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Advancing Social Work Praxis: Uniting Communities to Tackle Adversity, Vulnerability, and Trauma

Alena Sherman's picture

Written by Dr Poppy Masinga, President of the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI)

Providing support to children in South AfricaSouth Africa continues to experience unprecedented weather patterns that place members of society at more risk than they already are due to unabating historical inequalities and injustices linked with colonisation and apartheid. Moreover, the global community is also grappling with complex socio-economic, political, religious, and environmental challenges, which directly and indirectly impact South Africa negatively. Hence, the role of the social work profession cannot be overstated. When faced with complex national, regional, and global challenges, social service professionals serve as beacons of hope. With their vast research expertise, social work practice knowledge and skills, they inspire transformation, resilience, empowerment, and hope. Notably, the role of social service professionals in advocating for the rights of the most vulnerable members of society cannot be underestimated.

The current economic decline, including the aftermath of the KwaZulu-Natal 2022 disasters and political insurgency, persistent inequality, injustice, unemployment, poverty, violent crime, and other devastating disasters presents significant challenges to social work and other social service practitioners. Social service professionals face immense pressure, not only related to dealing with the above-mentioned adversities and traumas, but they also have to endure working under challenging conditions and resource constraints. Thus, creating a sustainable future and fostering social, economic, and environmental justice requires collaboration, networking, and partnership across various sectors. These sectors include Government Departments, Non-Governmental and Community Based Organizations, research and academic institutions, civil society, and business sectors.

Moreover, the role of the Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) is crucial in ensuring the country can withstand some of the adversities with a supply of the needed human resources who have relevant skills and competencies. To effectively intervene and address the complex intersecting socio-economic and environmental challenges, social work practitioners need to be well equipped with relevant knowledge, skills and practice techniques to become competent to intervene effectively with these myriads of complex intersecting national, regional and global socio-economic, environmental, political, cultural scourges that continue to place many individuals, families and communities at risk.

They need to graduate with the degree in social work feeling empowered to face the harsh realities of modern-day society. Hence, as ASASWEI, we endeavour to strengthen social work education, research, and practice, by ensuring that social work academics and practice placement supervisors are well equipped to train students and empower them with the knowledge, skills, and techniques to not only serve individuals, families, groups, and communities; but to also challenge unjust and ineffective policies. Moreover, social work training and practice need to emphasize empowering individuals, families, groups, and communities to be self-reliant and self-sustainable.

One way of enhancing social work training and education, research, and practice, is through knowledge production and sharing and networking platforms such as conferences, symposia, and webinars. ASASWEI is proud to be hosting the Bi-annual ASASWEI International Social Work Conference.  The conference's theme, "Advancing Social Work Praxis through Strengthened Multi-Sectoral Responses to Adversity, Vulnerability, and Trauma," is a timely and relevant topic. The 2023 ASASWEI International Social Work Conference aims to provide a platform for networking and building meaningful partnerships for change. This hybrid conference will offer engagement opportunities and shared learning to enhance knowledge and skills related to multi-sectoral responses needed to address the root causes of adversity, vulnerability, and trauma linked to immense socio-economic hardships, environmental disasters, and political instabilities. Our goal is to protect human lives and promote justice and sustainable change.

Mark the Conference dates 27-29 September on your calendar and secure your spot by registering on the ASASWEI. We promise to inspire, enlighten, and transform the field of social work and other related social sciences.

Poppy Msainga








Dr Poppy Masinga is the current President of Association of South African Social Work Education Institutions (ASASWEI) and is the Head of the Social Work and Community Development faculty at the South African College of Applied Psychology (SACAP).