I. The ERA Initiative
The Easy Reading for Adults (ERA) Initiative was established within the Zenex Adult Literacy Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1991 after an initial working party convened by Edward French in November 1989.
Beulah was appointed Literacy Innovator and was responsible for overseeing the production of the ERA Catalogue, the ERA African Languages Series at 4 ABET Levels, the ERA Book Box, a portable adult literacy library, an adult literacy supplement in City Press newspaper called Reading Press and the ERA Book Spaza.
These projects and more came about to fulfil ERA’s mission to create an environment where reading is encouraged by supporting the production and dissemination of easy reading material for adults.
ERA was blessed to have an exceedingly talented and dedicated founding committee consisting of Edward French, Denise Diamond, Ione Burke, Joan Bevan, Brenda Eisenberg, Kate Hammond, Tracy Shelly, Andrew van Zyl and the late Peter Esterhuysen and Ernest Arnold (Ari) amongst others. Staffer Botlhale Nong also made an invaluable contribution to ERA’s growth.
From 1996 to 2001 the ERA Initiative Trust was reconstituted as an independent Education Trust retaining the original Steering Committee with Trustees Mary Anne Bahr, Chimene Chetty and Beulah.
II. BTA Short Story Competition
In its first incarnation this short story competition was run under the auspices of the ERA Initiative as the ERA short story competition in all South African languages and was sponsored by Sales House Club, the in-house magazine of the then Edgars group. Later, it morphed into the BTA/Anglo Platinum short story competition when it was funded by the latter for a period of nine years.
It was always a unique and special competition as it did not penalise writers for not writing perfect grammar. It understood that storytellers have exciting fiction inside them and it never wanted the hegemony of (perfect) English to stand in the way of their expression.
It ran for a total of 18 years growing into the most lucrative competition on the continent, drawing tens of thousands of stories into the judging process during this time.
Download a PDF of the keynote address by former Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Mosibudi Mangena at the BTA Anglo Platinum Short Story Competition, 2007.
III Men’s Writing Challenge
Beulah launched the Men’s Writing Challenge on 5th February 2016, to test the power of social media combined with active citizenry in the sphere of encouraging and promoting writing. Having attended a meeting in January at WomenZone in Artscape, Cape Town to plan activities in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the August 9th 1956 women’s march, Beulah left wondering whether there might be a way to include the voices of men in the celebrations planned for the year.
Getting men to write about the women in their lives was extoled as an interesting way of linking a deeper exploration by men with what, for example, the South African women’s march meant to them and the impact of women in their lives. Cornerstone Institute in Salt River incorporated an additional launch event into their popular monthly dialogue series which 20 people attended on April 5th. BREAKING THE SILENCE – Panel discussion and Prize-giving event at Cornerstone Institute followed the August commemoration, providing men with a unique opportunity to share their multiple struggles and triumphs. Now it’s time to pass the baton…
Download Breaking the Silence to read a summary of what men wrote about.