By Paul Soti: South African department of arts and culture defines social cohesion as,” the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and society at large, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression among individuals and communities.
In terms of this definition, a community or society is cohesive to the extent that the inequalities, exclusions and disparities based on ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, disability or any other distinctions which engender divisions distrust and conflict are reduced and/or eliminated in a planned and sustained manner.
This, with community members and citizens as active participants, working together for the attainment of shared goals, designed and agreed upon to improve the living conditions for all”. In as good as it may sound, the challenge often is to find meaningful shared community goals however, my view is to create special purpose vehicles (SPVs) in our quest to promote integration between the migrant community, refugees, asylum seekers and the locals. One such vehicle which seems to be working like a well-oiled machine is skills development.
With such alarming statistics as at 2017 SA had 30% jobless individuals and 65% unemployable people, undoubtedly there is much need to tap into the large pool of skills which the migrant community, refugees and asylum seekers possess. Nonetheless, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that with a whopping 65% unemployable people there is no amount of social grant that would take away the despondency in communities thereby dampening the social cohesion and or integration efforts fibre.
As an asylum seeker and a social justice practitioner living in this country I have driven all my efforts towards skills development as a social cohesion and integration tool. I have done an organic farming skill transfer in Adams, soap making in KwaMashu, hair shampoo making in Zwelisha Maoti, hair shampoo in 2 different places in Bhambayi and much recently toilet cleaner making in Lindelani Ntuzuma A hall. In all these efforts I have partnered with the local organisations to champion these causes and I can safely say everywhere we have gone so far; the narrative seems to be changing for the good day by day.
There is however much that remains to be done in terms of social cohesion and integration and it’s sufficing to say no matter how insurmountable the challenge looks we can only achieve living in harmony by taking one bite at a time.