GIRRL Project

This project was aimed at exploring the contributions of marginalized adolescent girls from the Sonderwater informal settlement to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and community resilience building

The general portrayal of children, young people and women in disasters is one where they exist only as helpless victims. However, adolescent girls as a distinct sub-group have been able to take on a leading role as agents of change within the context of disaster risk reduction (DRR). A Participatory Action Research (PAR) study, known as the G.I.R.R.L. Project was designed to increase knowledge for empowerment, to encourage leadership development and to improve the resilience of marginalized, black, South African adolescent girls while helping to integrate them into DRR initiatives. The research findings support the notion that young people, especially adolescent girls, when empowered, can defy socially-derived roles as victims through their contributions to participatory DRR-related activities. Recommendations derive from the need to involve and integrate persons with the same demographics into further strategic capacity building program to maximize impact and ultimately help reshape DRR, with their unique perspectives and contributions.

Background and Purpose

Females and children are considered to be the most vulnerable members in societies based on their lack of access to essential resources such as funds, social power, property and information. Within the context of many poor South African communities these conditions are all too common and often reinforce the cycles of poverty that increase vulnerability and risk, to facilitate greater devastation in adverse conditions.

Within the context of disaster discourse, vulnerability is a key factor influencing risk on society. The study sought to examine how specific members of society particularly poor adolescent girls can become involved and contribute to reducing their own individual vulnerability as a means of reducing disaster risk.

Strategic capacity building programmes were designed to help reduce the conditions that contribute to vulnerability through education aimed at behaviour change and aid to disaster risk. The study was presented as the G.I.R.R.L. Project, which examined the contribution of girls to leadership positions within risk reduction leadership.

The original G.I.R.R.L. Project (Girls in Risk Reduction Leadership) received core funding through an award from the Prevention Consortium as part of its Research and Action Grants for Young Professionals (2007-2008) supported by the World Bank. The ACDS has provided support for the project with assistance from the Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality.

This project was aimed at exploring the contributions of marginalized adolescent girls from the Sonderwater informal settlement to Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and community resilience building. As a leadership project, it sought to empower the participants through participatory activities, education and community involvement.

The original G.I.R.R.L. Project as it grew in popularity and recognition would be the basis for further replication in two additional sites in the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality of the North West Province – Wolmaransstad and Ventersdorp.

Projects 2011

GIRRL Project 2011 launched September 10, 2011 for its new Kanana site! We have been working hard with our stakeholders, girls and community and the project sessions started September 13, 2011 at our new school Seleng Thuto. See our new “Kanana” link for our progress!

G.I.R.R.L. in the Media

The G.I.R.R.L. Project has been profiled in the February/March 2011 issue of Bana Balang magazine (pg 4). This magazine is circulated across North-West Province to more than 300,000 English/Setwana learners in more than 300 schools targeting grades 1-12.

Bana Balang is available online at

The Voice of G.I.R.R.L. – Aganang Radio!!

G.I.R.R.L. Project participant Grace Nkosi  and environmental awareness facilitator Makhaya ’Toto” Tshona were invited to discuss the project on community radio at Aganang FM 90MHZ in February/March 2011 on the Learner’s Connect show on Saturday afternoon.

Vote for the G.I.R.R.L. Project! Views from the Frontline

Sign up as a member of Views from the Frontline  (  go to Views From the Frontline Central and then check us out at Case Study Challenge – DRR empowers girls in South Africa.


In August 2011, we conducted a PhotoVoice project with 17 past participants of the G.I.R.R.L. Project.  Each girl was given a disposable camera to document their experiences in the project regarding what they have learned, how others see them, how they now see the world around, how their community has changed, etc…

Dr. Kenneth Kaunda: Projects and Milestones

Have a look at page 22 to 27 of the following publication regarding the G.I.R.R.L. Project.  If you can’t see the flash-file, click here to open the publication.


The pilot project addresses the issue of risk reduction through its efforts to minimize the vulnerability of adolescent girls from the Sonderwater, Extention 7 and 11 settlements (Ikageng) to hazards. These settlements are located within the Ikageng Township on the periphery of the town of Potchefstroom in the North West Province of South Africa. Originally designated as a ‘black only’ settlement during the apartheid era, Ikageng has been characterized by rapid expansion resulting in poorly developed infrastructure in sub-sections such as Sonderwater. Basic provisions of running water, sewage disposal, electricity and concrete houses are severely lacking in this area.

The characteristics of these poorer subsections of the township are reflective of many of disadvantaged communities in the country. Citizens and in particular adolescent girls face growing poverty, crime, the prevalence of child-headed families, diseases (HIV/AIDS/STDs), drugs, alcoholism, lack of education, prostitution, and domestic, physical, and sexual abuse.

Stakeholders from the community, municipality and academia were instrumental in shaping the content of the training to ensure that locally specific factors and age-appropriate information formed the basis for the programme. The stakeholders also served a critical advisory role in bridging the local reality with the available opportunities and resources in the area. It also helped to secure community ownership of the outputs as well as providing local linkages. The diverse make-up of stakeholders became our partners, not only in facilitating the output but also in developing the process by way of their specific fields of expertise.


Community Stakeholders


Name Position Institution
Mr. Moses Khangale Disaster Management Coordinator (Tlokwe) Tlokwe Municipality
Cllr. Gaba Ka Qhele Councillor (Sonderwater) Tlokwe Municipality
Cllr. Ntombi Koloti Councillor (Ext.  7) Tlokwe Municipality
Ms. Judith Nyokong Transversal Affairs Officer Tlokwe Municipality
Mr. Pharoke ‘Papi’ Seseng Ward Representative
Ms. Phyllis Kaunda School Principal Boit Shoko High School
Mr. Ben Senokoane Acting Chief Fire Office Potchefstroom Fire Department
Mr. G.S. Molapisi Manager Public Safety Potchefstroom Fire Department
Mr. Ryno Hattingh Acting Crisis Control Manager Potch. Disaster Mgmt Centre
Mr. T. P. Pitse District Disaster Mgmt Centre
Mr. Lebo Nyokong Administrative Officer Potchefstroom Fire Department
Dr. Lynnette Fourie Communication Lecturer North West University
Ms. Kristal Fourie Communication Facilitator North West University
Ms. Madge Louwrens Communication Facilitator North West University
Ms. Jeanne Olivier Communication Facilitator North West University
Ms. Amore Truter Communication Facilitator North West University
Ms. Yolanda Maartens Communication Facilitator North West University
Mr. Victor Mabunda Counsellor North West University
Ms. Patricia Kolobe Counsellor North West University
Sis. Alta Oousthuizen Community Health Nurse Chubby Chick Ltd.
Ms. Elizabeth Makatsane Community Health Officer Department of Health (Potchefstroom)
Mr. Musa Chauke Youth Centre Manager Department of Health (Potchefstroom)
Ms. Rene Phetlhu Public Heath Nurse Lecturer North West University
Dr. Anna Maria Kruger Nutritionist North West University
Dr. Salome Kruger Nutritionist North West University

The project seeks to address some of the inherent problems related to the social vulnerability of adolescent girls living in the conditions associated in settlements in South Africa through the provision of concise, locally-relevant information and encouraged development of effective decision-making skills. DRR is a complex process, which involves reducing vulnerability in order to minimize the adverse hazard effects.

A comprehensive capacity building programme has been designed in order to address the root social causes of vulnerability within the target group as a means of improving their resilience. Decision-making, team-building, physical and sexual health, mental wellbeing, first-aid, fire safety, community-based disaster management as well as effective communication were identified as focal areas for information and training.

View the team-building games on YouTube.

The G.I.R.R.L. Project has identified a number of objectives, which have been based on the recommendations, conclusions and theories derived from Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

  1. To support human capacity development through information and training in critical areas as well as to enhance the survival skills of vulnerable residents of a local township.
  2. To provide this specific information and training to 21 adolescent girls (aged 13-18 years), as a means of building individual capacity and to extend community capacity.
  3. To engage adolescent girls in both pro-active and reactive activities for reducing risk and social vulnerability.
  4. To encourage the girls to adopt a leadership position and act as positive, young role models for their community as well as for in their work with local disaster risk reduction initiatives.
  5. To help establish a culture of community ‘safety and awareness’, through the creation of empowered, skilled and informed community resource persons.
  6. To foster a greater appreciation of the positive contributions of communities in social vulnerability reduction and disaster risk reduction activities.
  7. To develop positive relationships between local disasters coordinating entities, community stakeholders and empowered youth to help develop effective local community-based disaster plans.

This project has been completed however we still endeavour to involve our participants in other activities.  In December 2011 a group of the girls were invited to attend the Kanana Project’s Community Event where they met up with other G.I.R.R.L.s from Ventersdorp and Kanana. (See Photos Community Event.)  We had over 2,500 people in attendance including the Executive Mayor of Matlosana and the Executive Mayor of the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, the First Lady of South African Gospel, Ms. Deborah Frazer and our MC from the Generations Soapie!

Grace Nkosi and Lettie Mabe who were both participants of the original G.I.R.R.L. Project in 2008 were selected as co-facilitators for the 2011 Kanana (Orkney) Project.  They provide assistance in leading sessions, translating, logistics and team-building as well as serving as role models for the new girls.

The Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Disaster Management Centre and the Deborah Foundation have teamed up to send Grace Nkosi, Johanna Letlojane, Lerato Setlelo, Eunice Ngwenya, Miriam Tshebe and Ntswaki Namane from the original G.I.R.R.L. Project Ikageng to college.  The girls will be heading to Central Johannesburg College to study in June 2012.  Good luck ladies!  Make us proud!!

The project has gained recognition locally through newspaper articles, internet stories, radio interviews, presentations to the District Mayor and Executive Council as well as the Disaster Advisory Forum. The pinnacle of our achievements has been the project’s selection by an international panel to be included as a Best Practice for the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction based on its contributions to Gender, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction (Gender Perspectives: Integrating Disaster Risk Reduction into Climate Change Adaptation, 2008).

A journal article submission has been made to an internationally accredited journal as well as presentation for the Disaster Management Institute of South Africa (DMISA) conference October 7-8, 2008.

We have worked closely within the local municipality to build relationships with various supporting departments such as Fire and Public Safety as well as Health. To date we have a pledge from the Disaster Coordinator to involve the participants in their public education components. The girls have already been involved in a school fire safety presentation in Extension 6 (Ikageng) and have been asked to do a presentation regarding fire and paraffin safety at a Public Information, Education and Relations (PIER) Programme road show in Wolmaransstad in May 2009.

The Ikageng Youth Centre, which falls within the domain of the Health Department, has extended an invitation for the participants to partake in a youth programme targeting other girls within the township. This opportunity will again help to reinforce their roles as leaders and role models within the community and specifically, will work to have a positive influence on other young girls.

The establishment of this type of institutional commitment has been instrumental in facilitating the continuity of the project beyond the completed implementation phase. During the end of 2008, occasions for advancement of participants arose wherein the Youth Centre Coordinator had involved ten of the girls from the project in a four day Peer Counselling Training Camp designed to help other ‘At-Risk Youth’ in the community. Their participation is ongoing.

However, all of these opportunities come in addition to the basic but fundamental realization that the community has trained resource persons who can help save lives, encourage good health and promote the overall advancement of girls in society.

The plight of the adolescent girls in a South African township has been highlighted in this project and brought to the attention of local disaster coordinators. The appreciation and understanding of factors contributing to social vulnerability by participants, disaster coordinators and researchers is a necessary foundation for creating effective remedies and recommendations. There is a greater realisation of the differences that exist for this distinct group and how their needs and perspectives are significant in disaster risk reduction.

Education and information provided have become tools for developing confidence and empowerment that has borne greater enthusiasm, which is necessary to ensure both continuity and cohesion within the team of girls. Efforts to help the community in a programme such as this, plays a significant role in helping the local girls to gain respect and increase power and influence in their areas. The impact has been seen in the creation of new opportunities for young people to become involved in work with disaster coordination and with local government, which has positive implications for increasing awareness as to the struggles, needs and interests of girls and women within their locality.

Nonetheless, the lessons learned centre on the need to involve young people (especially girls) in leadership roles within the context of disaster risk reduction based on their ability to present new perspectives and insight in gender and age sensitive issues.

The findings of the project help to reinforce some of the predominant underpinnings of disaster risk reduction. The link between vulnerability and poverty is particularly prevalent in the context of the poor conditions such as those found in the research area. Poverty as one of the predominant factors contributing to vulnerability is further facilitated by the lack of access to resources that reinforce the cycle of poverty.

The G.I.R.R.L. Project used capacity building to advance the social conditions of its female adolescent participants, which help to further facilitate the essence and aspirations of the Millennium Development Goals in their aim to improve human development and minimize poverty. It also actualises some of the key recommendations proposed in the Hyogo Framework for Actions in so far as it focuses on the use of interactive community-based initiatives oriented towards addressing the root causes of vulnerability.

The interdisciplinary nature of training has also encouraged the collaboration with diverse stakeholders. The collaboration has been the basis for developing the sustainability of the project efforts within the key areas. Engaging participants in local activities with stakeholder support will help to sustain the outcomes of the initiative and to encourage further skill transfer within the community.

“It changed my life because when I came to this project I came with nothing but now I am going with something…Thank you for everything.” Ntswaki, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“You did so many things in my life. You teach me so many things that I can’t count.” Ennocentia, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“I am able to stand in front of thousands of people and address them. Thank you very much.” Anonymous, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“You changed my life even my mom is proud. You gave me confidence, someone like you is needed. Thank you for the project.” Lebogang, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“I just want to thank you for being there for us with the project…You have encouraged us in standing up for ourselves in facing the challenges through our lives. I have learned so many things through the G.I.R.R.L. Project.” Lerato, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“You have changed my whole life. I am intelligent girl who is proud about herself I can now in front of people spreading information that you have teach me.” Poppy, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“You have changed my whole life and now I got lots of info that I got from you. I am intelligent girl no one can change me. Thank you.” Angelina, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“Thank you for taking us from the dark and bringing us to the light. And for all experiences.” Anonymous Participant

“Thank you for organizing this for us – thank you – I really appreciate it!” Ketlego, G.I.R.R.L Participant

“Thanks for the great opportunity to become part of this amazing project. I have learned a lot about development and even more about myself.” Amore Truter, Communication Facilitator

“Thank you for this great opportunity. This has been an awesome learning experience that I will always treasure.” Kristel Fourie, Communication Facilitator

“God sent you to do this great this project. It has empowered and given us future leaders in the community. The skills to bravely face life and be able to overcome the challenges save lives of many people. The good relationship that reigns and peaceful meeting and interaction among all of us – it is our greatest pleasure to expand what you have started and for it to be sustained.” Elizabeth Mokatsane, Department of Health

The final report documents the summation of activities conducted, lessons learned and project achievements regarding the implementation of the G.I.R.R.L. Project which was designed to look at appropriate and practical means to help incorporate girls, their values and perspectives into the decision-making processes associated with community-based disaster planning through the provision of information and essential skills.


The Maquassi Hills area, located in the North West Province of South Africa, was selected as the location for the second G.I.R.R.L Project.  The Reabona High School in the Tswlelang Township near Wolmaransstad hosted the first G.I.R.R.L for 2009.

To date the project has been completed with all major milestones achieved. Twenty students of the Reabona High School have completed the G.I.R.R.L. Project training programme with eighteen receiving awards for participation and two for attendance.

All participants have received certificates in Peer Education from North West University HIV/AIDS Programme as well as certificates in Buddy Aid from Global Learning Services. Thirteen full-day sessions were conducted over a timeframe of three weeks (June 29 – July 15 2009) hosted by skilled facilitators from the private and public sectors as well as academia.

The community event was held on 8 August 2009 at the Maranatha Church in the Chris Hani community within the Tswlelang Township with approximately 275 persons in attendance from the school, community, local government, disaster sector and North-West University.

Stakeholders play a very important role in the G.I.R.R.L Project as they are the ones who support the participants of the project after the training sessions have been completed.  The success of the project will therefore depend on the involvement of the stakeholders after the completion of the training sessions.

Originally the stakeholder committee was seen as a tool for assisting in identifying critical issues within the community as well as for steering the project direction and outputs. Each stakeholder had originally been introduced to the project and was asked to provide input regarding links within the community, contact people, direction and special issues.

Based on the condensed schedule a decision was made to postpone the stakeholder meeting until the end of the training session in addition to changing its purpose within the context of the project. A stakeholder workshop was held wherein each stakeholder was asked in advance to familiarize him/herself regarding the local projects, volunteer opportunities, and their organization/departments role in the community with the idea of brainstorming opportunities for the participants to provide volunteer support.


Stakeholders G.I.R.R.L. Project  Reabona


Name Position Institution
Mr. Koaho Principal Reabona High School
Ms. Rabaji Vice Principal Reabona High School
Ms. Segone Life Skill Teacher Reabona High School
Const. Khasu Constable South African Police Services (SAPS) Wolmaransstad
Insp. Motlasuping Inspector South African Police Services (SAPS) Wolmaransstad
Ms. Gwiji


Gender Coordinator Mayor’s Office Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality
Ms. Mokhutsane Gender Coordinator Mayor’s Office Wolmaransstad
Mr. Selo Youth Centre Manager Dept of Health/ Youth Center Wolmaransstad
Ms. Hobe Environmental Health Officer Dept of Environmental Health
Ms. Madikizela KKDM Disaster Center
Mr. Lebitsa Fire Station Chief Fire Department Wolmaransstad
Mr. Mahumapelo Peer Educator / Fire Fighter Fire Department Wolmaransstad
Mr. Dithjane Manager Love Life Wolmaransstad

Training sessions started on 29 June 2009 and concluded on 15 July 2009.  Sessions started at 09:00 in the morning and continued until 16:00 in the afternoon, which included a healthy lunch for all the participants as a way of reinforcing the benefits of eating a balanced diet.


Session 1: Introduction, Team Building and Decision-Making

The project team presented the session, which consisted of an overview of the project, a reinforcement of the core values of the project (including team building) and foundations for effective decision-making.  Ice breakers were used to help the participants and the project team to gain mutual trust.  The girls were asked to define their own project rules, which included no tolerance for late comers, cell phone use, disrespect of others and violence.

The team-building component consisted of various activities with post-activity debriefing as a means of conveying the important lessons concerning teamwork and group dynamics.  After lunch the decision-making component was introduced with activities selected that encouraged lateral thinking and group discussions.


Session 2: Mental Health and Coping Strategies

Rene Phethlu from the Nursing School at North-West University (NWU) Potchefstroom campus presented this session.  Group discussions were the primary forum of learning wherein various topics concerning mental health were introduced. The term Africanism was defined and discussions evolved regarding determination, confidence and life expectations.

The issue of rape was discussed and it created a heated debate as one of the participants was of the opinion that there is no such thing as rape because females are always in a position to say no.  Rape as a critical issue, needs more attention within this specific community, as it became the central focus of many discussions.


Despite initial decisions to host the stakeholder meeting at the beginning of December 2009 in line with similar experiences in Phase 1 of the project hosted in Maquassi Hills (Wolmaransstad), observed changes in the flow of the project created an opportunity to observe the natural interest created within the community. Instead of being prompting to participate in formalized meetings, many of the stakeholders took pro-active positions following the community event to involve the participants in local projects or contact with them.

Ordinarily the purpose of the stakeholder workshop serve to create an opportunity to brainstorm ideas for the community to conceptualize possible roles for participants to become involved in the initiatives of local departments, NGOs or within the school itself. It is ultimately a sounding board where discussions are held and suggestions are made for community representatives to promote their institution and visuals places for trained participants to give back to the community through service and support.

Stakeholders Identified and Involved :

  • Mr. Victor Mogonediwa – Thuto Boswa High School (Principal)
  • Ms. Elona Masote – Thuto Boswa High School (Life Skills Teacher)
  • Cllr. Mojahi– Mayor’s Office Ventersdorp (Local Gender Department)
  • Mr. Tseko Marake – Youth Center Ventersdorp (Manager)
  • Ms. Puleng Motaung – Department of Health (Reproductive Health & HIV)
  • Ms. Belinda Madikizela – Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality Disaster Center
  • Mr. T.J Swarts – Fire Department Ventersdorp
  • Mr. Solomon Mere – Love Life Ventersdorp
  • Ms. Nthabiseng Mataboge – Department of Social Development Ventersdorp (Social W orker)
  • Ms. Gwiji – Mayor’s Office Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality

In particular, Tseko Marake and Solomon Mere have been particularly active in recruiting participants to become involved in youth based activities in Ventersdorp. Mr. Mogonediwa and Ms. Masote’s support of the participants in their desire to form a “G.I.R.R.L” Club wherein information was passed to other students with the project girls taking on their roles as leaders to others in their school. Ms. Madikizela also invited the participants to partake in a youth paraffin safety training session held in April 2010 for addition specialized training to help them spread knowledge and build more resilient communities. Ms. Nthabiseng Matoboge has taken on a significant role not only as a local supporter of the girls in terms of follow-up care and advice but has also been a role model for many who identified aspirations of pursuing careers in social work.

Session 1: Introduction and Team Building

The session was lead by the project team and provided an overview of the project, a reinforcement of the core values (including) and established the foundations for effective decision-making. Ice-breakers were used to help the participants and the project team to gain mutual trust. The girls were asked to define their own project rules which included no tolerance for late comers, cell phone use, disrespect of others and violence.

The schedule was presented in order to help the participants become familiar with the upcoming session topics to also help ensure that they felt at ease with the schedule. Each participant was given a pen and notebook for note-taking.

The team-building component consisted of various activities with post-activity debriefing as a means of conveying the important lessons concerning teamwork and group dynamics. All twenty girls were in attendance for the first session. All twenty (20) participants attended the first session.


Session 2: Team-Building, Decision-Making

The project team continued this session concluding the team-building component and following on with effective decision-making. The decision-making component was introduced with activities selected that encouraged lateral thinking and was reinforced with group discussions. All twenty (20) girls attended this session.


Session 3: Physical Health

Mariette Swanepoel, a biokineticist at the NWU Potchefstroom campus returned to host the Physical Health session. She provided instruction to the girls of a series of exercises (circuit training) that could be done at home specifically in the small spaces commonly available in township housing. Each girl also received an exercise elastic as part of the programme that they could use to assist in their strength training.


Ms. Swanepoel then addressed the issue of nutrition with participants to help build understanding while presenting the importance of nutrition and exercise in supporting good physical and mental health. This was particularly important based on the incidence of HIV infections among this group of participants. Many of these participants repeatedly miss school due to related illnesses and subsequent treatment. The need to maintain healthy eating and lifestyles was emphasized as a critical way to help defend against the onset of opportunistic infections and to improve T-cell counts. All twenty (20) girls completed the physical health session.


Session 4: Mental Health and Coping Strategies

Ms. Rene Phethlu from the Nursing School at North-West University (NWU) Potchefstroom campus was invited back to conduct this session. Group discussions were the primary forum of learning wherein various topics concerning mental health were introduced. The term Africanism was defined and discussions evolved regarding determination, confidence and life expectations. Based on experiences from the previous site a strong emphasis was placed on rape as a critical issue needing more attention within communities. In the weeks following this session one of the participants approached the Project Coordinator regarding a friend who had recently been raped.

Although the facilitator’s discussion was enjoyed the project team gathered that there was not as much focus on coping strategies for example – how to handle death of a family member or how to recognize depression or similar affective illnesses. The session was presented more as a motivational session despite our original requests for the aforementioned content. It has been decided that further assistance will be sought from a community social worker that can provide more practical tools for these girls to stay mentally healthy in the circumstances that they face. Nineteen (19) girls attended the session on mental health and coping strategies.


Session 5: Personal Safety and Self Defence


The fifth component was hosted by Capt. Adele Myburg from the South African Police Services (SAPS) Potchefstroom. Capt. Myburg has a background and personal interest in working with community awareness programmes and in particular she teaches children and women how to be safe by using basic self-defense techniques. Her attitude and ease with the girls in the Maquassi Hills Project reaffirmed that she was an obvious choice for Ventersdorp. She provided information on various approaches that could be used to defend oneself and how to use ingenuity in times of threat to overwhelm an attacker. Capt. Myburg also demonstrated and contextualized escape techniques. Most significantly, issues surrounding rape were discussed including places of safety, what to do in the event of rape, preserving evidence and procedures for conducting a rape kit by local law enforcement. Once again this session and its pertinence to rape was quite significant based on the threats posed to girls in this community. Nineteen (19) girls were in attendance for this session.


Session 6: Personal Philosophy and evaluation

Helena Hoogstad and Candice Kastopolous from the NWU Dept of Social Sciences presented a session on self-evaluation and philosophy of life. Each girl had to draw the important things in her life and explained the elements that appeared to the rest of the group. The session was presented in a relaxed manner and the girls found it exciting to discover something new about herself. They learnt about their worldview and the way things impact their lives. It was a creative session focusing on the use of symbols and sounds as a means of expression. Nineteen (19) girls attended the session.



Session 7: Career guidance

Marliaan Erasmus tackled the daunting task of enlightening the girls to a world of opportunity merely by believing in themselves and working hard at school. They evaluated their personality types and matched it with some basic careers for going forward. The girls realized that they could be anything they want to be, no matter their circumstances, if they work hard they will succeed. Ms. Erasmus has a true passion for assisting the youth and patiently explained the various career paths that the girls could follow. Even though they may not be in the matriculation year, it is vital to instill a sense of self-belief from an early age. Eighteen (18) girls attended the session.


Session 8 and 9: Peer education and Sexual health

The session was presented by James Mothosola (HIV/AIDS Programme at the NWU Potchefstroom campus) with assistance from his wife Nkele Mothosola (a counselor) and Puseletso Lebitso (peer educator from the NWU HIV/AIDS programme). The importance of the G.I.R.R.L Project was discussed within the context of peer support and community responsibility. A group discussion commenced regarding risky behavior and the issue of HIV/AIDS was introduced using various decision-making activities based on the “Scrutinize” campaign whereby the participants were motivated to “Flip HIV to HIVictory”. Due to the reality of HIV within the group, additional attention was given to the role of judgment, prejudice and stereotypes in shading the decision-making process. The characteristics of a peer educator were discussed as well as the role of peer educators in schools and communities. Nineteen (19) girls attended this session.


Session 10: Family planning

The unique composition of the group of participants called for individual attention to specific areas of their lives. The fact that nine (9) of the girls are heads of household, was a huge concern to the project team and professional advice was called in. Elizabeth Mokotsane a community health nurse from the Department of Health has a lot of personal and professional experience regarding the matter. She has been involved with the GIRRL project for over a year now in the Ikageng site and in supporting Maquassi Hills despite her other work commitments. One of the most significant contributions was her ability to step in and explain the importance of ‘responsibility’ to the girls. The fact that most of them are still very young and are now faced with adult situations and decision making positions, meant that they needed the correct advice from someone who has experience and insight. Needless to say the girls enjoyed the maternal nature of Ms. Mokatsane and she was able to establish the level of comfort needed to allow them open up about the issues in their lives and the struggles they are faced with on a daily basis. Nineteen (19) girls attended the session.


Session 11: Community Involvement

Seeing as the G.I.R.R.L. Project is a community-based, working within a specific community, it is vital to get the various role-players at local level involved with the girls and plays a large role in the sustainability of the project. The aim is that each of the various representatives at this session would be able to utilize the girls in future and make use of their fantastic new skills and capacities. Each facilitator explained to the girls how they could get involved with their various institutions and emphasized the fact that volunteering at local level could open up many doors in future. Nineteen (19) girls participated in this session.


Session 12: Social and personal issues

Due to the delicate issue of suicide that was raised by a few of the girls and the unfortunate experience of one of the participants who discovered her deceased brother in the family during the course of the project this topic was included and emphasized in the discusssions. This emphasized the need to address this issue and other aspects in the girls’ lives that could make them feel depressed, alone and desperate. Nthabiseng Mataboge from the Department of Social Development was sought as one of the dynamic social workers from the Ventersdorp area as a local facilitator. In her experience she has become familiar with many of the stressors and strains that challenge the participants on a daily basis. By making use of a group discussion setting, the girls analysed the various scenarios leading to suicide and Ms. Mataboge assisted them in identifying coping mechanisms when they are faced with a social or personal issue or problem. Fifteen (15) participants attended the session.


Session 13: Disaster Management

This session was presented by Mr. Tiro Swarts from the Ventersdorp Fire Department and the PIER Project. The objectives of the session were to introduce basic concepts within disaster studies to the participants in a manner, which reflected their level education, social context and degree of understanding. The session focused around a group discussion designed to explain disasters, hazards, vulnerability and risk within the context of the lives of the girl participants within their community. Eighteen (18) girls attended this session.


Session 14: Fire Safety


The session was presented by Mr. John Tsagae, a fire fighter at the Ventersdorp Fire Department with support from Mr. Dikane from the Potchefstroom Fire Department. The fire fighters at the station also assisted in the presentation detailing the handling of the equipment, and displaying the uniform worn by fire fighters for use during house and veldt fires. Mr. Dikane presented information regarding fire and paraffin safety and how participants can volunteer for public awareness initiatives. The session was held onsight at the Ventersdorp fire station. All twenty (20) girls attended this session.


Session 15: Environmental Awareness


This session was presented by Ms. Elize Harris who is a lecturer at the Education Faculty, in the area of Environmental Awareness. The objectives for the session were again; to create awareness on local environmental issues, to stimulate dialog and co-operation among the girls in order tocreate a new lifestyle which is based on meeting everyone’s needs, explaining and discussing Recycle, Re-use and Reduce principles and exploring entrepreneurial opportunities regarding the use of waste materials. The objectives were successfully met by having discussions on the various subjects. The girls then made photo frames from recycled waste materials. At the community event, each girl will receive a picture taken during the project in her frame. A student teacher, Toto Tshona also attended the session and helped to motivate the participants as young women to be strong and make positive choices in their future. Nineteen (19) girls attended this session.


Session 16: Environmental Excursion

Prof Leon van Rensburg arranged an excursion where the girls were taken to Rustenburg. Here they visited the Impala Platinum mine and met the inspirational group of ladies of Mononsa Fertilizer. Their passion for the environment was infectious and they really showed the girls a lot about making compost and explained how easy it was to start this initiative at home. The day was such a success that they did not want to leave. Prof van Rensburg showed the girls horrific images and shared scary statistics relating to pollution and waste in South Africa and explained the effect this has on our society. The day was a huge success, thanks to Prof van Rensburg and the team at Mononsa Fertilizer. All twenty (20) girls went on the excursion to Rustenburg.


Session 17: First Aid Training

An instructor from Global Learning Services in Klerksdorp trained the participants in Buddy Aid. The participants gained certification in Buddy Aid and are recognized with this designated for a period of three (3) years. This session was presented over two (2) days and nineteen (19) and eighteen (18) participants attended these two days respectively.


Session 18: Disaster Planning and Community Mapping

Kylah Forbes-Biggs in her presentation introduced central concepts to disaster risk reduction including ‘disasters’, ‘vulnerability’, ‘hazards’ and ‘risk’. These terms were explained within the context of Ventersdorp and particularly with significance to the target audience of the participants. Community risk assessment activities were conducted including hazard ranking exercises, problem trees, community mapping, community timelines which helped to contextualize the relevance within the community. The problem tree activity ensured the understanding of the root causes and implications of the hazards identified by the ranking activities. The hazards that the participants’ identified as critical threats to their welfare were crime, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. Secondary issues that the girls identified related to alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy. Community map drawing was central to establishing an appreciation of how the participants view their community and recognize the resources, threats and assets available in the area. Community timelines were conducted to help understand how the community developed within across the lifespan of the participants. All twenty (20) participants attended this session.


Session 19: Effective Communication: Audience and Listening skills


Catrien Louw and Marike Williams presented the audience analysis session. The participants learnt what different audiences exist, how to adapt a message for a specific audience and discussed what audience they will potentially target when it omes to their community event. The listening skills section was presented by Kristel Fourie who emphasized the importance of good listening skills, as most communication problems relate to poor listening which leads to misunderstandings. All twenty (20) participants attended this session.


Session 20: Effective Communication: Professionalism, Leadership and G.I.R.R.L. power

Yolanda Maartens presented the professionalism, leadership and the G.I.R.R.L. ‘power’ component, which helped the girls to realize that they are both ladies and leaders within their community. Their role as role models was emphasized and they learnt all about good leadership and what makes a leader. The ability to draw on inner strength and build team spirit through the G.I.R.R.L. ‘power’ session which was also presented in this session. All twenty (20) participants attended this session.


Session 21: Community Event Planning

The community event is held in order to share what the participants have learnt and plays a vital role in information dissemination to both stakeholders and community members. The participants had to identify their audience based on who they thought would benefit the most from what they have learnt throughout the project. The girls based their ideas on the hazards that they had identified and ranked within their community, as was done during the community-based disaster planning session with Kylah Forbes-Biggs. In the end it was decided that the participants would have the event in Extension 2 within the Tshing Community Hall. This was an accessible location for stakeholders, participants and community members alike. Sixteen (16) participants attended this session.


Community Event Practice Session 1

The final ideas were shared regarding the community event and the following activities were jointly decided on: a drama dealing with alcohol and drug abuse, touching on violence and crime. Three poems would also be presented by three of the participants focusing on unplanned pregnancy, violence and crime and drug abuse respectively. The participants clearly knew what they wanted to do and worked on their very own G.I.R.R.L. project song. Nineteen (19) participants attended the practice session. This was one of two practice sessions where the G.I.R.R.L. project team was present, the rest of the time the girls practiced independently .


Community Event Practice Session 2

The second practice session was held at the venue (Extension 2, Community Hall) so that the participants could practice on stage, see how they would enter the stage and arrange the logistics of the actual performance. Fifteen (15) participants attended this practice session.


Community Event Dress Rehearsal

A dress rehearsal was held at the community hall. This was a very successful session as the participants were well rehearsed. Final touches were made to the poems and the participants presented their project theme song with pride. All twenty (20) participants attended the dress rehearsal.



COMMUNITY EVENT: 28 November 2009

The community event was held on the 28th of November 2009 and can be considered a huge success. This could not have been achieved without the help of the Disaster Centre and the Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality. The girls decided on the content of the community event. Crime, drug abuse, violence, alcohol abuse, HIV/Aids and unplanned pregnancy were the main themes identified.

These themes were presented in a number of ways. Participants devised a drama, which was used to touch on the issues of crime, drug and alcohol abuse and HIV/AIDS. Three poems, authored by the participants were also presented focusing on the issues of unplanned pregnancy, violence and crime and drug abuse.

Overview of the Community Event

The Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality was responsible for inviting the VIPs from government and arranged the catering in a tent outside the hall. This worked very well. The attendance was excellent and each participant invited fifteen (15) friends and family members. All the stakeholders of the project and facilitators were invited. The attendance was approximated at close to three hundred persons.

Yolanda Maartens, project manager for the Thuto Boswa project and Councilor Dlamini (MMC of Disaster Risk Management) presented the welcome address. Speeches were provided by a representative of the Mayor of the Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, Prof. Dewald van Niekerk of the African Centre for Disaster Studies and Mrs Elona Masote from Thuto Boswa secondary school. Pastor Mosenogi opened the ceremony with a prayer.

The participants entered onto the stage singing their chosen theme song: “Lean on me” and were followed by Sky Boyz who entertained the audience with dancing. The participants presented a drama, which was followed by the Baitswingwao Cultural Group. The following participants then presented their poems to the audience: Kefilwe Morake, Flora Leeto and Emily Kgarudi. The participants ended their event by singing their very own G.I.R.R.L. power song. This was followed by the prize giving and award ceremony.



Thirty (30) facilitators from various sectors took part in presenting the various sessions across the span of the project. The advantage of having more time to plan and the closer proximity to the base of our operations, compared to the previous Maquassi Hills’ Project, helped to encourage repeated support from facilitators to investigate local persons and facilitators from previous projects.


Rene Phethlu NWU Department of Nursing Mental Health and Coping Strategies
Cpt. Adele Myburg South African Police Services (Potchefstroom) Personal Safety and Self Defence
Elize Harris NWU Department of Education Environmental Awareness
Toto Tshona Student NWU Dept of Education Environmental Awareness
Prof van Rensburg NWU Dept of Environmental Sciences Environmental Excursion
James Mothosola NWU HIV/AIDS Programme Peer Education (Sexual Health)
Nkele Mothosola Counselor
Puseletso Lebitso NWU HIV/AIDS Programme
Tiro Swarts (Fire Chief) Fire Department Ventersdorp Disaster Planning and Community Mapping
John Tsagae Fire Safety
Frederick Kruger
Nzingo Bantsejang
Samuel Mathope
Mariette Swanepoel NWU Department of Biokinetics Physical Health*
Tseko Marake Ventersdorp Youth Center Community Involvement*
Nthabiseng Mataboge Dept of Social Development
Solomon Mere Love Life
Puleng Motaung Department of Health
Instructor Global Learning Services Buddy Aid
Catrien Louw NWU Communication Department Effective Communication
Marike Williams
Yolanda Maartens African Centre for Disaster Studies (ACDS)
Kristel Fourie
Kylah Forbes-Biggs African Centre for Disaster Studies (ACDS) Disaster Planning and Community Mapping
Marliaan Erasmus NWU Career Centre Positive thinking, personal evaluation and after school skills
Elizabeth Mokotsane Dept of Health Family planning
Helena Hoogstad NWU Dept of Social Sciences Personal philosophy
Candice Kastopolous

We have just launched our G.I.R.R.L. Project for 2011 at the Seleng Thuto Full Service School in Kanana! On Saturday September 10 2011 stakeholders from NWU, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Disaster Centre, Department of Health, Fire Services, BOSASA, National and Provincial Disaster Centres, Local Ward Councilors (Kanana), Mayoral Representative, the local media, Seleng Thuto School, parents the Department of Education, among many others joined us to welcome our new 20 girls to the project!  The event was held at the EMRS college in Orkney who graciously provided the venue and co-sponsorship was provided by ABSA bank. The event included motivation speaker Lindiwe Modise and was highlighted with a performance by Gospel great – Deborah Frazer.


Inducing the Project to the Parents/Guardians and Potential Participants

Following a series of stakeholders meetings and meeting with the parents and guardians of the potential participants we met with the girls themselves.  During this time we invited each of them to willing participate in the GIRRL Project following a lengthy explanation of exactly what is it that we seek to do and the purpose of the project.  All sessions involving parents and girls were translated into Setswana, as were the consent forms to ensure that the project was clear to all persons.  Questions were invited and the contact details of the Project Coordinator and representatives from the school and District Disaster Centre (as partners in the project) were provided to encourage open communication.  All twenty girls and their parents/guardians gave written consent to participate in the GIRRL Project.


September 13, 2011 Session 1 – Introduction

The initial session was held at the Seleng Thuto Full Service School with all twenty girls in attendance.  The session was relaxed with a reiteration of the goals and expectations of the project.  Our Co-Facilitators Grace Nkosi and Lettie Mabe, former participants of the original GIRRL Project served as translators and assistants in the sessions.  A number of interactive team building games were conducted to help get the girls comfortable with each other as well as us.


September 15, 2011 Session 2 – Mental Health

Representatives from the Department of Health including Sisters Kester and Tudi came to present the mental component.  They brought a great attitude and lots of energy to the session and information about depression, stress management and using planning /time management as tools to help reduce tension.


September 20, 2011 – Self-Discovery & September 22, 2011 – Coping Strategies and Decision Making

Ansie Kitching from North-West University’s School of Education came to present two days of sessions designed to help girls through self-discovery and self-awareness as well as in the areas of decision-making and coping strategies. The activities included taking an objective from a box of items and explaining why that one was significant to the girl and how it is actually like herself (i.e. It is different – just like me).  Items included rough and polished rocks and stones, seashells, bones and pebbles.A second activity involved an imaginary water well and the girls had to lower a bucket into the well and pull up something that could help them in their lives and their communities.  The girls pulled out everything from cows (to help provide food and milk for their families) to snakes and crocodiles for protection to gold to use to buy supplies for building houses and diamonds, which would be used to make things like jewelry that the girls could sell. The girls were given pencils and paper and asked to draw pictures of them … but they had to close their eyes while doing so.  When presenting their portrait the girls explained that while they liked their original drawing it didn’t quite look like them.  They were given additional paper and allowed to redraw the pictures to better reflect themselves.  They presented a comparison of both the original (eyes closed) and eye open pictures at the second session.

A role-playing game was also enacted were girls from the group were asked to simulate a situation where a school learner was touched inappropriately by a taxi driver.  The girls in the audience were allowed to guide the actors to recreate the situation in a manner that satisfied their will to deal with the scenario.  Girls suggested that the friends on the bus must yell and scream at the offending driver to make him aware that his behavior was not acceptable.  Ideas also included leaving the bus if safe and in all cases telling a trusted adult and police officer about the situation.  Cultural issues such as dealing with respected elders as offenders or family members were also discussed at length.  The girls acknowledged that despite the fact that it is culturally not acceptable to be disrespectful to elders that the situation must be addressed and conveyed to trusted adults and the police regardless of the offender.My personal favorite activity was designed to help the participants to appreciate that despite their age or gender that each one had a role to play in the community.  The activity involved the girls portraying an object commonly found in a garden.  The girls arranged themselves as tables and chairs, benches, tree, flowers, water pipes, soil, a swing, a gate and even a cow!


September 27, 2011 The Body Personal – Women’s Health Issues

Did you know that more women die of cervical cancer than HIV related illnesses every year?  Well not many other people knew this either.  The Department of Health presented a wealth of information on health issues such as cervical cancer breast health and breast cancer, as well as menstruation, hygiene and symptoms of reproductive infections (such as STI and yeast infections).  The participants were shown how to do a breast self-exam as well as given the ages when they need to start going for Pap smears and mammograms.


September 29, 2011 Women’s Reproductive Rights

We had a series of great debates regarding an activity designed to get girls thinking about their rights as women to own and be responsible for their bodies. The participants were read one statement at a time and asked to stand in various corners of the room to indicate their position on the statement (agree, disagree and I don’t know). Statements included:

  • As a women I have the right to decide when I have children and how many children I have.
  • If a women becomes drunk and gets raped she deserves it.
  • Homosexuality and lesbianism is unnatural.
  • A husband cannot be guilty of raping his wife.
  • A husband has the right to discipline his wife physically if she does not obey him.

There were no right or wrong answers and girls were asked to answer the questions honestly.  They were not judged on their opinion and were free to justify their responses if saw fit.  The facilitators acted only to provide clarification for the statements. However where appropriate general messages where conveyed that clarified facts behind the statements – i.e. a husband can be charged with raping his rape – rape is an offence where a person (whether a stranger or person know by the victim) performs an unwanted sexual act on the other person.


School’s out!

It may be school holidays but our girls are hard at work attending training sessions in Paraffin Safety and Level 1 First Aid.  Our girls participated in the Paraffin Safety training (October 3 & 4 2011) and First Aid Level 1 (October 5 &6 2011) at the Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality Disaster Centre in Klerksdorp, NW.  Each girl will receive a peer education Certificate in Paraffin Safety and a Level 1 Certificate in First Aid (Accredited by the Department of Labour and in accordance with the Occupational Health & Safety Act of 1993)

October 3 and 4, 2011 – Paraffin Safety Training

The Paraffin Safety Association of South Africa (PASASA) hosted the paraffin training with instructor Mr. Ntsiki Rapoo.  Topics included safe use and storage, the impacts of ingesting paraffin including chemical pneumonia, burn treatment, and local and national statistics about paraffin related fires and injuries. Check out their website for more details about Paraffin Safety programmes at


October 5 & 6, 2011 – First Aid

Jacques Olivier and his associate from Global Training Limited conducted the First Aid Programme.  First Aid – Level One consisted of specialized training in the areas including;

  • Emergency scene management
  • Basic anatomy & physiology
  • Patient management
  • Airway, breathing and circulation (ABC)
  • Choking
  • Bleeding wounds
  • Breaks (fractures)
  • Burns
  • Shock, unconsciousness and fainting
  • Head and spinal injuries
  • Patient recovery

See their website for more information on skills training and first aid at Special thanks to Jacques Olivier and his wife Charmaine for going out of their way to provide the girls with goody bags (Development of Signs and Designs


October 13, 2011 – Self Defence

Capt. Adele Myburg and Sergeant Karen Tredoux from the South African Police Services joined our girls for part one of the Self Defence session.  The ladies gave great ideas on how to protect themselves from purse/bag snatching, how to fight back (if not being threatened with a weapon) and how to use common every day items in our purses and school bags to fight off attackers.  They also gave the girls the emergency numbers and that of Crime Stoppers.  Do you know the emergency numbers to call from a Telkom line vs a cellular phone? Take note – 10111 for Telkom line and 110 from a cell phone – both are free in South Africa.

South Africa Gospel Singer Deborah Frazer has made a commitment to help the participants of the G.I.R.R.L. Project who have finished high school to attend college! The formal announcement was made at the December 10, 2012 community event held in the Kanana Township in Orkney (North-West). The Deborah Frazer Foundation is currently finalizing arrangements for seven (7) girls from the project to attend college in Johannesburg with full tuition and accommodation for their studies. The other girls from the project will hopefully also receive educational opportunities once they complete high school. The girls are expected to depart to college at the end of March or early April.  Ms Frazer has also included extending the invitation to other girls from Dr. Kenneth Kaunda District. Congratulations to Grace Nkosi, Melica Molale, Eunice Ngwenya, Ntswaki Namane, Lerato Setlelo, Johannah Letlojane and Disebo Tshesebe from Ikageng GIRRL Project 2008. We wish them the best in their once in a lifetime opportunity!


March 3, 2012 – Final session

March 3 was our final session with our girls where we held the PhotoVoice activity. However instead of conducting the session at our normal venue at the Seleng Thuto Full Service School in Kanana we decided to enjoy the beautiful weather and have an outdoor session at the Potch Dam in Potchefstroom.  We held the photo analysis in the morning and spent the afternoon eating an relaxing by pool side! Many of our girls were so excited as they have never seen a swimming pool nor been swimming!

Meet our new co-facilitators!  For the first time we have been able to incorporate some of out previous GIRRL graduates into a current project!  Grace Nkosi and Lettie Mabe joined the G.I.R.R.L. Project as volunteer co-facilitators from our original project in the Sonderwater area in 2008.  These young ladies are helping as role models and facilitators for the next generation of “girrls”.


Grace Nkosi, Co-facilitator

“The G.I.R.R.L. Project has helped me to respect other people.  The communication section is the thing that has played a big role in my life.  Because without it, you can’t even talk to someone about how you are feeling and when you are in a bad space.  The first aid training also helped me to save a person who was in danger.  And I also told people around me what to do when someone is in danger.  The big thing I have learned is I have to practice what I preach because the people I taught will be looking t to see if I am doing what I told them.  And now I have a lot of dignity thanks to the project.”

Lettie Mabe, Co-Facilitator

“When the project stared in 2008 I was so happy to know more about my community and other’s.  This project helped me to face challenges in my life.  Now, I don’t have to run-away.  It helped me to know who I am and where I came from.  Because of this project I learned much like how to communicate with people, to be self- confidant, to accept others the way they are.  I also learned about paraffin safety and when someone is collapsing what must I so and where I have to take her.  I learned about first aid and fire safety.  This project makes my life easier.  I am proud of it because it shows that girls are more important. T he project inspires more children like me and others and I it to go far for those who need it.  Girls need to know more about themselves and other things.”

Lettie Mabe has also assisted us in the Gender and Disaster knowledge project for the USAID project in the audio component.  She lent her voice to the production.