For our first round of Kuros! pepper spray drops in Africa, we had planned to conduct a number of the drops in the "squatter camps" surrounding Johannesberg, South Africa. These "governmentally unrecognized" camps are where many people who flee from neighboring Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe end up. The extremely high population density and absence of any government funding create an extremely hostile environment when coupled with abject poverty and the lack of any real police presence in the area. Provision of even basic aid like food and water falls onto the backs of non-governmental organizations.
The people most at risk in these camps are always the women. The official statistics in South Africa indicate that a sexual assault occurs every eight minutes, yet some estimate that the number is closer to 1.5 million rapes anually. With the incidence of attacks being so high, many women living here do not leave their camps; as even walking to a major road to get a ride into town for work is too dangerous. These women do not feel safe anywhere. Not even in their own homes, as men break into their "shanties" and sexually assault them while they are at home alone.
After leaving Texas for South Africa last Thursday, I met up with Janine Rowley & Marieli Jonsson, the women who run a non-governmental organization called Woman Against Rape, also known as W.A.R. throughout the country. W.A.R. has been working on the front lines in South Africa with rape survivors for the last decade and a half, and over the past several days we have been traveling around Gauteng, a provice in northern South Africa. For our expansion into South Africa, Kuros! purchased a pepper spray called SABRE Red. SABRE, for those who are unfamiliar is actually manufactured in the United States and is the exact same pepper spray carried by almost every police department throughout America. As I've said before, this stuff works, and we know the pepper spray we are giving to these women will be effective when they need it most.
Having been around Pretoria and Johannesburg, we traveled into Mooiplaas to visit their squater camp. We sat down with a number of the women living there to listen to what they go through on a daily basis. They all expressed a similar feeling, a lack of safety at all times. As one young woman stated, "If we walk alone we get attacked, if we are in our homes we get attacked, and with no police stations around. We do not know anything about self defense. We become victims as women... We do not know what to do." For nearly all of them, the option of fighting back and being able to defend themselves was something they had never considered to be a possibility.
So we offered the women an explanation and gave a demonstration of what pepper spray is and how it is used. After learing about it and how affective it can be when used correctly, the women said they felt extremely confident in their ability to use it to protect themselves. After they all had been shown the process and they were able to demonstrate an understanding of how to use it, Kuros! gave each of them a can of SABRE Red pepper spray.
One Kuros! drop at a time. This was just one drop of many that will be taking place throughout South Africa with our newest partner W.A.R. as there are squater camps like this all over the country, all filled with women who are in desperate need of the option to defend themselves. We are proud to have W.A.R. join Kuros! in the fight to give women around the world a fighting chance in the years to come.
I still have a few days here in the country, but I would like to give a special thanks to Janine and Marieli of W.A.R. for their incredible kindness and dedication to the women of South Africa. Ivan and Anthony of SABRE South Africa for the pepper spray and demonstration. Solly and Diksie from Pretoria for their translation skills and help in the camps, and my family for all of their love and support. I am extremely forunate to be surrounded by such great people.