Nonprofit Photography: Girl Pride Africa

Teenage pregnancy, a prevailing issue in many South African communities, often leaves girls stigmatised and without career options. With a mission of helping teenage mothers complete their schooling and find jobs, Lolah Mapotaringa founded Girl Pride Africa, an NGO based in Masiphumelele, a township on the Southern Peninsula of Cape Town. Photographer Sarah Isaacs recently volunteered her time to take portraits of some of the girls that are receiving support from the organisation. Below are the results, and the girls’ stories. 

– Text by Wantong Liu, images by Sarah Isaacs

“I usually don’t shoot in the morning, because the light is too strong. It is hard to get good pictures at this time.” On our way to Masiphumelele, Sarah expressed concern about the lighting. The ideal timing for portrait photography is in the later afternoon, when the sunlight is warm and flattering. But this is not an option. According to Lolah, some of the girls’ husbands are very controlling, and in the afternoon they come home from work, and would “want to see the girls at home.” Luckily Sarah managed to find some shady spots. 

The excitement on the girls’ faces was obviously when we arrived. When I asked her if she enjoyed having her portrait taken, Neziswa, one of the girls, smiled shyly and said yes. “We have done a shoot before, and they are still talking about it now!” Lolah laughed. She herself also dressed up and put make-up on. “We are really grateful for the shoot, as it really helps boost their confidence.” 

Girl Pride Africa: Supporting Teen Moms

Girl Pride Africa needs all the help it can get. In fact, they are so short in funding that Lolah has been supporting the girls from her own pocket – she even sold her car in order to keep going. “It has been functioning like this for a while; I go to work, make money, and put all the spare money in to help them. What can I do? Some of these girls, they don’t have anything to eat if they leave here and go back home!”

The efforts pay off, as the girls get valuable support from the organization. Girl Pride Africa has a weekly meeting on Saturday, either at Lolah’s home or a day care center nearby. The girls, most of whom became moms during their teenage years, get necessary help from Lolah, but also provide support for each other. Their lives, after going from being a student to being a mother, have cause financial hardships, as well as psychological stress. Many of them are in abusive relationships. Having a safe place to come to, and to find women to confide in, has been a lifeline. 

The bond between the girls is obvious. One by one, they go out with Sarah to have their portraits taken; the rest of them sit together, sing, laugh, and made themselves and the kids some breakfast. They chat about life, other relatives and friends, and all the other topics young girls are into. Nobenathi told me she wanted to be a make-up artist. As a matter of fact she already looked like one, with beautiful self made nails, and stylish hair. 

The Need for Funding

Lolah’s long-term goal is to build a shelter for girls who are most in need, and not in a safe place at home. She already found a suitable location for it. But without the necessary funding, the plan has been on halt.

If you’d like to support Girl Pride Africa, you could do so by

  • Helping the girls find jobs around Masiphumelele.
  • Donating baby clothes, milk, or any other goods that a young mother may need.
  • Offering a cash donation.

Learn more – or make a donation, visit Girl Pride Africa FaceBook page, or email to  girlprideafrica1@gmail.com

Or directly to their bank account:
Girl Pride Africa
First National Bank
Account Number: 62790446332

Nonprofit Photography: Girl Pride Africa

Nobenathi: 20. “My boy is turning five on 11 July. His dad died 12 March 2016, hit by police car. Didn’t think police were on duty, but you know police, they are always around. We were just friends. My date now is very nice. Kind to my son. Girl Pride support each other, when I started I had not confidence, low self esteem, teen moms on the same page gave me confidence more than anything, and support. Saturday meetings to fundraise. It’s Xhosa tradition to cut off finger, I did it at 8 years old. If you don’t remove it, bad stuff will happen to you. If you don’t bad stuff will happen. Like my cousin, he lost two fingers when he was in his thirties. He ran away from doing it when he was younger, but it caught up to him. Traditions like that are important. And it’s beautiful, don’t you think?”

Nonprofit Photography: Girl Pride Africa

Vuyo: 19, daughter of 2 years. “I was doing matric in 2016 but failed two subjects and then in 2017 I had my daughter so couldn’t finish then. I got my diploma in 2018. Don’tt know exactly what I’d like to do – financial management or correctional services. It’s not that like correctional services is the best job, but you only need 6 month’s training and then you can start working and making money. Not married, the father is around, he’s good to her but not to me. When I was 4 months pregnant and told him, and he was very unhappy but he didn’t leave me. At 6 months I had my baby, she was 1kg, so I stayed in hospital for 2 months with her and when I cam out he was gone. I’d like my daughter to get a good education, and I would always like to be there for her, not just financially but emotionally as well.”

 

nonprofit photography girl pride africa

Tinotenda: 19, girl of 2 years, boy of 4 years. Married to the father. “I was 14 when we got married. I got pregnant and we moved in together. He’s 26. Zimbabwean men force themselves on you. I wasn’t powerful, I couldn’t fight back. But we were dating so no one called it rape. But I didn’t want to have sex. That was in Zim. I got pregnant and he sent money for me to come here. But it’s not happy ever after. He beats me and he doesn’t buy anything for the kids. I want to get a job but I’m not fluent in English and I have a grade nine. If I could work and look after my kids, I would not marry him. I’d like to be a hair dresser. But everyone here is a hair dresser and more and more people wear wigs so there is no weaving work.”

Nonprofit Photography: Girl Pride Africa

Neziswa: 21; first son 6 years, and second son is eight months. “Different dads, I’m not with either of them. Both of them romanced me, now I’m alone staying in the Wetlands. It’s part of Masi but when it rains, my home floods. I’m a mother of 2, unemployed and looking after 2 kids. I get R410 child support grant, with R410 I send my older son to school, and then next I use for groceries. I survive on R820 a month. I’ve got my matric. I’d like to be a caterer, baking especially.”

Nonprofit Photography: Girl Pride Africa

Nora: 16, daughter is 6 months. “I got married last year, at 15 in Zim. Live in the Wetlands. I rely on him, even though he gives me no money, even to buy pads. I have to use old T-shirts when I have my period. He’s 25. I feel like I don’t have a voice. He’s emotionally abusive. He wants to go back to Zim but there will be even less support there. He wants to take me to a rural area where there is no one, no town nearby. We’d survive if subsistence farming. He will stay in SA, and I must stay there until he’s finished whatever he wants to do here. I’ll be alone there. My parents are there but they let me get married at 15, I’m not their problem anymore. They won’t look after me. And refusing to go is not an option. He’ll kick me out and I don’t have anyone else here. Men want to control. For him I’m just a robot.”

Nonprofit Photography: Girl Pride Africa

Lolah is the founder of Girl Pride Africa. “I came to South Africa when I was 16. I gave my money to this guy – who was very nice at the beginning, so that he would take me cross the border. As soon as we take on the journey, he turned into another person, beating us, smoothering crying babies. The night was like hell. But I went through. I suffered but I went through. These girls, I just hope they can be confident. Everyday I pick up the phone and listen to them, they need a person to talk to. I’m no therapist, i’m not professional, it also became my burden. But the girls need someone to listen to them.”

Nonprofit Photography: Girl Pride Africa

Sisipho was there both of the times we went to Masiphumelele. She is very eager with Girl Pride and is helping Lolah a lot. “I just finished high school. But job is still hard to find. I have been looking for jobs around here since last year, with no luck. Cape Town is too far, if you take transportation fees into account it’s not worth to find a job there.”

 

Find more nonprofit photography by Sarah Isaacs, check our blog on Girl Impact!