Islamic Relief prioritises the protection of vulnerable and marginalised people by providing immediate relief, while also ensuring that our rights-holders are empowered – through education and other opportunities – to realise lasting change in their own lives. In this area of our work, we focus on responding to the needs of women, refugees, asylum seekers and orphans and vulnerable children.
Gender-based violence statistics are horrifically high in South Africa, and there is no silver bullet to address this scourge. At Islamic Relief, we recognise the multi-tiered responses that are required to help keep women in our society safe. To this end, we ensure that all our relief and developmental programming is carefully designed to cater to the intersectional and specific experiences of women living in challenging and unsafe conditions. For example, when we work in refugee camps, we ensure that women are informed about the routes available to them to report any experiences or threats of abuse or harassment, and prioritise the provision of psychosocial support. Our developmental programming includes women empowerment initiatives that aim to support women entrepreneurs to find sustainable pathways out of poverty for themselves and their families. We also work closely with men, creating safe spaces to workshop and deconstruct misconceptions about masculinity and to help foster greater understanding about and respect for women and children.
The main objective of this project is to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds in SA by providing access to education and training. Language and IT courses, entrepreneurship training, social cohesion activities, awareness campaigns, and community services form part of the support offered by IRSA under this umbrella project. IRSA frequently reassesses the circumstances and the needs of the beneficiaries and the broader communities and provides assistance in accordance with the need. We highlight potential problems and facilitate solutions to these problems.
We work closely with refugees and asylum seekers by conducting empowerment courses while providing resources to help integrate them with the communities they reside in. The activities implemented in this sector is in accordance with the relevant rules of the standard operation procedures (SOPs) developed by UNHCR and take into account the South Africa’s Refugees Policy. This policy allows refugees to work and have access to education in order to counter the shortage of professionals in certain sectors of the South African labour market.
IRSA has regular Focus Group Discussions with parent beneficiaries and guardians to evaluate the satisfaction levels of beneficiaries engaging in IRSA programmes. These in-depth discussions cover many topics, but primarily focus on the safety issues pertaining to refugee and migrant children. Topics include issues of bullying within host communities and at school, put these children at risk. The discussion also stressed the issues pertaining to the lack of police presence and vigilance in communities where gang-related violence are rife. The challenges and grievances of parenting within the South African context were discussed while guidance and solutions were put forward in an attempt to address these issues.
IRSA makes available a trained professional to conduct weekly individual counselling sessions for beneficiaries who require and need psychosocial support. Psychosocial issues such as anxiety, depression, family problems, sexual abuse, substance abuse and violence affects the functionality of an individual. Where prolonged or advanced treatment is required, beneficiaries are referred to the appropriate social agencies (i.e. social, health or legal services).
Manenberg Community Transition Programme – The Duinefontein Drop-In Centre
The Duinefontein Community Centre was established more than 40 years ago and is owned by the City of Cape Town Parks and Recreation Centre. Due to the lack of resources, the Centre Manager was unable to undertake meaningful programs. Due to this, IRSA applied to the City of Cape Town to have unrestricted usage of the community centre, in order to empower South African youth who are at risk while promoting social connectedness and a culture of peace within the community.
The Duinefontein Drop-In Centre aims to assist children and youth to keep off the streets and out of trouble. IRSA provides these youth with a safe environment that caters to their basic needs on a daily basis. The project aims to provide grief counselling, life skills training, assistance with homework, mentorship programmes and skills training for employment which ultimately has a dual benefit. This ensures that vulnerable youth have productive outcomes in the future, while also being agents of change within these communities that suffer from severe socio-economic challenges such as unemployment, violence, poverty and crime. IRSA empowers the youth through necessary skills training, emotional support, and mentorship programs aiming to pave a better pathway for them, their families, and the communities they reside in. The Duinefontein Drop-In Centre provides youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds with opportunities to healthcare, psychosocial support, and recreational services for the upliftment of these youth, and ultimately their communities. This initiative of IRSA is ongoing and continues to be an asset for change for youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. We create a positive environment to breed a positive mind-set, which we pray will have a positive outcome in these youngster’s lives.
IRSA implemented the Aftercare Tuition Club, in Manenberg, to tutor and assist youth in their studies under the Youth Transition Program at Duinefontein Community Centre. Tutors offer tuition three days a week at the centre to students who need or want assistance in mathematics, and both home and first languages (English & Afrikaans). This program seeks to empower generations to come and is intended to grow over the next few years with more tutors and tuition being offered to students who seek assistance.
IRSA hosted a Life Skills workshop for youth aged between 14 and 17 with the aim of addressing their fears and anxieties caused by the challenges they face within their communities. The youth who attended this workshop were from areas exposed to severe gang-related violence, which affected their own homes and families. In March 2022, 20 people were killed due to gang violence within their neighborhoods. The workshop addressed the challenges these youth faced and provided assistance by imparting skills on how to manage their emotions and taught them coping mechanisms to face their fears. A tactful yet effective approach to avoid causing additional trauma.
The young attendees were observed throughout the session for any potential signs of trauma. Those who needed additional assistance were given extra coaching to help them cope with their trauma. Many youth in these underprivileged communities are faced with issues of gangsterism, drugs and gang-related violence, which result in them being exposed to life and death situations constantly. IRSA guide and nurture these youth to live better, more wholesome lives, while educating them on mechanisms to overcome the obstacles they face on a daily basis.
The Youth Transition Program offers the youth of the challenged Manenberg area a secure and encouraging environment under the supervision of adults, as well as a variety of opportunities for personal growth. Events and interaction that support youth intellectual, social, emotional, recreational, and cultural development are facilitated. Many families in this area are unable to support their children academically. These youth are assisted via educational programs with social and personal skill development benefits like the Holiday Program hosted by IRSA.
IRSA launched the Holiday Recreational Program to encourage the youth to occupy their time constructively while learning meaningful life skills. The program is filled with recreational activities, which attracts and accommodates more than 170 children each day. IRSA officers and volunteers dedicate their time and efforts to connect and interact with the youth from the Manenberg area in a proactive manner.