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Women and Water

By September 3, 2020Inspiration
Artistic close up shot of water catching light.

We need joy as we need air.
We need love as we need water.
We need each other as we need
the earth we share.

Maya Angelou

The Beach Co-op recognises that families and communities strengthen the bonds that support regenerative activities. We are actively trying to build ocean communities that care for our marine environment – not only because the ocean has intrinsic value itself, but also because it provides clean air for us to breathe, protein for us to eat, and supports the availability and quality of fresh water that we drink and use to irrigate our crops. 

It is therefore impossible to talk, write or think about water without involving people in the story (Linton 2010). August is Women’s month and we celebrated this by hosting a Women and Water series of Instagram chats with inspiring females dedicated to sharing and growing our love and protection for this invaluable resource – WATER. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the live conversations they are all saved on our IGTV channel for you. We ended the month with a small, intimate cleanup at Princess Vlei Wetlands in the heart of the Cape Flats. Denisha Anand is the manager of this site and was one of our interviewees. We learnt about the community at Princess Vlei and how they care for their vlei.

It is no surprise that the common theme shared by the five interviewees is the need to provide people with the opportunities to experience the natural environment – this in turn will build connections to care and protect the environment. Open spaces must become more accessible to all. 

Everyone has the right –
(a) To an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and
(b) To have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that –
(i) prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
(ii) promote conservation; and
(iii) secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development. 

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996

Nasreen Peer said in her interview “Science and exploration belong to everyone.” She emphasises the need to normalise relying on indigenous knowledge and citizen science and to properly acknowledge citizen scientists and indigenous knowledge holders by co-publishing. “I’ve definitely seen a rise in female researchers and students, as well as more black and brown students. I love that so many of my colleagues are starting to introduce us to more of the indigenous knowledge we have in South Africa and that they’re helping to bridge these gaps between scientists and local communities.”

This is relevant to co-creating and constructing an equitable economy that takes into account the voices and knowledge of the marginalised. She goes on to say, “be critical of information and studies; learn about communities relying on the local resources, and question whether or not they’ve been involved and consulted”. 

The work that Denisha Anand is involved in at Princess Vlei is an inspiring example of how the community has been included in managing the vlei. She mentions ‘planting protests’ in her interview – a means to stop the development of a shopping mall at the vlei; “The mass community-led planting has resulted in us extending and increasing endangered vegetation on site which has brought more pollinators, birds and other creatures who find the space appealing as a safe habitat. We’ve seen the endangered Western Leopard Toad habitat expand too, with more calls on the eastern and southern shores of the vlei possibly because of less disturbance and favourable breeding conditions.”

It was remarkable to realise the influence the Two Oceans Aquarium Education Foundation has on creating opportunities and accessibility for our marine environment. Bianca Engel has been teaching at the aquarium for over 22 years and has influenced so many learners, both young and old, to continue their studies in the environmental sphere. “Unfortunately, many South Africans will not have the opportunity to dive off our coast and see our beautiful marine ecosystems for themselves. The aquarium gives them a glimpse into this unknown environment. No matter your age you are drawn to the beautiful animals and ecosystems shown in the exhibits and the wonderful realisation that this occurs off our coast.” 

Both Lisa Beasley and Zandile Ndhlovu wanted to share their love for the ocean with others. Lisa says, “When people start to see these things that are happening everyday right under their noses, this whole miniature world begins to open up to them, and they start seeing more and more of it. To watch this opening or shifting of perspective in another person is very exciting for me. It’s so beautiful to see this excitement in others and know that they will, in turn, show others and so on.” 

Zandile expresses a similar sentiment by saying, “I knew I didn’t only want to tell the world about this amazing thing I’d found… but I also wanted to teach! I wanted to open up freediving to more black and brown people, as on most, if not all, scuba trips I’ve been the only black/brown person there to dive. I wanted to create space where black and brown people can learn about breath, water comfort and find freedom in the love the ocean is, and creating the foundation would be the vehicle that helps us to create this and in the creating, hopefully encourage not only more connection to the ocean from a leisure perspective, but also from an academic and sports perspective.”

Megan and I immensely enjoyed chatting and sharing with these inspirational women, and we will leave you with a final quote of encouragement from each of them:

Bianca Engel – Take every opportunity to gain practical experience by volunteering and working with various community groups in communicating science. But most importantly if this is really what you want to do, do not let anyone dissuade or discourage you from your goal.

Nasreen Peer – Fill your life with lots of other things, ESPECIALLY whilst studying. Take time off during your studies to travel. Don’t go with a mindset that you’re going to “teach” or “volunteer”, go simply with an open mind to learn about other cultures and how people around the world interact with the marine environment.

Lisa Beasley – She shared with us her  that her female icon she turns to is Pema Chodron a Buddhist nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  This quote by Pema felt appropriate to share given the context of our Women and Water series, “We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.” 

Zandile Ndhlovu – The idea that we can create inclusive spaces where all people can thrive is my life’s work. South Africa has a hard history and we have some work we need to do in dismantling the old and creating the world we want to live in. Through your passion you could inspire and change a life.

Denisha Anand –  Start now, at any age, volunteer, read, start at home or school. Use the resources you have wherever they may be. Look for accessible ways to invest in yourself and your vision for your career in conservation. Remember that there are always women who are willing to support you and mentor you, please reach out to us. Take up as much space as you need, to get to where you want to be. BE BOLD AND BE UNAPOLOGETIC.

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