Guides aim to end gun violence and make streets safe

11 October 2018
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At the start of June Durban was awash with orange. Not in celebration, but in mourning for 9 year old Sadia, the latest casualty of South Africa’s gun violence problem.

Adding their voices to the community’s calls against illegal firearms was a group of Girl Guides, who meet at a centre just minutes from where the shooting happened. The Queensburgh Girl Guides centre is set back from a busy road near Durban. It’s a peaceful, parklike setting with a large lawn and shady trees. But at the end of May this year a carjacking took place just a street over. Adult Leader Victoria said Sadia, a 9 year old victim, was in her parent’s car while carjackers attempting to take the vehicle exchanged gun fire with her father. She was shot accidentally.

The shooting shocked the Guides and their whole community. “It’s scary because it could have been any one of our girls,” Victoria said. “I never assumed [gun violence] was as big and bad as it is. But it’s right here, it could have been any one of us and it really opened my eyes.”

Greater Durban banded together around a campaign called #standupforsadia. On 1 June, people were encouraged to wear orange in a show of support.

Serisha, a Ranger, said even her teachers at school wore orange. “There was a lot of orange and people had balloons on their cars which looked really cool. At school a lot of girls wore ribbons in their hair and on their blazers.” Fellow Ranger Diya said the shooting happened not far from her school. “Before school, we stood outside the school for half an hour to raise awareness,” she said.

Serisha said it felt like people were actually listening to the city’s calls. “It felt like you belonged to something greater than yourself and makes you feel like you’re making something happen, even if it’s in a small way.” She said even making a poster or wearing orange helped a little bit and added to the overall effort.

On the day of the protest Victoria led a Guiding talk on gun violence. The centre was decorated with orange balloons and the group wore their matching ribbons. They went through how to stay safe and report concerns while looking after themselves. “I want our girls to first be safe … there are still people who target others who stand up to this,” she said.

Their ultimate goal is no more illegal firearms in the Durban area. “I want [gun violence] to become part of our Unit’s goal that we can make a difference,” Victoria said. “I want to be able to take the campaign to a bigger level but still keep our girls safe."

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is highlighting unsafe streets as part of the 2018 campaign called Our Streets Too as part of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. 16 Days is a global event which runs from 25 November to 10 December and aims to end violence towards women and girls. WAGGGS is asking groups to identify unsafe spaces, contact decision makers and help make these spaces their safe for everyone, because these should be Our Streets Too. Queenburgh are not tackling harassment but have identified their unsafe streets and now planning to develop the next steps of their campaign.

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