• Feminist Humanitarian Net

Member in focus: The Living University

Since the onset of the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic, many women-led movements and initiatives have been pushed into the humanitarian sector in their responses. Similarly, the Living University – an agile team of arts-science teacher-activists in South Africa consciously collaborating to create a better world locally and globally’ - have joined the Feminist Humanitarian Network as part of their rising to the challenges that the COVID context presents.

The creation of the Living University responds to the need for innovation to address the social issues related to poverty and hunger. It conduits international attention to work with local organisations and communities of all kinds to create experiential learning, focussed on empowering and equipping the most marginalised with creativity and self-determination, awakening the deepest human potentials. The Living University supports people - women in particular - to create and sustain a more creative, intuitive, imaginative and collaborative culture and reality where there is more than enough for everyone.

The COVID-19 crisis challenges the Living University to expand their focus from innovation in development to include innovation in crisis, and to understand more deeply how their work is humanitarian, and grounded in a feminist perspective.

Lockdown restrictions in South Africa, including the closure of schools, mean that hundreds of thousands of youth, particularly underprivileged women and girls have had highly impeded or no access to their regular sources of food or education.

The pandemic presented an opportunity for the Living University to provide access for young women (and men) in the KZN midlands area to the kind of education and resources normally outside their reach. In many instances, this access and curriculum was never available, even without lockdown protocol in place.

The Living University recognises how Covid-19 has highlighted and even deepened ongoing inequalities and injustices being faced in South Africa, particularly by young women. In many cases these result in limited access to food (e.g. having to rely on a daily school meal), limited access to basic education, limited safety and protection, reduced family income, lack of access to hygiene products, poor internet access for online schoolwork or self-directed learning. In addition, it is acknowledged that associated frustrations, anger and powerlessness that are often present in homes experiencing loss and lack, feed into problem contexts such as domestic violence.

Throughout the crisis, the Living University, with the support of the Feminist Humanitarian Network, has taken action that addresses the need for access to food, education and safe spaces for young, black women in particular.

Critically, the organisation has supported young people to work collaboratively to learn different forms of art and expression, to support them to cope through the Covid-19 crisis and to equip them with skills to undertake creative political advocacy for social change well into a future beyond the pandemic.

This Friday, participants in the Living University will take part in a performance that will showcase their time and learning together. The performance is an exhibition of what is possible when the

ingredients of imagination, focus, commitment, discipline and play

are combined to tell the stories that make sense of our present and can

shape our future. This is not art for art’s sake...

The Living University has embarked on

this journey of Theatre in the Park to dismantle the structural barriers

that deny opportunities to these young people, to reimagine what

human potential can be, to express and inspire that potential toward

creating a better world for all, ‘where Me becomes We and nobody owns the ground’.

Watch Capturing Freedom live on 18 December. The performance starts between 5 and 5.30pm SA time. Tune in here.

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