2017 Weekend Human Rights Training For Youth Peer Educators

Africa Unite, in partnership with the University of Connecticut, held its annual Weekend Human Rights Training on the 17th to the 19th of February 2017 at Goedegedacht Farm in Malmesbury Cape Town, South Africa.

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Vincent Williams Africa Unite Chairperson facilitating one of the sessions

The training brought 36 young people from different backgrounds as follows: 19 local youth from South Africa among them 1 migrant farm worker originally from Lesotho and 1 refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo and 17 students from the University of Connecticut in USA.

 

The training covered the following topics:

  • Human Rights Principles
  • Human Rights Education: What and Why?
  • Instruments protecting Human Rights locally and globally.
  • The rights of vulnerable people (people with disabilities, women, children, elderly people, refugees and migrants etc).
  • How to build Human Rights Communities.

 

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2 winners of the night Kenya and Zimbabwe receiving the 2 Billion USD cheque from the World Bank and United Nations

One of the highlighted events of the weekend was the mock presentations to the United Nations and World Bank during a special African Union assembly by the youth who were divided into 4 African countries to compete for $2 Billion offered by the World Bank through the African Union. Each country was asked to select a president and its cabinet. This resulted in the following countries being selected: Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, and Kenya.

The above countries were instructed to deliver a presentation to the United Nations chairperson and the World Bank President who made up the panel of judges. Each country was tasked to do a presentation based on the following topics: a brief history about the country, current political issues, socio-economic and cultural dynamics, and how each country intends to use the $2 billion donation in addressing their human rights issues and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

After interesting presentations from various countries, for the first time two countries emerged as the winners as they scored the same amount of points (Zimbabwe and Kenya).

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All the youth participants pause for a group photo with their certificates after the training.

The criterion was based on team work, knowledge of the country, history and background and how they were going to use the money to achieve the Sustainable Developmental Goals. The two countries  received the $2 billion a mock cheque to share. The purpose of this activity is to allow our youth to research and understand the political and socio-economic background of African countries.

Following the conclusion of the workshop, all the youth participants received a certificate to successfully become Africa Unite Human Rights Youth Peer Educators. The youth from different backgrounds were extremely excited about the different levels of interactions, content of the training and the skills which were gained during this weekend. They reflected on their experiences, provided constructive feedback to enhance the program, and thanked Africa Unite for this learning opportunity. Overall, the youth made a clear commitment to go back in their respective communities and conduct similar information sessions.

Africa Unite would like to give a special thanks to Marita for our long partnership with the University of Connecticut and our funders DKA- Austria, CCFD, Foundation for Human Rights and other individuals for making this training happen.

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Deputy Minister of Police takes part in our Nyanga Community Dialogue

On the 15th of February Africa Unite in partnership with the Nyanga South African Police Service (SAPS), Community Police Forum (CPF) and Nyanga community held a community dialogue at Zolani Centre in Nyanga. This community dialogue was a follow up of in a series of dialogues held in Nyanga initiated by Africa Unite to change the image of Nyanga as the murder capital of South Africa. During the previous dialogues held regarding the crime in the area, one of the issues raised by the community was crime committed by youth on parole. The reality is that often they are arrested and within a few weeks they are out.

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Nyanga SAPS station commander Brigadier M M Manci giving an overview of the crime situation in Nyanga

The community decided that the Correctional Services and the Department of Justice must be invited to the next dialogue to explain how the parole system works. More than 300 people gathered at the venue to listen attentively to the different speakers of the day.

Ward Councillor Templeton Mgxekeni first welcomed everyone and introduced the dialogue before the Brigadier M M Manci. (Station Commander) of Nyanga SAPS gave an overview of the reality and the statistics of the crime situation in Nyanga. Mr Nkongolo, the director from Africa Unite spoke about Africa Unite’s community conflict mediation, where youth are trained to foster a culture a peace in their communities. These dialogues are being held in other crime affected areas of Cape Town (Delft and Hanover Park).

Mr Billy Ncobo from the Correctional Service spoke in length on how the parole system works and what criteria is used before releasing a person. He also emphasised that the community members can apply to be part of the parole board. He concluded in that his department is available to assist those people who still have challenges in these regards.

Guest speaker of the day Deputy, Minister of Police Ms Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu started by thanking the organisers of the event for inviting her to this gathering. She mentioned that her department is ready to support the initiatives that are geared towards crime prevention.

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A member of the Nyanga Development Forum intervening during the dialogue

She highlighted that Nyanga is one of the areas of national concern due to high crime rates and presented this as the reason why the President Jacob Zuma visited the area the day before the dialogue. She also insisted that this was not a government initiated gathering (imbizo) but a dialogue initiated by the community members themselves. She added that she was there to hear the various challenges and solutions proposed by the community. In addition, any issues which were not related to her department, she would take them to the relevant departments.

Mr Makasi chairperson of the Nyanga Community Police Forum opened the floor for questions, responses, and comments from the audience. This process was facilitated by Nomsa Somdaka of Africa Unite. The community was happy to see the deputy minister of police in this dialogue and many questions were asked to the different speakers. Below are some of the questions and concerns raised:

  • There are many young people who are struggling to get a job due to their outstanding criminal records although they have transformed. In addition, there are further concerns regarding the struggle of youth with criminal records
  • There are many cases where files cannot be found making it difficult for the victims to follow up their cases. Often there are missing files or cases are not followed up or followed through.

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    Mr Billy Ncobo of the Department of Correctional Service clarifying the South African Parole system

  • The detectives do not give feedback or update the progress of the cases to the victims. Often community members see the accused killer or rapist back in the community making it more difficult and unsafe for the victims.
  • Police are very slow to respond to cases. For example, a case was sited that another person died less than 500 meters from the station but the police did not arrive until a few hours later
  • Nyanga Police station shares the premises with a bottle store which sells alcohol to unlicensed dispensaries. (shebeens)
  • The community also asked how the parole board is chosen
  • There is a high level of unemployment in the area amongst the youth and lack of activities for them which drives many of them to join criminal activities
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Guest speaker of the day Deputy, Minister of Police Ms Makhotso Magdeline Sotyu inviting the community of Nyanga to work together in fighting for crime prevention

The deputy minister admitted that there are some challenges at the police station, however some of these are caused by vandalism of the police cars by the community making it difficult for them to respond on time. She also mentioned that the detectives must send regular update messages to the victims on their cases. Furthermore, she mentioned that there is a lack of parenting skills, as some of the parents neglect their children and give responsibility to the schools alone. She said that a good education starts at home. Regarding criminal records, she mentioned that her office can be contacted to assist the youth who want their records cleaned. To conclude the dialogue councillor Ms Sharon Manata thanked the organisers, the police and the deputy minister for being part of this dialogue.

Following this dialogue on the 16th of February Africa Unite met with the CPF chairperson to develop an action plan on the various questions and concerns raised by the community during the dialogue. After a long fruitful discussion, the following actions were taken:

  • Africa Unite will partner with the CPF in their safer schools programme by introducing Africa Unite school clubs at Mandela High School
  • A place was earmarked in the area for a possibility of establishing a vocational training centre for youth in the area to enhance their skills and possibilities for employment
  • Africa Unite will partner with the CPF to see if they can revive the life skills programme to boost the youth self-esteem in acquiring jobs
  • There is a City of Cape Town facility in the area not being used which can be used by detectives as it can make it easy for the victim to access and also for the detectives to work in a professional manner
  • Africa Unite and CPF will lobby with relevant authorities to either remove the bottle store in expanding the Nyanga police station or they can build a second story to have more services. In such an environment, the station can have its sexual offence unit contrary to the current station where they must go to Mitchells Plein to report.

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Africa Unite School Clubs 2016 Red Carpet Awards

On the 2nd of December 2016 Africa Unite held a Red Carpet Awards Ceremony at 6 Spin Street Cape Town in order to honor its Africa Unite School clubs. The awards attracted over 100 people. These school clubs have been established in the following previously disadvantaged schools of the Western Cape Province : Spes Bona High School (Athlone), Simunye High School (Delft) , Masibambane (Kraaifontein), Zonnebloem Nest High School (Woodstock) and Mountview High school (Hanover Park). Recently another school club was established at Phezulu High School in Hammersdale Township in KwaZulu Natal.

Africa Unite youth MCs welcoming the audience

Africa Unite youth MCs welcoming the audience

The club has a slogan ‘My school is my community’ as learners spend more than 60% of their time in school. The school club gives learners the opportunity to become agents of change within their schools and communities. During 2016 the above school clubs undertook many activities in their respective schools and communities. The Red Carpet Awards were initiated in order to encourage and inspire the learners to continue being role models in their respective schools and communities. Seventeen awards were given according to the following categories:

Best Alumni – Most dedicated Parliamentarian – Most supportive Matron/ Patron – Most Supportive Principal – Best Minister of Environment – Best Minister of Sports, Culture and Entertainment – Best Minister of Information and Public Relations – Best Minister of Social Development – Best Minister of Finance – Grade 11 Certificates – Best President – Most outstanding Cabinet Member – Best Media Representative – Most Diverse school club – Best Fundraising school club – Most Improved Cabinet  and Best School Club.

The audience waiting in anticipation for the names of the winners to be announced

The audience waiting in anticipation for the names of the winners to be announced

The awards ceremony was attended by different stakeholders from the school principals, teachers, community members, local councillors, members of the Western Cape Department of Education, members of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), representatives of Old Mutual, media representatives and local NGOs.

Each school club was obliged to give a presentation of the activities undertaken which was supposed to be seconded by a testimony from a school member or community leader. During their presentations, a number of activities were highlighted such as election of the cabinets, cabinet meetings, leadership camp, school dialogues, fundraising events, old age home reach out, soup kitchen, environmental awareness campaigns, networks created in the community etc.

The ceremony saw the schools walking away with the following awards:

  • Simunye High received the Best School Club Award – The school received a trophy and certificates. The club has been working extensively in reducing gangsterism, bullying and peer pressure among the learners through various school dialogues. They have also worked closely with the Delft Police, local Spar, City of Cape Town Water and Sanitation Department, Department of Sports and Recreation and various community leaders.

    Noluvo Plaatjie of IEC giving Amber Abrahams of Simunye High School the best President of the year Award

    Noluvo Plaatjie of IEC giving Amber Abrahams of Simunye High School the best President of the year Award

  • Masibambane Senior Secondary School received Most Improved Cabinet Award– The school walked away with a trophy and certificates . Although the club was established later this year, they have undertaken many activities such as environmental campaigns, school garden, talent show and sporting activities. Their Councillor of (ward 101 in Kraaifontein) gave an interesting account on how he has collaborated with the school club. He also mentioned that he invited the school club to attend their Integrated Development Plan (IDP) meeting in which the school club successfully lobbied for free WIFI in Bloekombos Township
  • Spes Bona High received the Best Fundraising School Award – They received a cheque of R500 due to their clean financial audit. Their incomes and expenditure was well recorded.
  • Zonnebloem N.E.S.T Senior received Most Diverse School Club – They a received a certificate due to their gender balanced and cultural diverse cabinet.

Besides the school awards there were also individual awards given to the best supportive principal, Mr Naidoo and best Matron/Patron Mr Nnamedi both from Masibabane High School. In addition, there were also various awards given to the learners in relation to their performances in their different Portfolio.

MR Ndzuzu Director of the Western Cape Department of Education giving Simunye High SChool the award for Best School Club

MR Ndzuzu Director of the Western Cape Department of Education giving Simunye High SChool the award for Best School Club

The representatives of the Western Cape Department of Education were very impressed with the level of initiative undertaken by the learners in different school clubs. Furthermore, they mentioned that the Africa Unite School clubs can be invited to take part during their Annual School Summit in June 2017. The IEC also proposed that next year an extra award for the Best Democratic school club can be added in which they are willing to sponsor.

There were also various performances by young people to entertain the audience. In conclusion, the Africa Unite chairperson Vincent Williams expressed that he does not have a word to describe the achievements and thanked all the guests, staff and interns for the job well done.

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Singamakhalipha Children Rewarded

Singamakhalipha, a Programme of Africa Unite based in Gugulethu Township has provided psycho-social support to more than 200 orphans and vulnerable children in the areas of Nyanga, Kanana and an informal settlement called Europe Township. The program intends to help children develop their resilience and coping skills so that they can face a wide range of social problems such as domestic violence, alcohol abuse, poverty, HIV/AIDS, gangsterism and school dropout etc.

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The children and parents celebrating the day by releasing baloons

To achieve its objectives, during this year 2016 the following activities were undertaken: Foundation Phase homework support, life skills programs, counselling, school holiday programs, child support groups and recreational activities (traditional dance, drama, art and sport). The programme also extended its services to the families of the children such as parenting skills, establishment of HIV/AIDS parents support groups and home visits.

We are slowly approaching the end the year and Singamakhalipha took this opportunity to honor its children and parents who took part in the above activities throughout the year. This was to encourage and motivate them to continue to be role models to other children and families. The event took place on Saturday the 26th of November 2016 at Elukhanyisweni Hall in Gugulethu. More than 70 people among them children, parents and guardians attended the event.

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The four winners of Foundation Phase showing off their medals and certificates with their parents.

The categories of the awards given to the children and their parents were as follows:

  1. the most disciplined children with the highest attendance in the activities
  2. the most improved children in the Foundation Phase Tutorial classes and,
  3. the most supportive family to their own children in the programme.

All the selected children and parents were rewarded with a certificate of achievement. Contrary to the other two categories, four most improved children under the Foundation Phase tutorial classes received a certificate and an additional medal. The parents and guardians were proud to stand along their children while they were receiving the certificates from Singamakhalipha’s Manager. There were singing, applauding and releasing of balloons to celebrate this special moment.

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One of the grandmother showing off the certificate of her grand daughter

This was a great moment for the children, parents and guardians as most of them left the hall with a smile on their face. They were also thankful to Singamakhalipha for this opportunity and agreed to continue to be ambassadors of the programme in their respective Townships. The event was concluded with a family lunch where the parents and children enjoyed.

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AU School Clubs – Anti Bullying Dialogue

Bullying in schools is a global phenomenon that has the potential to impact on children not only physically but also psychologically. In South Africa, countless children fall victim to bullying, harassment and abuse at schools. A myriad of constitutional rights are infringed upon when bullying occurs, and the problem is escalating. Recently in October 2016 two pupils from Groote Schuur High School in Cape Town where suspended, and another, from a Lotus River school, faced disciplinary action after their bullying video went viral.

As this problem escalates, Africa Unite high school clubs from 5 different townships in Cape Town felt that they could not be by standers and something needs to be done.

One of the learners from Simunye High School intervenes during an open discussion

One of the learners from Simunye High School intervenes during an open discussion

On the 5th of November 2016, the AU School Clubs came together in dialogue to tackle this challenge and develop recommendations that could be implemented in their respective schools. The dialogue was held at the Africa Unite offices and over 40 learners attended.

To begin the session the learners were told to explain what bullying is, identify the types of bullying in their schools and share if any of them had experienced bullying before. Due to the violent nature of their communities it was not surprising that most of learners witnessed and experience bullying so regularly,Bulling happens every day: We don’t know the difference between bullying and playing anymore”, said one of the learners.

The learners were then divided in 4 groups to identify the following:

  • The types of bullying which they have witnessed or experienced within their townships
  • Their feelings or emotions of bullying whether being a perpetrator, victim, by-stander or healer of bullying.
  • Who is to blame?
  • Provide an action plan to be implemented in their respective schools to address effectively the scourge of bullying

The groups had heated discussions around the questions above and several key issues were raised such as:

  • Bullying often occurs because of stress, family issues; peer pressure and conformity; stressful relationships and seeking power and authority especially among the older learners
  • Bullying makes them feel angry, relieved, emotionally distressed, sad, isolated, rejected, disgusted; scared of going to school. Cyber bullying was viewed as emotionally distressing.
Learners from different schools engaging in a group discussion

Learners from different schools engaging in a group discussion

The learners also developed their action plan which they intend to implement in their respective schools regarding the issue of bullying as follows:

  • Firstly, all learners from the 5 schools agreed to go back to their schools and inquire if there is an existing school policy on bullying. If not, they would lobby together with their authorities for one
  • Learners agreed that the school must stick to its polices; Learners should be disciplined – but it should be fair to all the learners and the community should be made aware because often the victim is followed outside the school premises for revenge
  • use of social media to campaign against bullies and develop more awareness campaigns and posters around the schools and urge communities to assist also because some of the problems start at home. The learners came up with the hashtag: #youcanbecoolwithoutbeingabully
  • Recruit peer educators or bully teams that can assist other learners that are facing many challenges including bullying
  • On orientation day for new learners, each learner must receive a code of conduct and recruited peer educators can assist to explain the policies, consequences and actions of being a victim or perpetrator of any form of bullying
  • They should have an anonymous box to inform the school if bullying is occurring
  • Develop and anti-bullying song to raise awareness and spread the message among all learners
  • Provide counselling for the perpetrators and the victim.
  • They also expressed that it is important to educate the younger grades upon bullying and distinguishing the problems from a young age to enhance the support in the future.
Cabinet members from Zonnebloem N.E.S.T Senior School, Masibabane and Simunye High school with the Bush Radio presenter after their stunning interview

Cabinet member from Zonnebloem N.E.S.T Senior School, Masibabane and Simunye High school with the Bush Radio presenter after their stunning interview

In conclusion, the learners were eager to follow up with the above recommendations in their schools and acknowledged that they cannot run away from reality that bullying is a problem and It will not be eradicated but can be reduced. After all was done the opportunity was then given to three cabinet members who had a chance to discuss more about the purpose of the dialogue and the Africa Unite Clubs a day before the event on Bush Radio. The 3 learners expressed their excitement of this life time experience of being on Bush Radio which is one of Africa’s oldest community radio station project based in Cape Town, South Africa with over 100 000 listeners.

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Leave No One Behind – Dialogue

On the 27th of October 2016, Africa Unite in partnership with African Monitor held a ‘Leave No One Behind’ (LNB) Dialogue on the implementation of United Nations Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This dialogue is part of the global campaign to strengthen the voices of marginalised and excluded people whatever their background, so that they can use the Sustainable Development Goals and the LNB agenda to challenge social barriers and hold decision-makers to account.

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Honorable Ms Newhoudt-Druchen addressing the participants

The dialogue was attended by 84 people drawn from various organisations working with marginalised groups in Western Cape such as Women and girls, Indigenous peoples, People living with disabilities, Trade unions, Young people, senior people, LGBTQI, Religious and ethnic minorities, Rural populations, farm workers, fishermen, Refugees and migrants. The dialogue was held at 6 Spin Street IDASA Cape Town.

The opening remarks were done by Honorable Mrs Newhoudt-Druchen, Alternate Member of Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration, as well as Performance Monitoring and Evaluation; Member of Portfolio Committee on Communications; Her speech was delivered in sign language alongside her interpreter. She largely encouraged all the marginalized groups present to stand up and raise their voices.

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One of the participants from Cape Town Association for the Physically Disabled (CTAPD) asking the Member of Parliament a question.

She gave her own testimony as a woman from a disadvantaged community who was deaf at an early age but managed to overcome many challenges and discrimination and ended up completing her University and even becoming the first deaf woman to be elected a Member of Parliament in South Africa. She mentioned that her role in parliament is to constantly make sure that the voices of marginalized people are taken in consideration in developing inclusive policies which need to be implemented by government. She mentioned that she is available for any follow up on the recommendations made during this dialogue.

Her speech was followed by a resounding applause from the participants indicating how the message touched their hearts. This was followed by a question and answer session between Honorable Mrs Newhoudt-Druchen and the participants.

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Group 3 engaging in discussions

The participants were then divided in 3 working groups in order to identify and discuss their challenges and make some recommendations for follow up. Since this dialogue in Western Cape was held simultaneously in Gauteng and Free State Provinces as part of the Leave No One Behind campaign in South Africa, all the challenges and recommendations will be  compiled and discussed during the final national dialogue before handing over to the National Government. Furthermore, the Leave No One Behind partnership is conducting consultation dialogues in other 30 countries where all voices collected will be submitted to the United Nations.

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Heritage Day: Youth Celebrating Diversity

 

September is recognized as Heritage month in South Africa: In order to celebrate this special month, on the 1st of October 2016, Africa Unite in partnership with Somali Association of South Africa and Life Change Center hosted a youth cultural diversity celebration at 6 Spin Street Restaurant in Cape Town.

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Our 2 young Mc’s of day: Yonela Khetsheza and Robynne Botha from Africa Unite electrifying the crowd

The event brought more than 105 youth and adults from different backgrounds and communities living in Cape Town to showcase their cultures.

This was done through various activities such as poetry, food tasting, traditional dancing, musical performances, singing and speeches. Different communities were invited to present their customs and cultures. Some of the communities who took the podium were: Xhosa, Somali, Cape Malay, Congolese, Cape Coons, Nigerian, Zimbabwe and Zulu. In addition, there was also a musical performance by the Nujum ul fugara naseed band from Lavender  Hill who sang in Arabic and English, as well as a group from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and opera sung by Mteto Mapoyi.

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Sinazo a youth Xhosa poet performing

One of the main guest speakers of the day was the Khoisan Chief Hennie van Wyk, who delivered an empowering and moving speech on the importance of today’s youth in preserving their cultural heritage, as well as learning about the heritage of others in order to develop understanding and perpetuate a harmonious existence. He mentioned that the Khoisans are the first offspring of Western Cape. He warned the youth of the potential negative consequences that come with urbanization and globalization as they may dominate and subjugate one’s own unique culture replacing it with the dominant global narrative and norms.

He encouraged everyone, but especially the youths to celebrate their cultural uniqueness

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Congolese team presenting their cultures

and to share it with the world. It is important to be proud of one’s culture and share it with others as a means to promote understanding, draw similarities between us and combat xenophobia. The chief concluded by quoting Marcus Garvey’s quote which says, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

The youth present and communities were very excited to be part of the event and had the opportunity to learn and understand the meaning of the various dress codes of men and women in African cultures. They also learnt how single men and women dress

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The Khoisan Chief Hennie van Wyk delivering the key note speech flanked by his royal guard

code differ from married men and women including different dress codes for various occasions and the various kinds of food eaten by different cultures.

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