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October 18, 2019

Sonke Gender Justice stand against xenophobia in South Africa

type: Education, NGO, Project
by: Yair Oded

Xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments have been plaguing South Africa. The primary targets of such hatred are immigrants from other African countries who are being used as scapegoats by power-hungry politicians trying to drum up support. 

The hateful rhetoric of leaders has had an effect on considerable portions of the public in South Africa, with a growing number of people now blaming immigrants for stealing their jobs and encroaching on the country’s wealth. Across the country, xenophobic and anti-immigrant attacks became common. Back in September, rioters targeting immigrant neighborhoods in and around Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, left 12 people dead, and countless buildings, stores and cars destroyed. 

A series of cultural, diplomatic and economic boycotts by African countries like Nigeria, Madagascar, and Zambia, placed the spotlight on South Africa’s government; voices from across the continent demanded, rightfully, that measures be taken by the authorities to curb xenophobia in the country. 

But while systemic change is important, it is just as crucial to address issues on the ground and foster tolerance among local communities, where the tension originates and where African immigrants and South African nationals live side by side. 

Sonke Gender Justice is a South African-based nonprofit organisation working across the continent to promote gender equality and social justice. Among its many projects, Sonke focuses on stemming xenophobic violence in South Africa and securing immigrant rights (including their right to safety, dignity and health) through extensive community outreach. 

Sonke has been organising workshops and community mobilisation around issues of immigrant rights, human rights, and gender equality in areas prone to anti-immigrant and xenophobic violence, and facilitated the formulation of community action teams on these issues. 

The organisation also disseminates information about human rights and educates the public about the dangers of xenophobia through media advocacy as well as through posters, stickers and digital stories.

Sonke also employs art as a method of tackling xenophobia through activities such as community mural painting and theater-based approaches in places like train stations and shopping centres. 

Please visit Sonke’s website to get more information about the organisation’s work, access its resources, and learn about career and internship opportunities. 

Image: Sonke Gender Justice website