The day Dumisani Rebombo first understood the need to focus on rural development
I’m a little over 50 years of age now and have periodically worked in the very deep rural areas of South Africa. When I used to do my rounds, I would psych myself enough to blend well with rural life to a point of somewhat accepting the surroundings which are often characterised by overt poverty and squalor. My defence to this helplessness new normality was derived from the fact that I viewed my Gender Based Violence prevention work as part of my sacrifice of middle class life, and thus I see myself ‘doing something for the poor!’ In the past eight months though, drought hit South Africa and things were dire in these settings. Food prices started soaring and I discovered families and individuals were going to bed without food!
One beautiful morning when I was walking to the office whistling and thinking to myself that all is not doom and gloom; after all as black people we’ve gone through many droughts socially and economically but survived, today will turn out just fine. Suddenly, to my left I heard this squeaking sound and when I looked, there… a cow was trying to salvage some banana leaves from a swinging rubbish bin at the side of the road! My heart just sank, not only was this my first experience but the cow just registered a deep eerie feeling in me of how people lived similar lives in the rural areas. All of sudden I quickly realised that I had money in my pocket, a car, I could go to any nearby town and have a decent meal, but not the same for the people with whom I worked. I started thinking of how rural development was always a ‘by the way’ concept from political arenas, but no resources were commissioned to circumvent this. It dawned on me that unless community members are sensitised and taught about citizenry and human rights, we may have the most beautiful and progressive constitution, which does nothing to change the lives of people on the ground. Understanding that my work is ring-fenced within a Randomised Control Trial study, I am equally determined to include self-worth sessions and advocacy principles in my work. I don’t know how this will taste to my organisation or to the researchers, but I call to both to look deeper into this need and join me with those that I’ll invite to join the idea, to do something about it; for I believe we will find a way!