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A City programme which sees female rental stock tenants employed as community ambassadors is already yielding results on a number of fronts, including helping dozens of truant children. Read more below:

The City of Cape Town’s Women in Rental Stock initiative is in full swing – just more than three months after recruitment and training got under way.

The initiative is designed to help uplift City-owned rental stock areas through addressing environmental and socio-economic challenges. More than 300 women residing in rental stock units have been recruited, trained and deployed in nine areas through the Expanded Public Works Programme.The participating areas are: Athlone, Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Lotus River, Macassar, Manenberg, Ocean View, Ravensmead and Uitsig. The women have also been trained in a number of fields, including:
· identifying and helping to address safety concerns in their environment
· logging service requests related to the upkeep of their buildings and surrounding streets, including littering, dumping, graffiti removal, etc.
· providing home-based care services to the elderly
· identifying individuals at risk of social challenges like truancy, substance abuse and domestic violence and linking them with relevant services

In addition to the clean-up operations and other daily tasks that the women have been engaged in since the conclusion of their training period, they also work closely with seven social workers deployed in the various areas as part of the programme. In August 2016, 120 cases were reported to social workers for follow-up. Of these, 54 (45%) related to truancy, 13 to substance abuse, 10 to the safety and well-being of the elderly and six to child abuse and neglect.

Truancy has been a priority of the Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate for a number of years now, with district-level programmes implemented specifically to deal with the issue and identifying the reasons why children are dropping out of school. The Women in Rental Stock initiative has started augmenting existing measures by not only helping to identify learners at risk, but also engaging with them to get to the heart of their individual challenges. It involves getting them focused on returning to school and even escorting children to school in volatile areas – safety concerns being one of the reasons why children abscond.

‘This programme is about improving the aesthetics of the participating areas through cleaning and expediting maintenance issues that arise, but it’s also designed to help mend the social fabric of these communities. There are so many people who need help but they don’t necessarily know where to turn. Our women are ambassadors who provide the link between the problem and the potential solution. We are empowering them in the process, but also building their communities at the same time,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development, Councillor Suzette Little.

The rental stock initiative is set to run until the end of November 2016 when it will be evaluated with a view for possible expansion in the future, depending on the availability of funding.

‘We are pleased with the impact thus far and we have received very good feedback from a number of the local councillors, schools and community members. The programme has had its challenges like volatility in some areas as a result of gang violence, but we have pushed through with the help of the City’s enforcement agencies. There have also been a few women who failed the drug test which was part of the recruitment process, but even that we have turned into an opportunity by referring them to the City’s substance abuse treatment centres.

‘There will be more developments in the coming months that are the direct result of this programme. I therefore appeal to the affected communities to support these women and to chip in where they can. Social upliftment is everyone’s responsibility and one doesn’t have to be part of the programme to make a difference,’ added Councillor Little.

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