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18 April 2019 | Story Rulanzen Martin

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice IRSJ) has initiated a Social Justice Week at the University of the Free State (UFS), which started on Friday 12 April  until Wednesday 17 April 2019. 

Ten key events took place during the week. It ranged from dialogues, workshops, talk shows, debates, and interactive displays and events on issues of multilingualism and diversity, social innovation, engaged scholarship, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, gender sensitisation, sexual consent, sexual preparedness, universal access, disability, anti-discrimination, and security.

There was also a round-table discussion on 17 April 2019 with various UFS stakeholders on off-campus student security as well as an inter-institutional discussion on the same topic. The UFS Debating Society will take on the topic of the UFS Language Policy, while Olga Barends from the Free State Centre for Human Rights will host a dialogue on sexual consent.

The IRSJ has also designed and implemented SOJO-VATION: Social Innovation/ Social Change, which strives to create a foundational platform where ideas of social justice, innovation, and engaged scholarship at the UFS and in society can be hosted. SOJO-VATION partners with the Office for Student Leadership, Development, and Community Engagement.

The collaborating partners for the Social Justice Week includes various UFS stakeholders such as the Sasol library, the Gender and Sexual Equity Office, UFS Protection Services, the Free State Centre for Human Rights, the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Office for Student Leadership Development, Kovsie Innovation, GALA, the FFree State Centre for Human Rights, SRC Associations, the Office for Student Governance, Kovsie Innovate, Start-Up-Grind, EVC, EBL, Community Engagement, the Institutional Transformation Plan (ITP) Dialogues Office, Residence Dialogues, UFS Debating Society, Debate Afrika!, the Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS), and the Gateway Office. 

News Archive

Self-help building project helps to change lives
2017-12-15


 Description: Eco house read more Tags: Anita Venter, Start Living Green’, Earthship Biotecture Academy, construction skills 

Anita Venter, lecturer in the Centre for Development Support, with the residents of
the eco friendly house. Photo: Supplied

UFS PhD student Anita Venter did not know it in the beginning, but her doctoral research would eventually change her life and the lives of many others. 

The research was whether South Africa’s housing policies were socially and culturally responsive to grassroots reality in informal settlements. Venter agreed her research approach might have raised a few eye brows, but it was a journey she holds had more benefits than failures. 

Green living
For her case studies, Venter looked at ‘Start Living Green’ as a concept and further examined the implementation models of Earthship Biotecture Academy in New Mexico and Central America and the Long Way Home non-profit organisation in Guatemala. 

These groups train people with no specialised construction skills in applying and managing environmentally sound self-help building projects. Furthermore, their primary objectives were not building-related, but people-centred, with an advocacy role to create social, environmental and educational change through utilising the building technologies. 

It resulted in Venter signing up for a course in Guatemala to get the skills to implement her case studies here at home in Bloemfontein. 

An experimental mud, straw and waste material structure in her back yard grew into similar houses built in informal settlements, through the transfer of knowledge of indigenous building methods.  

Are rickety corrugated iron shacks only alternative?

Her case studies, one in Freedom Square in the Mangaung Metro Municipality, highlighted, among others, baffling tenure insecurities and “tangible conflicts” entrenched between Westernised and African perspectives on home ownership.

Venter says her thesis, in essence, did not oppose existing housing strategies but did challenge the applicability of an economically inclined model as the most appropriate housing option for millions of households living in informal settlements. 

The main findings of the case studies were that self-help building technologies and skills transfer could make a significant contribution to addressing housing shortages in the country; in particular in geographical locations such as the Free State province and other rural areas.

Venter’s own words after her academic endeavour are insightful: “These grassroots individuals’ courage to engage with me in unknown territories, gave me hope in humanity and inherent strength to keep on pursuing our vision of transforming informal settlements into evolving indigenous neighbourhoods of choice instead of only being living spaces of last resort.”

Positive results 
The study has had many positive results. The City of Cape Town is now looking at new innovative building technologies as a result. Most importantly Venter's study will open further discussions that necessarily challenge the status quo views in housing development. 

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