I Protect Me in South Africa helps protect children and vulnerable women from sexual violence. Read about how the project is being helped spread its wings to reach more young people. 

By Solen Lees from an interview with Randall Maarman on 23rd July 2018.

Randall Maarman (left), IPM’s Executive Director

As I Protect Me’s new executive director, Randall Maarman is doing a great job to help the organisation spread its wings. Fundraising by SDIA and several SD Nationals has enabled IPM to offer Randall a small stipend.

A young father of 35, Randall grew up in the Eastern Cape of S. Africa in Port Elizabeth (now called Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality). Always interested in social work, Randall did a lot of volunteer work as a *teenager, including participating in the Prefects and Student Leadership Programme at school, where his role was to help the teachers instil safety and order.

Randall also trained to be a peer trainer by an organisation called Save our Schools and then spent most of his Fridays and Saturdays training his peer group in life skills. On finishing high school, he moved to Cape Town and carried on doing voluntary work.

A turning point in his life came in 2003 when he moved to the Netherlands having met Ineke, who is now his wife.

“I meant to stay for a year. But I stayed for 14!” Randall tells me.

While there, Randall studied social sciences and holds a Bachelor degree in Organisational Science. As well as his paid work, he also continued volunteering, this time as a training facilitator for the Salvation Army.

I asked Randall what made the family decide to return to South Africa one and half years ago…

Randall: There never seemed to be a good time to come back. But we felt I had gained a lot of experience that I could use to further my passion to do community development. I wanted to give back to South Africa.

Solen: And perhaps there is more work to do in this field in S. Africa than in the Netherlands?

R: Yes, for sure!

S: What motivated you to get involved in IPM?

Training of Trainers for work in High Schools

R: South Africa has huge problems of violence and abuse. This became personal to me when I saw Monica [Clarke, founder of IPM] speak with such passion, tears in her eyes and true concern for young people in South Africa, especially for girls.

I met her in the Netherlands. I was doing a lot of research about S. Africans living abroad and saw something she had published on YouTube and a book she had written about Apartheid. I contacted her to congratulate her on her work. Then one day she contacted me to suggest we meet for coffee, as she just happened to be travelling to the Netherlands – for the training of IPM trainers Chris and Megan by Dutch organisation Wjis Weerbaar.

What she was doing made sense to me. But it was only when I got back to S. Africa and got settled that I realised I was ready to do something with IPM and so I got back in touch with Monica.

S: What is your role within the organisation?

R: My role is to coordinate IPM’s work in South Africa. It’s a great responsibility.

Randall with some of the Prevention Workers

I need to get things done, see results. A great part of my work is making the context and breaking ground; putting structures in place; contacting schools and getting a programme established. The idea is to build a solid foundation.

I also help with the Training of Trainers or Prevention Workers as we call them. Peer trainers too. That’s the 1st level.

Then we have to identify good workers to continue the organisation’s work. Recruiting the right people is important. And something else I’m supposed to do is external relations – making sure local authorities know about us and buy into the vision.

Unfortunately, there is not enough time to do this part, even though it’s essential. We are a small organisation with a big impact! We are all on stipends and so don’t have the resources to do everything we want.

The authorities love the programme and see the changes in the schools but it’s frustrating that it’s difficult to capture prevention work in numbers. I mean it’s not easy to quantify the change that is happening, that is to say, more children being safe. How do you measure the fact that someone who may have become a victim didn’t?

We do see that children who have been victims become emotional when they learn about tools they could have used but didn’t have at the time they became victims.

S: What is happening right now with IPM?

R: Apart from our activities in Cape Town, we have established good working relationships in Nelson Mandela Metropolitan (NMM). We are carrying out training in one high school in a high-risk community – Chatty Secondary School. There we have been hosting and teaching life skills classes as part of the curriculum since February in all grades except 11th and 12th grade (the last 2 grades). This has been made possible by Susila Dharma.

As well as this, we are doing our entire awareness campaign in many schools during assemblies.

What we need to do now is to push for funding of this work by partners like the Department of Education. We need to win a tender or find other ways to finance our work. This is high on my agenda as it is the only way this work will have any continuation. The ideal situation would be to have public sector funding. Or maybe private sector funding via private schools.

Holiday Camp at Cape Town

Our latest activity was participating in a holiday camp for primary school aged children in Cape Town. We were invited by the Department of Basic Education (DoBE) based on our reputation. Monica had already been in contact with the Director of the Department who had expressed a willingness to support the programme as part of the curriculum. However, this did not materialise. There had also been promises about sponsoring which did not come about. But now the DoBE has seen the effectiveness of our programme in schools and contacted IPM with a view to future collaboration.

55 learners took part in the camp, as well as participants from the local police and the DoBE and youth group workers. The camp had an inclusive programme focussed on safe schooling in primary and secondary schools.

It was very moving. During the course of the camp, we discovered that many of the participants – none of whom was older than 13 – had been abused, and at least 15 actually admitted to having tried to kill themselves.

This kind of camp is a chance for them to get a break. They learn how to protect boundaries and get their personal space respected. They learn how to use their voice to say “No”.

S: What does the future hold?

With the pace we are moving … people know about IPM now. Especially in NMM and Cape Town, or at least in the communities we work in, people in church and community groups, families, schools and local authorities are aware of our work.

Now we are well-known, we are on the way to the next important step of getting buy-in from people who can help make this sustainable. The vision of creating a safe South Africa for all its children is a big one. We can’t do it alone.

I am passionate about the work of IPM. It has a physical impact on the ground and we can bring real change to people’s lives. IPM is here to stay.

Our spirits are high!

Your donations help Randall, Monica and their local team keep children safe.