It’s sad but true that the Western Cape has one of the highest incidences of violence against women and children. Rock Girl is an organisation that aims to improve this situation by focussing the spotlight on the challenges faced by these women and children.
Their first campaign, the Safe Spaces Initiative, is a grassroots public art and education drive to raise awareness about the need to create safe places for girls and women in schools, at work and in communities.
The Safe Spaces initiative called on South African artists, designers and architects to design and/or re-purpose new and existing park benches in and around Cape Town. Each bench designed for a public space in the city will have a “sister” bench that is designed with and by a group of girls or women in a previously disadvantaged community.
Tim Lewis and Lovell Friedmann designed the first bench which was showcased at Design Indaba in February 2011. A toll-free number will accompany each bench. Upon dialing this number listeners will hear stories of women and girls, information about the project and artists and find out about where to go for help in dealing with issues of violence.
Some 30 designers have been invited to submit proposals for more designs, in the hope that at least five more designers will join the initiative by August 2011. Rock Girls’ first school partnership has been with Red River Primary in Khayelitsha but they’ve had lots of interest from other schools and hope to get funding so that more schools can participate.
Funding, thus far, has come from private individuals, foundations, corporate donors and government. The first bench is located at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and the proposed site for its sister bench will be in Khayelitsha or Retreat. Sites for additional benches include the V&A Waterfront, Fan Walk, the Freeworld Design Centre and Grand Daddy Hotel on Long Street