dinner and reflection

Day 6
Morning Service
Meet with Sonke Gender Justice
Group dinner and reflection

Day 7
Morning Service
Meet with Desmond Tutu HIV Clinic
Group dinner and reflection

Day 8
Day-long workshop with sisters4sisters
Group dinner and reflection

Day 9
Visit Cape Town’s city center: historic St. George’s Church, Company Gardens, Parliament, Slave Lodge Museum, nearby shopping; Camp’s Bay Beach
Group dinner and reflection

Day 10
Morning Service
Meet with Nyanga After school Program
Group dinner and reflection

Day 11
Morning Service
Meet with Grassroot Soccer
Group dinner and reflection

Day 12
Visit District 6 Museum; tour by Linda Fortune
Afternoon service
Group dinner and reflection

Day 13
Visit the US Consulate in Cape Town to speak with PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) representative
Meet with Simelela Rape Center and/or Women’s Legal Center
Xhosa cooking lesson

Day 14
Final day of service; group trip to Greenmarket Square & Lion’s Head hike/picnic
Group dinner and final reflection

Location: Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa
Dates of Trip: Dec. 27, 2012 - Jan. 12, 2013
Student Leaders: Sarah Palazzolo and Rebekah Israel
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Bette Dickerson, Sociology
Cost: $3,500
Cost includes airfare, food, lodging, transportation, travel insurance, and all activities. Cost does not include immunizations or other personal costs.