The anti-blesser campaign was introduced by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi three months ago. Its aim is to keep girls in schools and wean them off so-called “sugar daddies”.
The department, with the help of international donors and other government departments, is hoping to put R3 billion towards the campaign.
CapeTalk/702's Koketso Sachane spoke to Juliane Hoss, One Young World Ambassador and co-founder of Bridges Camp about the campaign and the research she conducted in Thembisa, as part of her Masters thesis. It focused on assessing the main challenges facing high school girls in the area.
Hoss says young girls are in a vulnerable position in an area with enormous socio economic challenges and much poverty. She welcomes the campaign as a necessary step that will help support these young girls.
However, Hoss says that people do not fully understand the phenomenon of the so called blessers and the young girls they become involved with. There are many different reasons that girls become involved in these relationships.
What bothers me most about this campaign and how it was introduced, is that we completely seem to shut out the perception of the girls we are actually talking about. We all seem to be ignorant to the actual intentions and opinions of the so called sugar daddies.— Juliane Hoss, One Young World Ambassador and co-founder of Bridges Camp
So we speak of the phenomenon that I feel we haven't fully understand, that's what we need to address— Juliane Hoss, One Young World Ambassador and co-founder of Bridges Camp
Hoss says she is also concerned that the campaign is focused on the high HIV/AIDS infection rate, and not on the bigger picture of gender inequality which could be the contributor to the problem.
While conducting research at a school in Thembisa, Hoss says each girl she spoke to talked about sugar daddies.
The girls in Grade 8-9, they seem to speak with more wisdom and humility about the phenomenon because they acknowledge the diversity among the girls that date sugar daddies ... and they emphasise that there are different reasons why girls date sugar daddies. I find that really mature.— Juliane Hoss, One Young World Ambassador and co-founder of Bridges Camp
She says she found that peer pressure is the main culprit behind these practices. When girls move to high school there is certain pressure to change and adopt a new identity.
They either focus on their books and schoolwork, or start going out with men, and that's when they find themselves in a vulnerable position.
No one prepares them on what to expect at the clubs... because we don't allow such behaviors therefore we don't talk to them about it— Juliane Hoss, One Young World Ambassador and co-founder of Bridges Camp
Parents in poverty stricken areas are sometimes involved in encouraging their teenage daughters to enter into these imbalanced power relations, as it brings money into the home.
Listen to the full conversation below: