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Womxn in Water: Hope in Action

By November 10, 2021November 12th, 2021Inspiration
Group of children standing on a hill overlooking the ocean with mountains in the background.

Womxn in Water: Hope in Action

Cape Point Reserve, Saturday, 9 October 2021

The warm Saturday sun pours down on us, comforting our skin, our muscles, our bones. A warmth is activated inside each of us, a warmth that connects us.

A group of womxn came together on 9 October 2021, advocating for access, community and conservation; womxn saying yes to working together, yes to South Africa and yes to change. The first Womxn in Water event took place in 2020 and aimed to get womxn of colour into outdoor spaces – particularly into the ocean, riding waves, swimming, diving and reclaiming space. The event aims to enable access to and encourage more diversity of people in blue and green spaces in South Africa.

The event is a collaboration between The Beach Co-op and Find Your Stoke, inspired by the womxn’s surfing competition Women on Waves. Through the organisation Black Girls Surf, the team found Koleka Sofuthe, a wonder-force and housemother to 63 girls between the ages of 5-15 years living in Crossroads, Cape Town. Together, we made for a powerful group.

I spoke to Koleka running up to the event to ask how she and the girls were feeling about the day. I had never spoken to or met her before, but felt so connected as she spoke with such warmth about her excitement for the event. She shared that it was her and the girls’ first visit to Cape Point. They left Crossroads early in the morning to meet us, the team, at Buffel’s Tidal Pool. As the bus took the last corner towards us, our team lifted our heads and smiled. “It’s happening,” I thought. Twenty-five girls poured out of the bus, and we formed a circle on the grassy patch overlooking the sea, supported by the mountains around us.

We shared what brings us joy.
We rock-hopped and explored the intertidal zone – looking for sea stars, sea urchins, sea anemones, sea slugs and seaweed.
We found seashells and powered them up with positive thoughts and personal power.
We played, and splashed, SUP-ed, broke bread and played again.
The water was an unreal crystal-clear turquoise colour –
Dream-like but not a dream. Very, very real.
Some girls paddled around on boards,
some splashed in the shallows,
Some sat on the tidal pool wall and swung and swirled their legs in the water,
Some lay on the ground to warm up post-swim.
It was happening,
Hope in action
We closed the day with a movement and mind session.
We stretched up tall, we breathed big deep breaths, we shook and jumped and laughed.
We put our hands on our burning hearts and said together:

I am strong
I am kind
I believe.

I am strong
I am kind
I believe.

One last time,
I am strong
I am kind
I believe.

It felt like history was being made in our bodies, individually and collectively. We were changing the story of our home, of South Africa, with every step we took on this contested landscape of Cape Point and every word we spoke to each other. We were transmuting the energy, rewriting the narrative of access, diversity and disconnection. We need more spaces of this kind – collaborative, supportive spaces that make communities feel alive, that make us feel like there is nothing we cannot do – simply nothing that we cannot do.

South Africa is abundant in open, natural spaces, yet they are still spaces of privilege. This event and similar community events aim to unravel this norm and in the same swift action cocreate access to powerful, inclusive, collaborative spaces. How do we co-create this bridge from where we are to where we envision ourselves and our country? There is no precise step-by-step guide yet, but we do know that the path is rooted in collaboration and community.

As we stood together in our closing circle, I was so certain, so sure that Here, Now, Us Together was exactly where we were meant to be. It was a full-bodied knowing.

I spoke to Koleka after our event and asked what stood out for the girls the most from the day. She asked just a few of those who attended and shared the below with me:

“To see wild animals
To see starfish and swimming
To do yoga
To see (the) swimming pool
Spending time with the coaches
To see wild animals
To learn about nature
To learn about nature
To breathe in and out
To breathe in and out
To breathe in and out.”

Koleka said something to the girls that has stayed with me, “You were born in Crossroads, but you will not die in Crossroads.” Her organisation is Qiqa-Mtwana, meaning “be a wise child.” She shared with me that she named it this to encourage her girls to choose the good things in life. Although our authorities are failing us, we can still choose good things for our communities. The change we seek within our country lies within us and our communities. We were born into a nation that knows violence, brokenness, disappointment, failing systems but that is not our only narrative. There is a narrative that runs parallel to the pain, it is one of resilience, overcoming, collaboration, community and connection.

It is a narrative that is not weighed down by our pain but a story where our pain reminds us that this is not who we are, this is not where we will go. There’s a quote you’ll be familiar with by our ex-president, Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” I hold this quote with both hands so close to my chest, I keep it there safely to remind myself that what our ancestors have overcome is a reminder of the strength, the resilience and the power that exist within us.

I’d like to make a callout for organisations, cooperatives, safehouses, community initiatives, NPOs, NGOs, PBOs – who are working in ocean and nature access, of all sizes, from across South Africa, just starting or well-developed. The idea is a fledgling one to compile a directory of organisations for the wider population to connect with and support.

About the author: Monique Rodgers
Social and Environmental Advocate/ Movement, Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher

Monique is currently completing a master’s in Movement, Mind and Ecology at Schumacher College. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of environmentalism and how a transdisciplinary and diverse approach to environmentalism is more inclusive, and as such, possibly the single most powerful approach to working towards climate justice. Her current thesis will explore access to and diversity in outdoor spaces.

Find out more about Monique’s work and GFM campaign here,
& Instagram.


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