Africa Unite’s mission is to train and equip active young people, so they can, in turn inspire other young people to make positive changes and impacts in society and their communities. One such training is Africa Unite’s annual Human Rights School for Peer Educators, young activists, to support them as they become leaders in their communities. Through the program, peer educators are equipped with knowledge on relevant human rights issues such as migration, access to education, local violence, and several other issues and are taught many skills for bringing change so that they can go back to their respective communities and conduct human rights awareness information sessions for the next year and beyond.
Africa Unite held the annual peer education Human Rights School from March 21-25, 2023, at Goedgedacht in Malmesbury. After going through a rigorous selection process, 15 young people from Southern Africa, from countries including Zimbabwe, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Africa were selected. South African youth from multiple provinces where Africa Unite runs its programs including Kwa Zulu Natal, Gauteng, and the Western Cape were present at the training.
The training was facilitated by five different speakers over five days including two of our Board Members, Chairperson Mr. Vincent Williams, and Dr. Kenneth ‘Ken’ Mutuma. Dr. Ken facilitated a workshop on Conflict Mediation and shared knowledge and skills with peer educators on dealing with conflicts in their communities. Africa Unite’s Director, Mr. Zoe Nkongolo also facilitated a session on Building Human Rights Communities. A Climate Change specialist from the Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), Mr. Andile Zulu, and a researcher at the University of Cape Town’s Migration for Development and Equality (MIDEQ) group, Mr. Yardanos Ersterfanos, lead sessions on Climate Change and Pan Africanism, their importance and how the peer educators can continue to use their current resources and positions in society to make a positive change in their communities. The training equipped the young people with information and actionable skills to tackle climate change, Pan-Africanism, Conflict Mediation, and Building Human Rights and leadership in South Africa.
Highlighting the important role played by young people in their communities, the training gave the new peer educators a platform to learn and share their ideas and some of the challenges they are addressing in their communities. In addition, the facilitators spoke on the importance of young people as rising African leaders and society’s main agents of change and progress. Most of the peer educators noted that the training motivated and equipped them with the relevant skills and knowledge to go back to their communities as agents of change. Some made plans for activities, information sessions, and dialogues they are going to hold.
Mokgadi Matshwi, a social worker at Outreach Foundation in Johannesburg, who was among five peer educators who represented Gauteng said that being selected to be a human rights peer educator was exciting because she wanted to be part of initiatives that advance youth participation in bringing people together. She said that “As a social worker, my dream has been How do I help my community to overcome some of the challenges we come across? This training has equipped me with the necessary skills to do this.”
Another peer educator, whose name is being withheld for safety reasons, who comes from the Cape Flats, an area in Cape Town stricken by gang violence and many human rights abuses wished that this program could accommodate many more young people. She said “Many things can change once young people are aware of [their] human rights because in our area nothing seems to work,” adding that “many young people are forced to join gangs because they don’t have choice but also they don’t know about their rights. I will try my best to educate my peers because information is so important.”
The peer educators were grateful that they learned new skills to use in their activism and their communities. We look forward to seeing our new peer educators building Human Rights Communities in their respective communities!
– Lelethu Nogwavu