Africa Unite School Club Heritage Day Event 2020

As a country with 11 official languages and a multitude of local and immigrated cultures, South Africa provides a vibrant combination of traditions, forms of expression, knowledge, and history that makes South Africa such a unique country.

Despite this, young people in South Africa remain largely unaware of the characteristics of the different cultures that exist within their country and are instead only exposed to the few cultures that are the most prominent in their home communities. The aftermath of apartheid has left wide divisions between cultures and races in South Africa and furthermore, people have become used to negatively viewing others who are different from them.

On Saturday, the 26th of October, the Africa Unite School Club hosted a virtual Heritage Day Event on Zoom, in which each of the 12 participating schools got assigned a culture that they were asked to research prior to the event. After an initial reluctance to present a culture other than their own, most learners enjoyed researching another culture and gained a new sense of expertise and open mindedness.

On the day, each school gave a presentation on the different aspects that make this culture unique. During these presentations, learners educated their peers and some invited principals and teachers about cultural rituals and customs, language, population size, origins, housing and clothing styles, traditional food and dance, history, religious traditions and much more. Some school clubs beautifully honoured different cultures by reciting their clan names (ukuzithutha) at the beginning of their presentations and some even went as far as teaching the audience some local greetings, which was much appreciated. Each presentation got followed up by a Q&A part, where the audience could ask questions and share feedback.

Here is the list of participating schools and the culture they presented:

1)Ashton Combined School – Ovimbundu

2)Ikusasalentsha High School – IsiXhosa

3)Lamontville High School – SeTswana

4)Fons Luminis Secondary School – Khoisan 

5)Newgate College – Islamic (Muslim)

6)Hector Peterson FET School – Venda

7)Masibambane Secondary School – Shangaan

8)Rosendaal High School – IsiZulu

9)Dr. Nelson Mandela High School – Chewa (Malawi)

10)Portland High School – Ndebele (Zimbabwe)

11)HeideveldSenior School – Kingwana (Congolese)

12)Gardens Commercial High School & Salt River High School – Indian (Hindi)

The goal of this event was to expose youth to cultures other than their own and in doing so, to open their minds and to better their understanding of those who are different from themselves.

Despite a few technical difficulties at the beginning, it was a successful event that helped our learners and the audience increase their cultural awareness and most importantly celebrate South Africa’s diversity.

We thank everyone for participating and hope that next year we can have a live Heritage Day event instead of having to make do with the technical challenges of an online platform.

AUSC Students and participants enjoying the dialogue
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ǃke e꞉ ǀxarra ǁke, “Diverse People Unite”

On the 24th of September 2020, Africa Unite hosted a Heritage Day Event on Zoom to celebrate the various cultures that call South Africa their home. The event gathered community leaders from the wide array of cultures in South Africa to talk about healing. Given the current global COVID pandemic and the South African femicide epidemic, many people joined in to passionately learn and discuss how different cultures heal.

We had the privilege to welcome Dalali Venge (a Tanzanian Human Rights Project Coordinator), Pejamauro Visagie (a Khoe Revivalist), Vedhan Singh (Interfaith Dialogue Advocate & Human Rights Advocate), Nolihle Gama (a Rastafarian, Social & Economic Activist), Dr Solomon Mutua (a Traditional Healer focused on African Cultural Remedies), Philani Sbonelo Biyela, and Wonke Mapeyi.  The dialogue was attended by 33 people and the Q&A session at the end of the event greatly benefited by having this number of passionate people involved in the enlightening discussion.

The purpose of this webinar was to empower people that represent distinct non-western forms of healing. These practices and their benefits are often isolated within their communities and this webinar sought to create an inter-cultural understanding of healing practices so that we as the larger South African community could benefit from the pioneering healing methods of our nation’s cultures.

Our speakers gave valuable insights into their own cultures: Pejamauro Visagie highlighted the lack of representation for Khoe people and the racial injustices resulting from Apartheid’s classification of races. Dalali Venge told the story of COVID in Tanzania and the importance of home remedies (such as the ‘concoctions’), stressed that South Africa has to heal from its femicides epidemic, and fear itself (concerning xenophobia). Vedhan delivered a holistic approach to Hinduism and his presentation on “yoga”, “Ayurveda”, and “Aham Brahmasmi” caught the interest of many attendees. Dr Solomon Mutua emphatically distinguished between chemical & traditional healing and the benefits of the latter by knowing and listening to your body and treating it with certain leaves that bring life. Nolihle Gama was unfortunately cut short due to connectivity but the history of Rastafarian leaders such as Marcus Garvey and defining Rastafarianism as not only a culture/ religion but a liberation movement received a lot of positive attention from the audience. Philani Sbonelo Biyela enthusiastically talked about the history and geography of the Zulu nation and the significance of Shaka Zulu and its various leaders. Wonke Mapeyi presented on the Xhosa nation and highlighted the importance of tradition, whether that be placing ancestors through clan names or relying on Xhosa healing: through Umhlonyane, or the advice of people who have the position of being healers in the Xhosa nation.

Outcomes

The Q&A session was a great measure of outcomes as the participants were able to engage with the speakers and add their context and experience to the event. Pejamauro Visagie placed the discussion back on gender by asking about the role of female leadership in the Zulu dynasty and the importance of the activism surrounding true historical context with examples such as Queen Nzinga of Angola during the Portuguese colonial age. Multiple participants responded: Melusi Mahlaba stated that men do lead to much in Zulu culture and that cultural norms disempower women when it comes to leadership. Abongile Nocanda commented that the role of social/ cultural norms is major in determining why women are put in the “backseat” and that we have to go back to the roots of culture and social standards to be able to empower women effectively. She continues saying that we have to teach young women that they do not have to follow traditions and social standards and that we have to instil a sense of independence and realign what achievement means, e.g. marriage =/= success. Bronwyn February supported this by saying that self-discovery is the foundation of culture and understanding.

Londiwe Nkosi engaged Dr Solomon Mutua about practices that we can use to take care of our homes. Dr Mutua stressed that homes are temporary but our bodies are permanent in our lives. We have to take care of our bodies first and foremost by eating in ways that aid our body in being healthy. If the concern is to purify the air in our house, we should rather eat foods that increase the oxygen intake in our bodies. Additionally, Dr Mutua added that we should keep our house clean (i.e. do not congest it with things) and that we should ideally plant fruit trees in our compound that we can eat daily. The topic of tribalism was also a recurring theme in the conversation; however, it was agreed that continuing along this vein and fiving into agitators and misinformation will only serve to degenerate the remainder of social cohesion in South Africa.

Finally, it was highlighted, with much agreement throughout the audience, that pride in your ethnicity/ culture is good but it should not be to the detriment of other people’s culture/ ethnicities. He continued by saying that we need to work towards accurately representing South Africa’s cultures and that we have to push and support organizations that are doing that work to be able to bring about change. He talked about this in the context of promoting underrepresented languages and that we should put pressure on the pan-South African language board to push for language education in our society.

The Africa Unite team would like to thank everyone who made the time to attend the virtual event as well as the speakers who took the time out of their busy schedules to participate and engage with everyone. This provides us with much optimism for the future and lived up to the title of the event.

Please make use of the link below to access the recording of the webinar/dialogue:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JdXNVygiDakd3PwQiU_MPQ2WLpd1uFFU/view?usp=sharing

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AUSC leaders make SELF a priority and reap the rewards

Over the past years, the Africa Unite School club program has noticed a need to not only capacitate our learners in leadership but also act as a support system for the young leaders. Therefore, from November 2019 to early 2020 the School Club team has been working tirelessly curating a psychosocial program pioneering social emotional learning for our club members.

AUSC’s new Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) officially launched in March 2020, just a few days before our annual leadership camp. Nonetheless,  a new virus called COVID-19 was powerful enough to bring the whole world to a standstill – at least on the outside. Deep within however, people were battling with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety and frustration, caused by dark clouds of fear & uncertainty over their heads.

Learners in disadvantaged communities were particularly affected and reached out to Africa Unite for more support. How would you feel if you got told to focus on your academics – while your stomach is empty, your head is buzzing, your phone is out of data, family members are yelling, and the number of GBV cases in your community are on the rise? No easy situation to find yourself in, but for some this is “lockdown” reality…

Hence, the School Club team in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng worked together to  remotely initiate the SELF program.

SELF session participants during the inaugural session.

The program started out as a simple WhatsApp group with the Africa Unite School Club learners and in a week, other learners from our partner school in  different parts of the country  joined the program because they too wanted to learn more about how to deal with the stressors of lockdown and Covid-19.

On the 30th of April, the team introduced weekly SEL sessions on the virtual platform Zoom. During these sessions, the facilitators share basic coping tools, self-reflection exercises and the importance of developing a growth mindset from “I can’t” to “I can”. The participants get to set their own goals, therefore taking charge of their journey towards greater success, greater confidence, and greater kindness. Attendance is free of charge because data costs get covered by the team.

Here is what some learners had to share about their experiences with the SELF group:

Tshepang, 17 years, Hillbrow: Well, I have been having wonderful Zoom sessions with AUSC which actually changed my life and I am so amazed because not only do they change your self esteem but they build you with so much love, wisdom and I want to thank them for actually targeting the young people as we have wisdom and powerful ideas as well. Thank you!

Bradley, 17 years, Delft: The insights I have gained is that I realised I’m not alone in the situations I face and that there is a network of people who face the same troubles as me and with their experiences I learnt how to deal with the curves life throws us…I’ve learnt the reason why people act the way they do and that each and every person has a struggle whether it’s internal or external and for that we also have to be kind. The into questions about my week normally make me feel warmth because I get the opportunity to listen to others and to express or share my weekly adventures.

Khanyo, 16 years, Kraaifontein: The sessions have helped me a lot. They held me with my confidence and trusting myself. The sessions helped me to find myself and know who I am… I know that I can do anything in life and I can be successful too. I just have to work hard and do everything I need to do. Go to school, respect other people and be nice to them, be a positive person in life, support my friends and advise them when they are doing something wrong. 

Ntsikayethu, 16 years, Kraaifontein: I love Africa Unite; the team has been a good support structure. You guys have become our big sisters and brothers that give us good advice. I have actually become more positive about what is happening around me. I try to see the positive in everything, and this has come in handy during the lockdown. Everyone in my family knows that Wednesday is Zoom time and that I don’t want to be disturbed.

Shantell, 17 years, Soweto: Africa unite is making me realize that we don’t have to judge people but we have to help them, doesn’t matter where they are from we just have to help them. Now I am growing up and understand more about helping people. As young people we have creative minds and we just have to use them 💕Africa unite is a blessing to me and my school 💎

Nthandokazi, 16 years, Kraaifontein: This group has not been just a group to me but a platform that made me fall in love with myself more. It made me realise that I’m more important than I ever thought I was. And that my emotions matter. Even if my week is not going well I know Wednesday things will change. I also learnt to motivate myself.

It has been an absolute pleasure to see our young leaders grow in confidence. Seeing the brilliant minds and beautiful hearts that are shining bright when they get the opportunity to express themselves has been absolutely contagious.

Up to this point, the SELF project has no official funding which means we had to limit the number of participants to 15 learners per session. If you want to help us reach more kids, here is a link to our fundraiser: https://gf.me/u/yt2xaa

SELF session participants

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Career Guidance: A Three-Part Webinar Series

Just as the entire world has had to make great adjustments due to the outbreak of COVID19, South Africa is in the midst of their journey restructuring and redesigning their educational approach as COVID 19 continues to create the need for change. The Africa Unite School Club has been a group dedicated to the improvement of the school environment in South Africa for a few years, but their call to action is louder than ever as students enter a completely new school environment.

The Africa Unite School Club is focused on creating strong leaders and motivated students through exposing them to all the wonderful opportunities they have as students in this country. As students in South Africa make their way towards matriculating, the opportunity of higher education through a university or college becomes an option for some, and a dream for many. However, many students do not realize just how possible it is to achieve this dream in South Africa regardless of your socio-economic status as there is limited information on scholarships and various opportunities for Africans abroad shared with learners at school. Even now, with the emergence of COVID-19, there are multiple options, domestic and international, for students to consider regarding higher education. With the correct guidance and exposure to important resources, South African and foreign national students can make their dreams a reality.

Therefore, over the past 3 weeks Africa Unite hosted a three-part webinar series that has been educating and equipping learners with adequate skills and information to prepare them for their  desired career choices, as well as hear from multiple speakers who shared their experiences with higher education and in the work force.

The series started off on the 15th of August 2020 with a presentation from five speakers, Lihle Magodla; a teacher in Kraaifontein Cape Town, Buhlebezwe Siwani; visual artist based in Amsterdam, Thabo Modise; a freelance graphic animator in Cape Town, Leigh-Ann Mdletshe; a financial investment analyst in Cape Town and Tasreeq Ferreira; a Law student at the University of Western Cape. During the session, all five speakers shared information on their respective fields and the various subject choices and degree/diploma required for entering the field in order to introduce the learners to the available possibilities in higher education and in the working force.

In the second session of the webinar series, which was on the 22nd of August 2020, we hosted a Curriculum Vitae (CV) writing workshop facilitated by Human Rights Manager and recruiter Nthati Lesaoana. Ms. Lesaoana explained what a CV is, what to include in it and how to use a CV as a marketing tool. The second part of the session included Teswill Arnold; a brand coordinator at Harambe who wrapped up by educating the learners on various employment-oriented online and offline services and further advised learners on what employers expect from candidates and interview etiquettes.

On the 29th of August 2020 we completed the 3-part series by exposing our learners to various higher education institutions and explored the endless platforms that learners may use to search for funding opportunities of their preferred degree/diploma. We further discussed how the learners may go about searching for funds if they desired to be entrepreneurs. Additionally, the series ended with one of the learners Esther Nkulu, sharing her selected career choice and the possible funding opportunities (although limited) she can apply for as a migrant in South Africa. She concluded by presenting her new CV to her fellow peers which was an activity tasked from the 2nd session.

Overall, the 3-part series was an absolute success and the following outcomes were achieved:

• Learners learnt a broader sphere on available career opportunities across the globe
• Learners were educated on CV writing skills and interview etiquettes which they can not only share with their fellow peers but their family and community members.
• Learners learnt more on the available channels to make use of when searching for employment
• Local and migrant learners got exposed to the available funding opportunities for young people in and out of South Africa

These are the recommendation from our learners:

• The schooling system should provide an in-depth series such as these for all matriculants and grade 11’s in both no/low fee- and fee-paying schools
• The Curriculum Writing workshops should also be provided to unemployed community members.
• The NDP and NSFAS should also investigate creating financial aids inclusive of both local and migrant learners. As migrant learners also need financial assistance for further education.
• There needs to be another session that focuses on sharing more tips on what to expect during university and college interviews

Career guidance webinar poster

Africa Unite would like to thank everyone who took time to be part of this fruitful webinar series and would like to particularly give a big thank you to the guest speakers who did a selfless act by encouraging and motivating the young leaders of tomorrow on shaping their future today.

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“Men2Men” Dialogue

On the 31st of July 2020, the Africa Unite Human Rights teams of Durban and Cape Town hosted an intergenerational, intercultural “Men2Men” webinar/ dialogue session, discussing the most pertinent issues facing South African men, where we missed our mark and how we can attempt to remedy these issues.

The session had Peer Educators participate from Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape as well as a few external participants. We also had the privilege to have speakers, Mr Claif Katsha, a religious and community leader in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, Mr Nkosikhona General Mpungose; a community leader and active citizen from Durban, and Mr Keagan Gertse; a socio-political activist and Africa Unite Peer educator from Wellington in the Western Cape, the dialogue was attended by 15 young and old men coming from different provinces in South Africa.

Our participants engaging in dialogue

The purpose of the webinar was to create a platform where men could openly discuss issues with one another such as Gender-Based Violence, unemployment, mental health and morality.

Our speakers Spoke on challenges faced by young men who grew up in places such as Hanover Park on the Cape Flats as many of them fall prey to gangsterism, drugs & alcoholism was very demoralizing and led to him nearly leaving school at a young age. It was also added that because of growing up in such places and dropping out of school leads to them lacking morals and discipline which something you get if you grew up from a structure at home, without a strong family structure and strong male guidance our communities will continue to fall prey to societal ills and just perpetuate this vicious cycle. They stated that as men we have not just failed to step up in society but rather also failed ourselves, we chose comfort & pleasure over security and growth, and, if we ever seek to break this cycle of violence and poverty, we need to take responsibility for these problems and start mentoring the younger generation to avoid these cycles. We need to look within to solve the problem, we need to get involved at local schools, mentoring and cultivating young men to be functional and robust members of society.

They further, continued on a discussing “Moral regeneration in society”. Stating morality is a key way to restore wholesome leadership in South Africa as we currently live in a “broken society, led by broken men” and that this lays at the centre of many societal ills, we emulate what we see around us.  African families, tend to raise genders differently, we raise males to be entitled, as they are given everything and elevated in the family, this then translates to the entitlement we see in society, we fail to teach them how to handle rejection and this often translates violently. We, in turn, raise female children to be more docile and submissive, this should change, and we should change.  We should not just throw around the Zulu term “Indoda” (Man, colloquially used to address a leader or elder) loosely, young men especially should earn this type of title and should only be bestowed if one is deserving of such a title through his actions and character.

Moreover; religious leaders should be at the forefront of moral regeneration just as they were at the forefront of the struggle for freedom during the 20th century, regardless of the religious affiliation of those around them. The vital question that we need to ask ourselves as we continued is; what do we define as a man? Is it a heterosexual male, can homosexual and bisexual males also be included in this definition? One of our speakers mentioned that he strongly feels that it is accepted on a surface level in society but in reality, non-heterosexual males are often excluded from the definition of a man. He remarks that the structures that we use to define our lives or provide guidance (culture & religion) albeit important are proving too rigid for the current flow of society and definitions and structures should be relooked and reformed to be more inclusive and more flexible. They concluded by stating that we need to review these structures, so we can start understanding one another that we can start creating more of an understanding with the older generation, thus we can start spotting the root causes of these societal ills and break the cycle of violence, bigotry and misunderstanding.

Outcomes

As the dialogue continued the participants also contributed by to what had already been shared;

The first contribution was a question on why it was necessary to fight issues like GBV & unemployment during a global pandemic? In these crying times, we have women in our immediate spheres of influence that look to us for protection and guidance and we shouldn’t allow a pandemic to hold us back for fighting for what is right and Just.

Also, it was noted that we should not forget the role mental health plays in all of this and that we should start cultivating a spirit of dialogue with young men to express their emotions instead of allowing them to bottle it up which in turn leads to violent behavior, however, young women should also be encouraged to speak up if things are bothering them and not to shy away from this, civil society should lobby that more psychologists and social workers be employed in schools to fight this scourge of mental health issues.

One of the participants believes that an underrated tool in combatting these issues is interfaith, intercultural and intergenerational dialogue and mobilization. He feels that creating better understanding and committing to mobilization across the board will be a key tool in the war to be waged against these societal ills, he also believes that this pandemic has proven that the older guard or leadership should start handing over the baton of leadership.

Furthermore, it was stated that this concept of men civilly speaking to men excites and it very interesting. In conclusion, it was noted that it would be great to have engagements as today’s’ one continuing to grow because we need to get a full rounded perspective of the issues that hinder our progress as a State and as a people.

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Singamakhalipha continues its fight against Covid 19 through handing out hand sanitizers to underprivileged communities in Gugulethu

On Wednesday 22 July 2020, the Africa Unite Singamakhalipha team went out to the Europe informal settlement in Gugulethu to hand over hand sanitizers to the people living in the community. In the event, we had community members and leaders, chairperson of the leading committee, Mr. Dyasi Boneka, and secretary Asanda Bikwe. We have conducted the event outside the community hall. They have assisted us in the distribution of the sanitizers and making sure that regulations are maintained and that there was an order or members who were repeating on the taking the items as it was hard to identify when one is the same person since people had masks on. It was easy for them to identify as they were familiar with members of the community.

The aim was to conduct an awareness of the importance of sanitizing hands and how that will benefit one from protecting the spread of the coronavirus. To give the community members access to sanitizers which can often be inaccessible to some people living in disadvantaged communities.  In that way, they had an opportunity to experience or experiment with the use of the hand sanitizer and how effortless it is and saves water. To provide an awareness while they were queuing for their turn to access the sanitizer.

Children waiting in line to receive sanitizers and information on the drive

The facilitators engaged with community members in discussion while they were in ques to access the sanitizer where they addressed the myths and false information regarding the COVID-19. One of the facilitators randomly asked the members about their knowledge on the Covid-19 and to others about regulations. One of the members shared that for him, he does not believe that it does exist as much as they claim an increase of numbers, he does not have any person that close or he knows who had the virus. Other does not get why they should stay at home will protect them from getting the virus. They appreciated the access of sanitizer as they believe that washing the hands as a source of protection.

We managed to reach out to both the adults and children, we started with the school children aged 7 to 18 as at first were the majority which was organized by the community leaders. Later on, adults joined in and this resulted in the facilitators to split into two teams serving both the adults and children.

Residents receiving sanitizers from our team

When we arrived in the community, we were met by some of the leaders of the community at the local hall, where some children were already eagerly waiting for us to arrive. At first, we introduced ourselves to one of the leaders, who told us that there are mostly children around as the adults are at work. We then proceeded to hand out sanitizers to the children who were between the ages of 7-18, as we were handing these sanitizers to the children, we noticed an increasing number of adults appearing, this resulted in us having to split into two teams, one to continue handing out sanitizers to the children and one to see to the adults. Due to the increase in the number of adults, we had to limit the children’s line to the age group 12 -17, this caused some adults to become disgruntled, as they felt some of their children didn’t benefit from this handout, this issue was swiftly dealt with by the team and we continued our work unhindered.

Residents ready to receive sanitizers

By the end of the hour we spent in the community, more than 300 people benefited from the handing out of these sanitizers and we managed to help keep more hands germ and virus free. We hope we can continue to help keep our community’s virus free and sanitized, to help combat the spread and continue to maintain good relations with the people living in these communities.

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Religion and COVID19: Faith leaders unite against acts of persecution

In the spirit of Madiba and his vision to spread social justice and freedom for all, religious leaders from Southern Africa came together to engage in an ‘Interfaith Webinar against Religious Oppression’ on Mandela Day. Panellists from South Africa, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe condemned acts of persecution and discrimination against minority religious groups such as South Korea’s Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which has been accused of intentionally spreading the COVID 19 in February 2020 in South Korea.

Chairperson of Council for African Traditional Religion, Dr Nokuzola Mndende shared that, “As all the constitutions from our respective countries speak of the right to life, which is a right for everybody, our governments would put all political class and religious boundaries aside. We are all facing one enemy, which is Covid-19. Freedom of religion and freedom of belief should not be on paper only; it should be implemented if we are talking about democracy”.  She also brought up the interesting fact that although we celebrate the late Tata Mandela, he brought together different religions, yet the African Traditional Religion still stands marginalized and oppressed in South Africa to date.

With Yashika Singh, the SABC’s Head of Religion sharing the synopsis of the current state of religion in the continent, the panellist’s spotlighted the ongoing persecution of the fellow religious leader, and founder of South Korean church, Shincheonji, Man Hee Lee. The leaders shed light on the importance of protecting universal rights and freedoms and jointly spoke against the unlawful and dehumanizing actions of the religious community and the Government of Korea.

Recent developments in an ongoing court case against the religious group have led to an $82 million lawsuit, arrests of five church officials, and an impending probe from the State prosecutor.

 “Chairman Lee has worked so hard against coercive conversion, preventing people from freely participating their religion of choice as mentioned in the UN Charter Article 18, Freedom of Religion. We cannot close HWPL or Shincheonji. This Mandela Day, I say ‘we are one”’, Reverend Tsine from the Indigenous Christian Churches in Zimbabwe.

Imam Salieg Isaacs added, “Nelson Mandela taught us to take care of each other regardless of whether they were a Jew or a Muslim or a Christian. We want to condemn any kind of persecution because of religion from all around the world.”

The event concluded with a joint statement from the religious leaders. In the statement, they committed to support Chairman Lee’s noble peace work, to stand in solidarity against the oppression of minority religious groups, and to condemn all acts of human rights violations, persecution, and discrimination against Chairman Lee’s church, Shincheonji and other minority groups worldwide. The joint statement was addressed to their respective governments and the government of South Korea, other religious leaders, and the global community.

The event drew over 600 online viewers and, was hosted by the Heavenly Culture World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) an international peace organization that has actively worked to promote inter-religious harmony through hosting monthly dialogue of scriptures. One of Africa Unite’s members, Brilliant Nyambi, had the privilege of going to South Korea to attend the 2018 World Peace Summit hosted by HWPL. It is there were Africa Unite learnt more information about the amazing peace work done by HWPL. Through the leadership of the chairman, HWPL drafted the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War (DPCW) and as engaged in many projects worldwide for the purpose of achieving world peace. In the African continental level, HWPL and IPYG are engaging with the African Union’s flagship project of Silencing the Guns to promote peace and they continue to work in the African Union Youth 4 Peace Programme to promote the role of youth in Africa’s peace processes. Africa Unite has collaborated in various occasions with IPYG and has produced many meaningful and impactful collaborative dialogues, community engagements and workshops which have allowed for many young people to critically think of the role in promoting peace in their various communities.

Panelists:

  1. Hajj Abdulmalik Sekhonyana Molapo, President of Supreme Council Islamic Affairs in Lesotho
  2. Dr Nokuzola Mndende, President and founder of Icamagu Spirituality; Chairperson of Council for African Traditional Religion.
  3. Mr Pravesh Gangaram Hurdeen Singh, President of the World Hindu Foundation South Africa
  4. Reverend Mathias Tsine, Secretary General of the Indigenous Christian Churches in Zimbabwe
  5. Imam Salieg Isaacs, Coordinator at the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative also representative on behalf of the Muslim Judicial Council
  6. Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, known as the travelling Rabbi, Spiritual Leader and CEO of the African Jewish Congress, and African Regional Director of the Commonwealth Jewish Council
Interfaith Speakers list

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Human Rights & COVID-19: “The good, the bad and the way forward.”

On June 27th 2020, the Africa Unite Human rights teams based in Cape Town and Durban organised Africa Unites first-ever joint information session via the video calling application Google Meet for Africa Unite Peer educators, to discuss the effects of Human rights & COVID-19.

The objectives of the session were among others to: discuss Human Rights abuses during the lockdown, Resource deployment and intervention by the State and NGO’s, Why Human Rights education is important, What Africa Unite has done, interventions and education campaigns, Time to imagine the “new normal”, What we can do in our capacity to curb the spread and continue to raise HR awareness.

The meeting started at noon and was moderated by Mr Lyle Breda, a project coordinator for Africa Unite.

Lyle Breda, began proceedings by encouraging introductions, and provided global political, economic, and social context to the COVID-19 pandemic. He then introduced the first speaker, Melusi Mahlaba, a team leader for Africa Unite Durban.

Mr Melusi Mahlaba, discussed the fundamental principles of Human rights that include their universality and inalienability. He spoke to the importance of education of human rights to all people for injustices to be noted and acted upon. The exercise of an individual’s rights shall be responsible by not violating others’ rights. He highlighted the significance of shared responsibility by referring to the video of George Floyd which violated his and his family’s right to privacy. We must know our rights and exercise them accordingly. Lastly, he noted that skills sharing is in demand.

Mazeeda Karani, a peer educator at Africa Unite and Lyle, discussed the inequality in the governance system that has been highlighted during the pandemic. They agreed there are gaps in who the government is serving. Mazeeda also pointed out that statistically, only 35% of all South Africans between 18 – 24 years old approved of lockdown regulations, pointing out a growing apathy towards governance structures and a general mistrust for authority. Lyle posed the question as to why the government was acting on certain issues (providing shelter for homeless people, creating field hospitals, and rationing food parcels) now, if they could do so pre-COVID-19.

Thierry Nimale, an Africa Unite Peer educator, pointed out that social relief measures were not made available to migrants, and that the community is continually being ignored by the State, this was supported by Dalali Venge, an Africa Unite exchange fellow from Tanzania, which prompted Africa Unite to start a skill-sharing program for migrants living in temporary shelters and on the streets of Cape Town.

The interventions by Africa Unite during COVID-19 were discussed. Through interventions, Human rights education is transferred to the communities and Africa Unite aims to reach more communities every year. Some of these interventions are: The disbursement of educational materials through infographics via multiple platforms and skills development. As mentioned above, AU assisted Dalali Venge in the training of migrant women to make hand-made face masks for their communities. Melusi explained that unemployment is currently the largest issue that affects human rights amongst the youth in South Africa. He strongly believes that the skill-sharing sessions should continue post-pandemic as the engagement between foreign nationals and locals stimulates business and social cohesion. 

Round table

Lyle encouraged the discussion by illustrating examples of interventions implemented by the government. Homeless people were removed from the streets and relocated to shelters arranged by the government. Their intentions can be questioned as they demonstrated their capability to intervene. Could the government have taken action before the pandemic, and if so, why do they implement them now? Lyle perceives it as an opportunity to remove the homeless from the city and leave them there. He asked the participants their opinions on the interventions in their area.
Keagen Gertse commented on the South African debt crisis, current societal congruence to the Apartheid era, and the elite political minority who disproportionately benefit from bad policies. He asked what South Africa was doing as a society to move forward? He claimed not enough was being done, and in fact, the Constitution is not a valid document anymore. He suggested the way to change is from the bottom up and promoting inclusive legislation. “Fundamental issues in society all start with systemized suppression. A fundamental solution is that we need to start address inequalities stated in the constitution.”

Wonke Mapeyi brought up many points. He spoke about the individual’s responsibility to make the change and that true power starts in the community (i.e. street committees). As an organization a lot can be achieved through programs, however, it is the communities that need to take it to the next level. He also discussed the importance of having a linkage between the communities, the government and legislation. Lastly, he spoke about the need to create development and opportunities for the people. Lastly, he pointed out that as civil society and individuals we should not be reactive to negative social issues like Gender-Based violence, which he stated was like fighting another pandemic, but rather we should be proactive in fighting societal scourges to reshape the current social fabric.

Interns, Brooke Stellman and Sammy Feller, added comments about human rights in the US and Netherlands. Brooke and Sam echoed the same sentiments about unemployment benefits that their respective governments have provisioned. Brooke noted that Black people have also been disproportionately affected in terms of healthcare amid the coronavirus pandemic. Sam noted that nurses were already demonstrating for their salary’s months before the pandemic which the government disregarded. It took a global pandemic to finally receive compensation for their hard work.

Way Forward

As the session pulled to a close, Lyle asked the participants to dare to imagine a “new normal” and whether this will be a positive or a negative.

Wonke Mapeyi, says the new normal is a positive, that changes can be done now and young people can enact the agenda they want. The youth needs to be more proactive in public policy to facilitate policy change.

Mazeeda Karani voiced her recommendation of teaching transferable skills. Community interventions need a broader outlook about future consequences. This sentiment was supported by all present.

Keagen Gertse agrees skills need to be developed using existing structures that will help communities in the long run. Basics of skills is necessary to construct a society. He also discussed the need for more interventions from the private sector as they have more resources to their disposal. A framework can be created in which private institutions provide a certain number of skillsets stimulating mass skill development. We need to build a central ground for the private sector to the communities.    

The session then came to a close, Lyle thanked all of the speakers and participants, a word of thanks was also given by the speakers. The overall tone of the session remained optimistic and fruitful until the end. All participants were resolute that, skills sharing with a hint of Human Rights relief will be a major step in the right direction.

For more information, please contact,

Nthati Lesaoana, Human Rights Manager.

Nthati@africaunite.org.za

+2776 460 4331

Lyle Breda, Project coordinator

lyle@africaunite.org.za

+2761 268 0202

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BUILDING RESILIENCE THROUGH COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS POST PANDEMIC

On the 27th of June 2020, the Africa Unite School Club (AUSC) hosted a webinar session on “building resilience through collaborative efforts post-pandemic”. The session had participants from our AUSC members and alumni’s who are matriculants this year. We also had the privilege to have speakers, Ms Sive Mama; an educator, Ms Busiswa Dlamini; a health practitioner, and Ms Xena Scullard; a socio-political activist, who all shared more on how the pandemic has impacted their respective fields and how they have adjusted to our new normality.

The purpose of the webinar was to create a  platform where learners and school teachers can give feedback and elaborate on their experiences during the first month of schools reopening in South Africa. Likewise, the webinar allowed learners and educators to share recommendations on what could be a way forward given the current situation in South Africa, this included measures which could be taken post-pandemic.

The school learners and the educators noted the rise of people testing positive for COVID-19 in schools across the country as a major concern. One of the recommendations made by the learners was for parents to take action against schools reopening. They further discussed how it is extremely difficult for people to adopt a new set of behaviours as they now need to restructure their understanding and engagement with their schooling environment.

One of the speakers; Ms Scullard, shared insight on how inequalities and violence against women has increased during the lockdown, and that gang violence has also increased which is a great concern for society. She further stated that in order for everyone to be educated on the pandemic, we must start normalising discussions on COVID-19 in our homes and communities.

Additionally, other suggestions that were raised in the session regarding COVID-19 were:

  1. There has been much stress on how learners are conducting themselves at school during this pandemic, however the government should elaborate on regulations on how educators and staff conduct themselves. E.g. do they have appropriate PPE’s in place? Are they adequately exercising social distancing in the staff rooms? Do they have their own dusters and chalks at school to limit sharing of resources etc. 
  2. There needs to be more emphasis on parent’s involvement on academia.
  3. There needs to be contingencies to enable government’s educational platforms to be accessible without internet connectivity

Overall the webinar was very fruitful and sparked great engagement within our youth, we would like to thank all our speakers for the valuable input they provided and hope to have more sessions like these over the upcoming months as the learners have very much enjoyed the exchange of different perspectives.

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Youth and Africa Day in South Africa

By Cresencia Nyathi, Africa Unite Peer Educator

With lockdown in place, Africa Unite virtually joined other Africans around the continent and the world and commemorated Africa Day on the 25th of May which marked the historic establishment of the Organization of the African Unity in 1963 in form of a dialogue. The youth dialogue was aimed at unearthing what Africa Day mean to young people in South Africa, understanding the role the youth can play in creating African unity and identity at a political, economic and social level guided by the goals of Agenda 2063. Regionally, Africa Day 2020 was commemorated under the banner, “Silencing the guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa.”

Succinctly, the 25th May has been celebrated widely across the world particularly in Africa to signify Africa’s identity and unity. The African Union (AU) is a key driver of Agenda 2063 which is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of our continent. Agenda 2063 seeks to realise the African people’s aspirations for sustainable growth and development across Africa. The dialogue unmasked certain knowledge gaps that exist amongst South African youth about Africa Day. The participants made acknowledgements that they never knew that there was Africa Day until they participated in Africa Unite’s programmes. The following responses were made by the participants during the dialogue which revealed the knowledge gaps about the Africa Day amongst young people in South Africa:

“I have come across young people in SA who do not know that there is Africa Day.”

“I didn’t know that there was Africa Day before I joined Africa Unite in 2017.”

“I heard about it last year (2019), I was shocked that I am so uninformed about this day.”

With the knowledge gap of the existence of the day, it poses serious challenges to young people to even commemorate the day. Moreover, some felt that the continuous scapegoating of foreign nationals and hatred amongst each other as Africans made it challenging to commemorate the day. As one of the participants explained that they do not celebrate the day because of the following reasons:

“Because there is lost meaning of the day through how we treat each other here in South Africa.”

“I have never celebrated the day; through social engagement, I have come to know the day and it’s not even recognized in South Africa dismissing its significance.”

From the above comments by the participants, the violent history of South Africa against African nationals has contributed to young people to take part in violence labelled as “xenophobic” which led participants that there was too much hate amongst the Africans. Therefore, such poses a threat to African unity. Moreover, some citizens believe that high levels of unemployment and adverse poverty lines could be attributed to continuous inflows of immigrants from neighbouring African countries and therefore using such excuses as a scapegoat.

Young people have a responsibility of standing what is morally right as one participant raised that youth can contribute and achieve Agenda 2063 by fighting bad practices to build a better Africa for everyone. The key lies in young people taking initiatives in building moral cultures that feed into the aims and objectives of Agenda 2063. On the other hand, young people need to know the African continent as one participant highlighted that:

“We need to be educated, familiarize ourselves with African history and become African ambassadors…”

“…young people must be taught the notion of Ubuntu and practice it as this spirit of Ubuntu is living within us as Africans…”

One of the major concerns raised during the dialogue was that South Africans do not identify themselves with Africa which was a big blow towards achieving Agenda 2063. In the words of one of the participants:

“…a lot needs to be done in educating youth about Africa. Often, we as South Africans do not identify as being part of the African continent as we refer our brothers and sisters from other parts of Africa as foreigners whilst we call people from the West as tourists. This starts in our homes, how we speak and refer to that African brother who is running a tuckshop that provides us with our daily necessities. We as youth must change the narrative, we have no excuse of our ignorance as we have social media and internet at our disposal. Before we endeavour to become global citizens, let us take pride in being Africans.”

Youth are frequently condemned by media and society as violent and trouble makers, but by training and then engaging youth in promoting nonviolence they have great potential to promote peace. It cannot be denied that youth are both victims and perpetrators of xenophobic violence; victims as being affected by structural violence, witnesses to violence at home and within communities; perpetrators as they can then become violent themselves. However, youth must be put at the centre of driving the Africa we want. Moreover, youth are an important human resource in driving social change and have the potential to contribute significantly to African unity and development.

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