20 June 2015
UWC Youth Indaba 2015

Third Annual Youth Indaba at the University of the Western Cape

South African youth finding solutions to their own everyday challenges - that was the aim when teens from disadvantaged communities in and around Cape Town gathered for the third annual Youth Indaba at UWC on Saturday, 20 June 2015.

700 teenagers from in and around Cape Town gathered to explore solutions to social and community issues at the third annual Youth Indaba at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on 20 June 2015.

The event drew youth from 27 different areas, from as far afield as Eerste River in the Northern Suburbs to Ocean view near Hout Bay.

The Youth Indaba, a collaboration between UWC’s HIV & AIDS Programme and the City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Directorate, aims to help participating youth unpack the issues facing their respective neighbourhoods, and broader challenges facing young people as a whole.

“The objective is to look at how we can equip and empower them to make a sustainable difference in their own communities. There’s no point in giving money and resources to individuals who do not have the understanding to know what to do with it,” she explained.

“In the end, we want to help them implement a programme that will empower them and give them a platform to bring about change in their streets.”

Youngsters like Saudieka Galdien (14) from Lavender Hill said she needed to look no further than her own street to find young people whose lives have been destroyed by drugs.

“It changes people, just like that,” she said with a click of her fingers. “Friends and classmates who were once smart and ambitious now walk around in a daze, thinking only of scoring their next hit. It makes me scared.”

She believes youth programmes focused on the arts and skills development are needed, especially in poorer communities.

“If youngsters see there are more positive ways to make you feel good, they won’t need drugs in the first place. There are so many talented and creative people living in my community who will never get the opportunity to show off what they are good at. This needs to be fixed,” she said.

As part of the programme, youngsters formed part of the Life Skills Healthy Living Photo-Voice Project facilitated by senior UWC students who acted as peer educators under the supervision of the City of Cape Town and UWN HIV and AIDS programme staff.

At these sessions, which took place prior to the Indaba, participants were encouraged to engage on the key social issues in their respective communities and to capture them using the basic photographic skills taught to them during the programme.

In this way, youth like Ludwe Mjindi (17) from Gugulethu could capture substance abuse - a major hurdle in her hometown. She said this issue goes hand in hand with the gangsterism issue plaguing her community.

“Young people are running around with guns and hurting others to fit in,” she said.

“Education is needed to help those who chose the wrong path. Many young people drop out of school and become gangsters, addicts and criminals because they don’t have better options. I believe that if special projects are run to help those without proper schooling, we can turn many of their lives around.”

Fatima Jenkins (14) from Ocean View agreed that one bad choice can change the course of a person’s life.

“In my community, teenage pregnancy is a big issue. You see girls as young as 13 walking with swollen bellies. It’s sad because we are still children ourselves,” she said.

“Girls need to realise there is more to life than boys and sex. Boys’ lives aren’t messed up because of one accident. The girl is the one sitting with the baby. Young women have to learn the importance of abstinence or contraception so that they can finish their schooling and fulfil their dreams.”

While they live on opposite ends of the city, the problems facing the various communities are often the same, said the City of Cape Town’s youth programme director, Abigail Jacobs-Williams.

“Through this project they can share experiences and come up with positive solutions and practical things that they can do to combat some of the social ills. It’s a platform for them to engage  with and learn from others their own age to help empower themselves.”