In a society where divisions are rife and people have no idea of what social cohesion entails, Democracy Development Program together with the Durban University of Technology and Peace Oasis International have embarked on a journey of bringing different stakeholders together to dissect underlying societal issues.

By: Lizeka Maduna 

During its second day, the International Social Cohesion Conference saw different groups coming together with issues of concern from their respective communities, and possible solutions.

In a society where social cohesion can mean different things to different people due to the nature of the environment they live in, in his presentation, Professor Ashwin Desai highlighted the importance of context when discussing issues.

Race among other things has been a core divider of the South African community, however, during the breakaway session at the conference arose numerous other drivers of division. Class, culture, power, and poverty were among identified issues that set people and communities apart.

A panelist was formed during the proceedings, where a number of panel members from different walks of life shared their lived personal experiences and those relating to their communities.

Meanwhile the issue of class was identified as one divider of communities, Jennifer Boyce of Mariannridge said if the country is to move forward and become socially cohesive it has to start with individuals.

“As we move forward we need to work deeply within oneself in order to disrupt privilege and power,” Boyce said.

Referring to the issue of migration and xenophobia, Daniel Dunia of ASONET said social cohesion was impossible without tackling the core drivers that create an unequal and unjust society.

“It's hard to discuss and address the issue of Xenophobia and migration if poverty is not addressed. When there's no service delivery people protest and loot from foreign owned shops.

“How does one loot from the same foreigner who is accused of selling poisoned and fake food, and go eat it? Poverty plays a role,” Dunia said.

After identifying and outlining all the underlying issues, participants proposed possible solutions.

Professor Kaye of the Durban University of Technology said it was important for society members to identify each other as human beings.

“As we move forward we are moving as a world that is one and need to start dealing with each other as human beings first,” she said.

Dr Rama Naidoo of DDP encouraged people not to end conversations around pertinent issues only in spaces where platform is provided. He emphasized the importance of disrupting from all circles including communities.


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