In June 2011 ten teenage girls from Khayelitsha, in foster care, joined a group of girls from Heideveld and Nyanga for the Music for Life programme. The girls knew one another from previous musical events, but this meeting was different – it would take the shape of a forum for sharing personal concerns.
There was little energy in the room during the first group session. Before, girls were meeting on musical terms. Now – on their own initiative – they were here to air and discuss personal concerns and issues. Issues such as teenage pregnancy. But the room was quiet.
Narrative therapist and MusicWorks facilitator, Thérèse Hulme, put forward the question: “What should we be talking about instead, then?”
It was as if the question ignited a fire. From around the circle, girls literally cried out about being constantly put down and criticised in their communities. One girl said everyone expected the worst from them. Someone remarked that if everyone thought you would get pregnant, you might as well get pregnant because it was expected anyway. “Yes, yes, it’s just like that,” others were cheering her on. “We’re not good enough,” they all agreed.
This prompted the question: “Is there anyone in your life that would be able to tell a ‘good enough’ story about you?”
Three girls volunteered stories, and their exact words were recorded and later played back to them with a suggestion: to write their words to song and to record themselves performing it.
“Nosi, it will not keep you down. You are a strong woman!”
Nosi told of her cousin who was someone who always believed in her; the first person she had told about her experiences of verbal and emotional abuse. The first person to tell her, “Nosi, it will not keep you down. You are a strong woman!”
In similar conversations, Asonele, Unathi and Pumla all identified their foster mother, Mama Beaullah Mayekiso, as the person who would be able to tell “good enough stories” about them. Using Mama Beaullah’s words, they wrote and performed their songs.
The ‘Being Good Enough’ stories and songs were presented at the 11th International Narrative Therapy and Community Work Conference in Adelaide, Australia in March 2013. Delegates at the conference were moved and inspired to action, and to begin similar initiatives with young people in Australia. Nosi, Mama Beaullah and the girls were thrilled to receive letters from the other side of the globe, praising their strength and complimenting their songs.
*MusicWorks has been given permission by the young people and their guardians to share their story.
Narrative therapist: Therese Hulme
Music therapist and recordings: Jo Edgar