Annual Recognition and Capacity Building Event

Press release

06 December 2021

On the 4th of December 2021, the Africa Unite school club hosted 70 attendees in its Annual Recognition and Capacitation event for all nine participating school clubs in the Western Cape. This event was to acknowledge the work of our young leaders and give them an opportunity to inspire each other to be more invested in community development and further grow. This event took place at Norval Foundation Museum in Tokai and was started off by a learner Art therapy painting session facilitated by Lindsay Hendriks. This session was important to improve the concentration and communication of the learners and help reduce common feelings of isolation that learners from disadvantaged backgrounds experience.

Participants in their breakaway groups

This activity was followed by the African History tour around the Norval Foundation Museum. The learners found this tour very insightful as they got to know where most African artefacts came from and what storyline started them.

The learners then shared with their peers, their presentation on their schools’ achievements for the year 2021. They shared their challenges and how they overcame them and it was a teachable moment for everyone.

The event came to its pivotal point when the Africa Unite School members were awarded for their efforts for the year of 2021. The awards acknowledged the most improved school club, and that was awarded to Salt River high school, the most active school club member throughout the schools and that was awarded to Farayi Nyahuye the most innovative school club and that awarded to Nelson Mandela High school, etc. Portland high school took home the Africa Unite school of the year for 2021, this was due to their governance, their activities and their consistency throughout the year. The event was then closed off by a motivational piece on the importance of youth leadership and activism from Meshak Hobwane from UNHCR and Lelethu Nogwavu, an Africa Unite peer educator, and a Master’s Candidate in Constitutional and Administrative Law from UWC.

Comment by Lona Siyo from Gardens Commercial high school: ‘’ The function was very very well organized and very accommodating. The venue was immaculate! stunning! The venue was absolutely stunning and thank you for taking us to an extraordinary place, instead of common places we were really were given the opportunity to a high class. I for one was not familiar with art galleries and to me, it was such an honour to visit an art gallery. Hence I thank you guys for giving me that opportunity. The guest speakers were out of this world. Sis Lelethu really inspired me since I also aspire to be an advocate. She also gave us a clear insight into how the club could help us be bigger things in life. The presentations were so mind-opening that I was inspired by what the different schools were doing, and the change they were making, not only in advance of the club but for everyone. I gained a lot of knowledge and bagged a lot of ideas as to how we’ll make our year next year a success’’

The year 2021 is one that was greeted with COVID regulations restrictions and a new norm, and in the midst of all of that, the learners from the Africa Unite school clubs persevered and still carried out their activities and reached their goals. We say well done to our young leaders as we look forward to a more prosperous 2022.

Posted in Annual Red Carpet Awards, Dialogue, Press release, Report, school club, Training, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Electoral Reform Dialogue/Debate

Since the dawn of the democratic era in South Africa, the electoral system had been one of proportional representation, providing all parties an accurate representation of their electoral support. However, this has come along with issues of lack of accountability for elected representatives,  the imposition of partisan interests in the selection of candidates, and the administration of public resources. In addition, alarming numbers of voter apathy, particularly amongst young people, have been registered throughout the years. To discuss both the possibilities of electoral reform and strategies to deal with voter apathy amongst the youth, Africa Unite held a hybrid dialogue on the 29th of October 2021. The event took place simultaneously in person at the Africa Unite offices in 6 Spin Street, 4th Floor IDASA building in Cape Town, and on Zoom. The date intended to be as close as possible to the 1st of November 2021 Municipal elections to unpack the upcoming elections, and the role of youth as it has become systematic in South Africa that elections become a breeding ground of violence and renewed racial tensions.

The session was facilitated by Miguel, who acted as co-moderator of the debate along with Keagan. The election context of South Africa and the contemporary issues brought by the electoral system were given to set the tone of the dialogue.  Firstly, it was indicated that the problems faced by young South African democracy can be summarized in two issues: the lack of accountability within the current electoral system and the lack of direct power for the citizenry; and the large levels of voter apathy, particularly amongst the youth. It was pointed out that since 1994 there have been proposals to reform the electoral system, which was initiated to allow smaller parties to participate in the constitutional assembly. Most parties, however, observed flaws in the system and made various proposals, although none of them came to fruition. On the other hand, some crucial statistics were provided to understand voter apathy. For instance, in September 2021, the Independent Electoral Commission reported that 13 million eligible voters had not registered for the 2021 Municipal elections. This makes up for 22.26% of the adult population, with the majority of these non-voters being between the ages of 18 – 35 years. Following this brief background of the electoral system, Miguel gave the floor to Keagen for his first intervention.

Keagen covered some important topics such as the need for government technological efficiency, the creation of an Office of a Prime Minister that could balance out the power of the President and Parliament, and the importance of a constitutional court promoting social justice and not just a political battleground for political parties. However, the emphasis was mostly put on local government, where the greatest progress on voter participation could be made particularly through the creation of constituencies that provide local power to people instead of the party by direct election of representatives and provide a direct relationship with Council leaders.

During the second part of the dialogue, concerning the potential results of the upcoming elections, there were two main themes in discussion: the possible contributions of the coalition government and the use of resources (i.e., service delivery) in politics. On one hand, Keagen indicated that despite the limitations that might entail the formation of a coalition government, if small parties gained terrain and entered the coalition government, they could pressure larger parties to pay attention to local and marginalized issues. On the other, Mphumi indicated that previous coalition governments had resulted in failures due to competition of resources between parties. This then led to the next point of discussion, since Mphumi indicated that politics was about power and control of resources, while Keagen preferred the idea that it was rather about the distribution of resources, and that it was partisan divisions which made this distribution unequal and ineffective. Nonetheless, a common point was made that greater participation of the citizenry and civil society in politics would diminish the power of political parties and prioritize the wellbeing of the community. For this to be achieved, it was essential that voters, particularly the youth, take a more active stance in politics and pressure to make change possible, starting with the upcoming elections on the 1st of November 2021.

In addition, Dorian made an important point that often the lack of power from the citizenry came from a lack of knowledge and information, and that coalitions and independent candidates could encourage citizens to be more politically conscientious.

In response to some speakers’ encouragement of the youth to spearhead change through greater involvement in local politics, many participants pointed out that the youths are trying to involve themselves more, but many times face great obstacles before their voices can be heard. Amongst these obstacles are the red tape imposed by bureaucracy and corruption, the fact that politics is based along ethnic lines, blocking potential for positive discussion, and that often young people are swallowed up by the logic of the system and an education system that has been neglected for too long.

Recommendations

  • Currently, the system is flawed due to politicians following party interests rather than the wellbeing of citizens.
  • Creating constituencies would give greater power to voters and diminish that of political parties since it creates a direct relationship between voters and representatives.
  • With political representatives accountable to the people and other institutions, the distribution of resources will be more effective.
  • For change to occur it is essential that voters, particularly young voters, and civil society take an active stance in politics, but political parties and institutions must also provide greater avenues for participation.

Posted in Dialogue, Events, News, Report, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#LETS_END_PERIOD POVERTY! 

“It is said that “Knowledge is not permission”, but it may protect, whereas ignorance cannot – no one can make a responsible, let alone a wise decision from ignorance.It is sad to note that these days children are left to discover their sexuality through their peers, and are thus left to absorb and perpetuate the myths, misconceptions, and incorrect attitudes of past generations.”

On the 17th of October 2021, the Singamakhalipha program of Africa Unite held a dialogue with learners from diverse backgrounds in Cape Town and surrounding areas. The dialogue formed part of a youth summit organized by the School Club program of Africa Unite which aimed to highlight issues affecting learners. The event was held at Tshisamani in Mowbray from 10 am to 4 pm was attended by 18 Learners.

One of the issues we have noticed through our work with young people is that there is a lack of education on sexual and reproductive health for our youth. The dialogue with the learners highlighted the issue of adolescents’ pregnancies that has recently sparked conversation in South Africa. Early and unwanted pregnancies are sometimes a result of not having access to information that will allow a young person to make an informed decision. During the youth summit, the Singamakhalipha social worker presented a section on sexual and reproductive health. The discussion highlighted an issue of period poverty that young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds are faced with. Moreover, participants echoed that they often do not feel comfortable discussing concerns regarding menstruation with their parents. One participant shared how she missed her menstrual cycle for two months and was scared to share this information with her mother because she feared that her mother would think she was pregnant.  She was happy to have her period again but did not know the reason it stopped. Another participant shared that, nurses in public facilities do not make it any easier for them to access information on matters such as menstrual cycles and contraception. The group, which mostly consisted of young women all agreed that nurses show a judgmental attitude towards young girls who volunteer to use contraceptives as a preventative measure. They are even more judgmental to young girls who present to clinics already pregnant, without even knowing all the facts. One participant lashed out “what if that girl was raped? Now she is judged unfairly”.

Participants discussing the challenges and stigmas facing adolescent girls and womens health

The group proposed some solutions to the challenges faced by young girls in society. One solution was that schools needed to have a designated person to deal with matters around sexual and reproductive health and sexuality. This would help adolescents make more informed decisions and would prevent stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions. Another solution was for parents to also receive training on the above subjects so that young people can feel more comfortable discussing matters of concern with them. Lastly, the group agreed that more workshops could be organized but they should include young men as well. One learner said that “it is useless to empower young girls and leave young men out”. She further explained that both girls and boys should be empowered through education to achieve an improvement in attitudes and behavior of young people.

As Africa Unite, we would like to thank the iamforherfoundation for their generous contribution of 1200 units of free sanitary towels. These sanitary towels were handed out during the summit to young community activists in their respective areas who know of young women who need these. More will be handed out to young women in informal settlements around Gugulethu.

Posted in Dialogue, Events, News, Report, Staff, Updates, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Basic Income Grant: A solution to poverty and inequality in South Africa?

South Africa has allocated social grants for millions of its citizens to minimize the inequality gap, yet this gap has widened since the dawn of democracy. For almost 20 years, various stakeholders have argued for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income grant in South Africa,which is expected to alleviate poverty and inequality in South Africa. As it stands, South Africa has an unemployment rate over 63% which has resulted in vulnerability of young people between the ages of 15 to 24. Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more job losses and loss of income. 

It is in this context that the Social-Relief Distress (SRD) Grant was introduced in South Africa. It entailed a payment of R350 to those who needed, most likely unemployed persons. During the unprecedented riots in July 2021 the SRD was expanded to previously excluded caregivers. However, unions and some civil society organizations are calling on the government to expand it to a monthly basic income grant of R1268, which is above the food poverty line. While grants have significantly reduced the incidence and severity of poverty, they exclude the unemployed, placing a burden on existing recipients and effectively eroding the transfer value. 

Africa Unite hosted an online dialogue on 22 September 2021, to discuss the merits and demerits of a basic income grant in South Africa. The dialogue was moderated by Africa Unite intern, Oboitshepo Seleka. The dialogue sought to engage on perceptions around the basic income grant, including the percpetion that it would perpetuate a culture of dependency and laziness. The Studies of Poverty and Inequality Institute (SPII) and the Assembly of the Unemployed, are organisations that have done extensive research and advocacy work for the implementation of a basic income grant.  On the panel we had Christina van Straten and Khokhoma Motsi, respectively tp share insight on research that has been done on the basic income grant, as well as experiences on the ground. The discussion included suggestions on how the BIG can be funded in South Africa, and how it would alleviate poverty and inequality.

Both panelists agreed that the BIG is not a silver bullet to all the socio-economic challenges in the country, however it would be a good starting point. Christina van Straten (SPII) illustrated that a BIG has been implemented in countries such as Kenya, Brazil, Canada amongst others, and the outcomes were positive. Motsi Khokhoma (Assembly of the Unemployed) strongly argued against the perception that the BIG would perpetuate a culture of dependency on the government. Rumors that it would only make South Africans lazy is unfounded because all people are dependent on the government, to some extent. The BIG would promote participation in the economy and increase spending power. Ultimately increasing economic activity in townships and promoting a decent standard of living for all. At the heart of the BIG debate is the issue of rising unemployment, as such the BIG could be the stepping stone for unemployed persons to take a taxi to search for employment opportunities.

It has been reported that women continue to bear the brunt of poverty as the primary caregivers. Moreover, women have been greatly affected by gender-based violence due to being financially exploited because they are unable to support themselves. Women are faced with a double conundrum; they are unable to shield their families from hunger and have to stay in abusive relationships. Christina van Straten (SPII) spoke extensively to this issue and emphasised that a BIG would lighten the burden on women who find themselves in such precarious situations.

Youth unemployment is a burning issue in South Africa, thus the recommendation of a BIG seemingly represents a lifeline for South African youth. Motsi Khokhoma reiterated that the reality on the ground is that people are starving, living in dire circumstances and do not have access to their basic needs. They also face high crime rates in their communities, young people are more susceptible to crime and drug abuse. Ideally, young people could try to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, however, they face more challenges than what is on the surface. There is also a lack of political will within local and national level, that has hindered progress on the matters indicated.

The matter still hangs in the balance. Considering all socio-economic and political factors, can South Africa afford a basic income grant? The issues at hand are quite pertinent and stand to impact the future of all South Africans. As time passes, the inequality gap continues to widen and ordinary South Africans are faced with a bleak reality. Although we did not reach one conclusion, all participants in the dialogue agreed that civil society cannot just sit back, but we need to put in effort to change this unfortunate reality.

If you would like to watch the dialogue, it can be found here

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Africa Unite speaks at the International Day of Peace – Southern Africa webinar hosted by International Youth Catholic Students

In Africa, conflict inevitably leads to population displacement. High levels of armed violence and insecurity have a destructive effect on a country’s development, hampering economic growth and often causing lasting suffering among the population, which can persist for generations. In recent years, some countries have been shaken by crises, notably Central Africa, Mali , Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Sudan, Eswatini and recently Guinea which has had repercussions on the education, health and well-being of population.

The pandemic has hit disadvantaged and marginalized groups the hardest. In addition to the pandemic, we have seen a rise in stigma, discrimination and hatred. COVID-19 affects all people, regardless of where we come from or what we believe in. In the face of this common enemy, we must remember that we are not each other’s enemy. In order to recover from the devastation of this pandemic, we must put in effort to achieve peace within our communities. We need to celebrate peace by fighting hate, including online hate, and spreading compassion, kindness and hope to fight this pandemic and heal, together. 

The 21st of September is the International Day of Peace which is celebrated all over the world. The United Nations General Assembly has declared that this day should be dedicated to strengthening the ideals of peace in all nations and peoples. This year’s theme is: “Rising above, for a more equitable and sustainable world”. For this edition, the United Nations invites us to focus on solidarity and the creative spirit of all people for a just world. 

Africa Unite was invited to a webinar by the International Catholic Youth Students to engage on the role that young people can play in the promotion of  a culture of peace, tolerance, dialogue and inclusive representation at all levels. All of which is in the context of the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2250, Agenda 2063 and SDG 16 for sustainable peace. 

Event poster: International Day of Peace Sub-Regional Webinar Southern Africa

Amongst the facilitators was one of Africa Unite’s interns Oboitshepo Seleka, who gave insight into the challenges that young people face within the context of politics and peace  in Southern Africa. The presentation entailed identifying and analyzing the gaps in actions of duty bearers and stakeholders towards the creation and promotion of environments that promote inclusivity and tolerance. Moreover, highlighting recommendations for action that African youth can take up in the implementation of these resolutions and policies for equitable and sustainable peace. 

The UN Resolution 2250 states that young people must take their full place in raising awareness and promoting peace as actors of peace. However, some of the challenges that young people face include being discouraged from running for elected office due to perceptions that leadership positions should be reserved for older people. Young people continue to be stereotyped as troublemakers hence the local resistance in some societies to view them as actual agents of change. This is particularly strong in hierarchical societies where the elders dominate decision-making and leadership positions that do not give space to youth voices and contributions. 

Amidst these challenges, young people have shown that they are able to play an active role, particularly at grassroots and local levels, as peacemakers, mediators, and peacebuilders. They can build social cohesion and trust across different groups; open channels and spaces for youth from across diverse backgrounds to work together and build a shared vision of a peaceful world; advocate for human rights and against violence in any form It is rather long overdue, young people ought to be engaged in peace work and human rights initiatives. Africa Unite continues to take the lead through its Human Rights Programme where young people are trained and equipped in human rights, to foster a culture of peace and understanding of human rights within their communities. Thus, strengthening the capacities and skills of their peers. 

In the webinar, Dr Mwilu Mumbi, Programs Officer Education – UNESCO Zambia spoke on the impact of inequitable access to education and economic opportunities amongst youth on durable peace and a sustainable and equitable region. Mr Trust Mamombe, Director (Africa) from the Institute of Economics and Peace, then facilitated a discussion on climate change and the COVID-19 health crisis impact on sustainable peace in the Region and how the youth can contribute to sustainable recovery. He further illustrated the need to foster youth ownership of the demographic dividend and the need to have positive peace within our societies. 

Recommendations that were made by various stakeholders in the webinar which are to be tabled before the African Union, include:

  • Broadening youth consultation; Awareness of the importance of peace and building additional platforms for effective engagement between youth and political parties.
  • Encouraging an effective use of social media. Social media can provide a positive platform for youth to engage in online debates, organise, build networks, and voice their opinions, outside of traditional forms of media and peace dialogues.
  • Challenging perceptions about the inability of youth and women to occupy leadership positions as well as be part of peace initiatives
  • Effectively addressing youth priorities: youth voter turnout in future elections will likely depend on the ability of local and national leaders to address the concerns and priorities of youth which are centered around job creation and other economic opportunities, as well as addressing corruption.
  • Political inclusion and meaningful participation across all communities: to represent  demographic representation has become increasingly important in our times today. Youth should also be given space to participate in politics and peacebuilding initiatives from the local level.

Overall, the event brought together peacemakers from various parts of the continent such as Lesotho, South Africa, Namibia and Kenya. All participants acknowledged the need to put words into action and begin with active involvement of the youth in peacebuilding initiatives across all communities, at all levels.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Heritage Month Event 2021: Complex Pasts; Diverse Futures.

On the 29th of September, Africa Unite hosted a virtual Heritage Day event with the title: “Complex pasts, diverse futures”.

By celebrating Heritage Day, Africa Unite encourages young minds to engage on the topic of Heritage and get to know more about the different cultures present in South Africa and Africa as a whole.

The session was organized and moderated by learners from Africa Unite’s Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) who guided the 40 attendees though the agenda, which consisted of guest speakers, cultural exchange quiz and live performances of poetry, music and dance.

After giving a short introduction into the origin of Heritage Day, the first guest speaker, chairperson of the Congolese Civil Society, Isaiah Mombilo, educated the audience on the importance of the connection to the soil in Africa. Africa was rich with all types of minerals and culturally advanced, but slavery drained Africa and separated many from the soil and made them forget their own culture. The African people were removed from power and there was no longer any way of maintaining their own language and way of life.

Therefore, Heritage Day is a day of recovering one’s connection to the soil and the language, values and culture that accompany it. It is about asserting one’s own identity and self-perception as opposed to fulfilling the expectations and prejudices of others.

The powerful guest speech was followed by the announcement of the winners of the Heritage Month Poetry & Art Competition, who went on to perform their poems live in front of the audience. A special thanks to everyone who participated. The proud winners are:

Rudairo Mudarikwa, who is in Grade 10 at the Curro Hermanus High School, from Zimbabwe but was raised in South Africa and culture is Shona. The poems she submitted are named “Complex Past” and “Diverse Future”

Sinako Mphehlo, who is 16 years old, in Grade 11 at Dr Nelson R. Mandela High School. She is from South Africa and her culture is Xhosa. Her submission is a poem named “Heritage Day”.

Thabo Shibande, who is from South Africa and studies at the ABET Boksburg school. His culture is Zulu. Along with the Ubuhle Benhlangano Traditional Movement, of whom he is a founding member, Thabo submitted to this competition a show of dance and music. The dance is called Umzani, while the music played is called Iscathamiya.

Natasha Muberuka, who is 18 years old and in Grade 12, from Congo. Her poem is named “Roots Unspoken” and includes an illustration of a tree with the silhouette of a woman representing the gift of life.

The second part of the event was a cultural exchange quiz in which a series of questions were provided so that learners could talk about their culture and heritage as well as teach the audience how to say “I love you” in their respective home languages.

What was found throughout the event was that growing up with stereotypes can negatively impact one’s perceptions about their heritage so embracing the differences and unique elements of one’s own culture and that of others allows to break stereotypes and take pride in the mixed heritage of South Africa.

The importance of contact with family and the generations before us aids us in learning and preserving our culture. The preservation of language is also linked to preservation of culture. Furthermore, learning about other cultures and their differences and similarities helps in understanding better one’s own culture.

The second guest speaker, Keagan Gertse, argued for the importance of heritage in achieving inclusivity. Despite having inclusivity as the fundamental aim of the freedom charter of 1995, Africa is facing a downwards spiral, while the extorsion of its natural resources is continued by foreign powers. In addition, the African Union is weak and incapable of bringing decisiveness and prosperity since colonialism brought a sense of exclusion through the creation of borders and divisiveness. The only solution is to introduce new institutions and mechanisms to impulse a truly inclusive society free from the legacy of colonialism and the ideas people from other continents might have of Africa.

Recommendations

  • Connection to the soil is a way of preserving Africa’s mineral wealth, culture, language, and diversity without conceding to neo-colonialism
  • Sharing each other’s cultural heritage and taking pride in it is a way of promoting understanding and thus inclusivity
  • Inclusivity is a goal towards which South Africa and Africa at large strives towards
  • The divisions imposed by colonialism are an obstacle for prosperity within a more united Africa
  • Celebration of Heritage should be a permanent practice not limited to Heritage Day

Africa Unite is proud of the three learners, Jemima, Evidence Monde, Bradley Onverwacht who guided the audience through this educational and entertaining Heritage Day Event and we extend our gratitude to the people that attended. May this engagement have a positive ripple effect on the social cohesion in this country.

Jemima and Evidence moderating the heritage month event

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cape Town School Learners Empowered with Social Emotional Learning

Many studies show that the COVID‑19 crisis has significantly impacted young people’s mental health. Symptoms of anxiety and depression have risen dramatically among young people and remain higher than pre-crisis levels even with the partial re-opening of schools and the economy. Unfortunately, many schools in the township don’t offer any mental health support services; therefore, alternatives had to be found with great urgency.

Participants doing an exercise

Since the pandemic, Africa Unite has hosted a weekly visual Mental Health support to 40 learners from disadvantaged backgrounds as a form of Social Emotional Learning, teaching them how to bounce back from the numerous adversities they face. However, virtual interactions are not the same as live encounters.

On the 4th of September 2021, after the ease of lockdown restrictions, the first face to face workshop on Social Emotional Learning was finally held at the Africa Unite head office with representatives from seven Africa Unite School Clubs in the Cape Town region. Africa Unite School clubs are social clubs initiated at the school level, which allow learners to become agents of change within their schools and communities. They consider the school and its surroundings as a country. Each AU School club is led by a School president and seven ministers playing different roles.

The workshop was attended by the following selected School Presidents, Ministers of Education, and Ministers of Social Development and get capacitated by becoming Social Emotional Learning pioneers by sparking conversations, sharing tips, and organizing events in their respective schools and communities.

All 21 participants received an introduction into the five core competencies of Social Emotional Learning – Self Awareness, Emotional Regulation and Growth Mindset, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.

Despite some theoretical input from the facilitators, the workshop’s core was the practical activities that gave learners an in-depth understanding of what it really means to develop a Social Emotional Learning Skillset and how to facilitate these activities with other people.

Commenting on the workshop, one learner, Olona, said, “We learnt the significance of being aware of ourselves, knowing who we are, what we like and dislike, where are we from, understanding people around us and that we as people have similarities and differences that makes us who we are”.

“We also learnt on how to handle those differences that we might have as individuals. Then we were taught communication skills and how we can communicate properly without misunderstandings. For example, people cannot talk at the same time, we have to listen to one another, pay attention and pace ourselves accordingly when speaking, especially when doing public speaking,” Olona added.

Another participant added, “We were educated on anxiety, on what it is, how it is, and how anyone can get anxiety from uncomfortable situations that alarm us. We were not quite aware that anxiety is a small part of our brain that tells us when we’re in danger, like our intuition. The facilitator also demonstrated how we can calm ourselves when we get the anxiety attacks and that getting these anxiety attacks doesn’t mean that we’re sick and can’t manage it”. The learner added that after the training, they feel that their self-esteem is boosted and that they have a broader view of how to approach new people. As a result, we can understand ourselves and others better, and we thank Africa Unite for building us and being a community for unity and diversity.”

Participants playing SEL games

The workshop evaluation showed that participants found the workshop very informative and helpful and that they are committed to applying all that they learnt in the workshop in their lives and sharing the tools with their peers in school and at home. Furthermore, the exercise of sharing one’s insecurities and receiving motivational messages from the other participants was particularly impactful. It helped the learners gain confidence and realize that they are not alone with the critical voice in their head.

90% of participants mentioned that they are now more aware of themselves as well as people around them and that the whole session really brought everyone together, which is especially powerful considering the diversity of the group–age groups, cultures, nationalities, gender, and religion. This shows that teaching Social Emotional Learning is a powerful way to bring more social cohesion and help young people see their shared humanity in each other.

This month, there will be three additional Social Emotional Learning workshops in Gauteng and Durban. Thanks to the peer-to-peer approach, we are confident that this program will reach hundreds of young people and play a positive role in this generation’s mental wellbeing of this generation.

Commenting on the programme, Ms Mira Modise, the facilitator of the SEL programme at Africa Unite said that she was happy on the progress and impact made by the introduction of SEL among young learners. “More participants reported that sharing their experiences in the group made them stronger, and that they feel more comfortable with being perceived as “different”. This shows that SELF has a positive influence on identity and relationship building among participants”. Added Mira.

SEL participants

Posted in Dialogue, Events, News, Report, school club, Staff, Training, Updates, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The masses silenced: understanding the human rights violations in eSwatini – Report of the Webinar on the situation in the Kingdom of Eswatini (former Swaziland)

In Africa, the use of brutal force against peaceful protestors has become part of the structure of the political domain. Historically and in contemporary Africa, many regimes have resorted to the use of violence to silence citizens from pursuing political transformation and a balanced democratic system. With this, Africa’s pro-democracy movements will continue if absolute monarchical regime powers continue unchecked. This follows the police brutality and government-sanctioned violence in the Kingdom of Eswatini, which was sparked by protests that began in May 2021 following the death of Thabani Nkonyeni, a final year law student.

The rise of Eswatini masses against the injustices in various areas demanding reforms was met with brutal suppression from the police and the military, leading to the citizens’ arrests, deaths, and injuries. Within this context, Africa Unite Youth Assembly1 opened a virtual platform on the 22nd of July 2021, where young people across Africa came together to raise awareness on the plights of Eswatini citizens and mapped strategies on how to challenge human rights abuses. The objectives of the webinar were to understand the causes of violation of human rights leading to killing and injuries of the masses, to explore the impact, implications, and lessons from the crisis, and to map intervention strategies that young people across Africa can take in challenging human rights abuses and promoting peace. 53 participants attended the webinar.

The webinar was moderated by one of our Africa Youth Assembly members, Olerato Keegope, a Youth Advocacy and Communications Officer at Sentebale in Botswana. The opening remarks and unpacking of the objectives of the webinar were given by Thando Gwinji, a member of the Africa Youth Assembly and the Director of Youth Innovation Trust in Zimbabwe. Thando expressed how imperative the dialogue was for young people to find solutions and support Eswatini during this tiresome time in Africa. She also added that the webinar was happening at a crucial time in Africa where COVID-19, unemployment and civil unrest were high. Hence, it was important for Africa youth to devise initiatives to engage meaningfully and find solutions for all of African countries.

On the panelists, we had Maxwell Dlamini, a youth democracy activist and the co-founder at Ubuntu Leadership Academy in Eswatini, who gave the context of what was directly happening on the ground in eSwatini. We also had Mr. Dewa Mavhinga, the Director of Southern Africa Human Rights Watch, who provided a lens on the human rights situation in eSwatini by outlining the importance of pushing forth human rights reforms.

Mr Maxwell Dlamini is a youth democracy activist who has spent over four years in prison in the past decade for demanding democratic reforms in Eswatini. He has been charged with various charges of Treason, Sedition and Terrorism for critising the royal regime. He is Currently a Co-Founder and Vice Chairperson of Ubuntu Leadership Academy, a youth organization mobilising and organising young people to advance youth participation, democracy and Freedom in Eswatini as well as build and train the next layer of leadership in the country. Mr Dlamini is also a Former Student leader and has been honoured with AASU Students Activist Award For 2013, in recognition of the work he has done in improving students welfare and development in Eswatini. Mr Dlamini is currently on indefinite bail for the charges of Suppression of Terrorism Act with very strenuous bail conditions.

Mr Dewa Mavhinga is the Southern Africa Director with the Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. Dewa has more than ten years research and advocacy experience on Zimbabwe as well as in Southern Africa. Before joining Human Rights Watch, Dewa worked as the Regional Coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition based in Johannesburg. In 2012 Dewa co-founded the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, a public policy research think-tank based in Harare. He is a recipient of the British Chevening and Canon Collins Trust scholarship, Dewa holds a bachelor of law honors degree (LLB) from the University of Zimbabwe and a master of law degree in international human rights (LLM) for Essex University, United Kingdom.

In providing the context, Maxwell elucidated that the fundamental freedoms like freedom of economic development have been targeted and looked upon wrongly by the current regime leaving many languishing in poverty. He further added that the environment was volatile as youth participation in demanding change was criminalized. King Mswati III has the absolute power to appoint political leaders within the parliament without the citizens’ input. The Eswatini citizens have long dreamt of a just and prosperous kingdom governed by the rule of law; however, they continue to be denied as King Mswati III has responded with a highly militarized solution. Maxwell explained that in 2005 regardless of the promulgation of the Constitution of 2005, the Constitution was just a smokescreen used by authorities sorely to dispel the perception that not all was well in the Eswatini kingdom. Briefly, the Kingdom remains trapped between a traditional and contemporary form of government which has stemmed in a conflict between the application of democratic values and the conservation of Swazi law and tradition. The Kingdom has a non-party system and has electoral procedures based on Swazi custom.

Within this political landscape, the masses are demanding a multi-party democracy, a concept that remains distant from Eswatini’s political and constitutional dispensation. However, the current system of government does not accommodate political parties, presenting an inroad in so far as the enjoyment of the freedom of political association was concerned as sadly the Constitution of 2005 clandestinely supports the resentment towards a multi-party democracy.

Hence, the absence of participation of political parties in the political arena implies that political parties remain outcasts in so far as governing of the country was concerned.

The aforementioned has been some of the driving factors of protests which were sparked by the killing of a university student by the police. Young people have mobilized and participated in peaceful demonstrations and handing petitions demanding change from the government. However, there have been many arbitrary arrests, shootings with live ammunition towards peaceful protesters leading to death and injuries. Now, the military was looking for those who have participated in the activities and wants to arrest them. Many of the people who are already in custody are facing increased troubles because they are not offered bail or proper legal representation regarding their cases in court. “We need a democracy that will lift the people of Eswatini,” said Maxwell.

In explaining the situation through human rights lens, Mr. Mavhinga noted that there had been protests in the country for a long time. However, the government has engaged in a heavy reaction towards the demonstrations. Many of the military and government responses have involved shooting indiscriminately at the crowds during the protests using live ammunition. He added that there was a shutdown of the internet, which violated individuals’ fundamental right to gain information. In addition, the government is targeting many people by putting them in prison. Mr. Mavhinga also highlighted the importance of providing the youth and people of Eswatini with a voice to demand the end to human rights violations and advocated that solidarity was a crucial part in acting against these human rights violations.

Mr. Mavhinga said that despite the existence of international human rights norms and standards which most African countries acknowledge, no other continent in the world lacks respect for human rights in the way the African continent does. However, he added that there are severe concerns regarding respect for human rights and the rule of law remains an unfortunate reality in the Kingdom of Eswatini. “As much as Eswatini is a signatory of various United Nations Human Rights Conventions, those rights remain empty words in the absence of a legal and political order in which rights can be realized,” emphasized Mr. Mavhinga. “There needs to be a chorus of voices calling for change.” Mr. Mavhinga added. Hence, participants agreed that it was imperative to put pressure on Eswatini as its legal and political order must align and embrace democratic principles to ensure that the principles of human rights and the rule of law are protected.

The panelists called African youth to advocate and speak out that there are serious concerns regarding the use of force towards the people of Eswatini. They also highlighted the need to open more platforms to share the eSwatini experiences to bring forth the conditions to the spotlight. It was also suggested that African youth must mobilize and take the Eswatini government to the African Commission for gross violation of human rights. In addition, to build more robust networks that will push neighboring countries like South Africa, business owners like MTN, civil society organization donors like European Union to act to transform the situation.

It was also raised that young people should point out these violations while also giving the Eswatini youth a space to discuss their stories and testify their experiences. This is crucial to
presenting the need for actions towards the inhumane treatment of the Eswatini government. The Youth of Eswatini and Africa should bring forth these issues of the conditions in Eswatini to the spotlight. They must be demanding more significant reforms while working with human rights organizations to enact change. There needs to be substantial pressure put forth to bring about change for the country of Eswatini to neighboring countries like South Africa and the incoming African Union chairmanship, Malawi.

Recommendations:

To put pressure on the international and regional communities like European Union, United Nations, and African Union to assist Eswatini people set up a new constitutional dispensation
• eSwatini should embark on a constitutional review exercise to amend the Constitution to limit the powers of the King as an executive state official. It was highlighted that to do so. An interim government must be put in place to address these loopholes. Dialogue is a crucial step to setting reforms and a new inclusive government. Economic development is an essential part of helping the people.
• African youth in various countries must advocate and protest for change by sharing the stories of eSwatini widely and submitting petitions to eSwatini embassies.
• To identify critical allies’ countries like neighboring South Africa to act. It was also suggested to use the platform at the incoming Ordinary SADC Summit of Heads of State and Government to be held in Lilongwe, Malawi, in August 2021.
• To build stronger networks as Africa youth and even approaching Malawi to put the situation of eSwatini as the top priority on the agenda of the SADC Summit. There is a need for an urgent lobby and mobilization of the youth of Malawi before the SADC summit happens in their own country
• Protest against MTN following its shutdown of internet in eSwatini
• Sanctions could be another form of putting pressure on the King and his government to end human rights violations and change the political landscape
• Neighboring African countries must offer sanctuary to the activists targeted by the ruling regime
• Africa youth to create a platform that will constantly inform youth about the development in Eswatini but most importantly knowing which forces the monarch uses to suppress the masses outside the Kingdom
• Young people to approach trade unions and explore what kind of assistance and solidarity they could suggest to them
• There is a need to understand the entire problem, so the intervention is most consistent with the requirements of the Eswatini people and comes to tackle the root causes
• Young people were called to utilize media to advocate for the rights of the marginalized.

In conclusion, young people acknowledged that there was a greater need to challenge the eSwatini situation by putting pressure on the ruling monarchy as pressure has a possibility of bringing change. Moreover, the participants acknowledged the need for political intervention,
the voice from other African countries, and targeting the key United Nations and African Union institutions in addressing the crisis.

Posted in Dialogue, Events, News, Training, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Crossing divides and bridging communities”

It’s a new year and a new wave of human rights defenders and promoters have committed themselves to be Youth Human Rights Peer Educators to further promote a peaceful and harmonious Africa.

From the 18th to the 20th June 2021, Africa Unite held its third Youth Human Rights Peer Educators Training Weekend this year in addition to the two held in Kwa Zulu Natal and Gauteng Provinces early this year. The training was held at the Saldanha Bay Municipal resort which is located 111km North-West of Cape Town, South Africa.

Peer Educators from all over the Western Cape in Saldanha Bay

This workshop was conducted in partnership with the Saldanha Bay Municipality (SBM) and acts as a device for future collaborations between the SBM and Africa Unite.

The training took place in the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and is also the first year no members of the Africa exchange program were present, the training included a diverse group of youth from across the African continent, from a group of 19 young people (11 participants from Cape Town and 8 from the Saldanha Bay Municipality how many male & female). Of the 19 South African participants, 4 were originally from outside of the country (The Netherlands, Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) which adds to the diverse group of cultures, languages and experiences to the weekend and training. The purpose of the training was to capacitate young people from different backgrounds with knowledge and necessary skills in Human Rights for them to become Youth Human Rights Peer Educators in their respective communities and countries.

Participant Naod Ghebru explaining how to pronounce the term Human Rights in Tigrinya 

During this 3-day training, the facilitators covered the following content:

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.

How to facilitate human rights information sessions in various communities and countries.

In addition to this, we had a meeting on challenges facing young people in their respective communities and how young people could help bring solutions.

During the training, the youth were divided into 4 countries namely, (1) Cameroon, (2) Mozambique, (3) Ghana and (4) Kenya. Most of their group work was done according to the above country groups. One of the highlights of the weekend training was the mock African Union assemblies where each country group was invited to make a presentation under the following indicators: (1) a brief history about the country, (2) current political issues, (3) socio-economic and cultural dynamics, (4) The resources of the Country and (5) In case they win, how each country intends to use the $50 billion donations in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

After different presentations were done by the President of each country, Kenya took the prize due to their highly creative presentation (including their creative dress code), teamwork and well-informed presentation on the country they represented. Cameroon came in a very close 2nd.

To mimic the traditional winning procedure, the group members were issued a mock cheque of $50 billion as well as a suitcase containing the funds for aid to their country. Nonetheless, the purpose of this activity was not just to highlight the importance of teamwork, but rather to also allow our youth to research and understand the political and socio-economic background of each African country. A background which we stress all Africans to familiarize themselves with.

Chairman of the African Union Lyle R Breda and President of the World Bank Carron Jordaan

Furthermore, during these 3-days, the facilitators used simulation activities and role-playing which made the youth reflect on their attitudes and behavior on how they interact with others. The youth participants were highly motivated on how they can go back to their respective communities/countries and disseminate the knowledge they have acquired during the training in their own families, communities, places of worship, universities, youth groups and other appropriate places.

Although the youth were from different backgrounds, they were excited about the levels of interaction, the content of the training and the skills which were gained throughout the weekend.

To conclude the training session, a representative from the SBM, Mr Andre’ Levacks the public participation officer for the municipality explained the responsibilities and role of local government and the opportunity for public participation in social issues and workings of government. Mr. Levacks had also offered the support of the municipality to these prospective Peer Educators in Laingville on the condition that they proactively engaged their community to facilitate Human Rights dialogues, workshops and community-building activities.

Public participations officer for the SBM Andre’Lewaks explaining the roles and responsibilities of the municipality to the weekend participants

The participants were then handed the certificates of completion and the Human rights training manual to complete the session.

The two groups from Cape Town and Saldanha committed to tackling social issues such as teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, xenophobia and Gender-based violence, respectively, by engaging, educating and equipping their communities with the knowledge gained from the training. The two groups also planned and proposed ways to raise funds and which stakeholders to partner with.

Overall, the youth made a clear commitment to go back to their respective communities and to conduct similar information sessions. They also committed that they will use channels available to raise issues rather than resulting in protests in the first place. Young people thanked the SBM and AU for this great opportunity and promise to use it to sensitize other young people to join them.

Western Cape Peer Educator intake for 2021

Here are some comments made by the young leaders :

“Some lessons from this event will stay with me forever: to solve new types of issues, we must think out of the usual norms, thousand people or group of people can have thousand divergent opinions, but they can still find strength in their differences.”– Petro Mbwanya (South Africa via DRC)

“I learnt how to apply human rights in practice and how to formulate a platform on which to educate people about human rights.” Ofentse Maybe (South Africa)

“It was very amazing education and interactive leaving a sense of impact or a mental footprint.” – Nam Malgas (South Africa)

Posted in Dialogue, Events, News, Report, Training, Updates, Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AFRICA UNITE TEAM BUILDING HIKE 2021 REPORT

Africa Unite organized a hike to Lion’s Head as part of a team spirit exercise. On May 22nd, staff members, peer educators, interns, and friends of AU gathered to take up the challenge.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Hiking can be a true challenge, both on a personal level and as a team effort. Indeed, beyond being a physical activity, it also requires working together because not everyone goes at the same speed. For example, someone who walks fast has to know when to lead and when to help others keep going and not give up, which is exactly what happened to us that day. Throughout this hike, we had time to connect and develop a strong team spirit. Everyone went all the way to the top even if it was harder for some people than for others. In the end, the view and the feeling of pride for the whole team for not giving up and staying positive the whole day were worth it all.  

Leader, Youth Radio Program coordinator, also joined the 14 participants to conduct some interviews along the way. With the help of Mihle, he asked them questions about their expectations and feelings about the hike. You will be able to hear it all on Africa Unite Youth Radio very soon!

A whole day of hiking

What was supposed to be a morning hike ended up being a day-long outing! How did this happen you may ask? Well, here it goes. On Saturday, May 22nd we all met up at Africa Unite’s office at 8 am to go to the meeting point together, which was at The Glen Tree Circle. Early but happy! Once everyone had arrived and the final preparations had been made, we finally left. But that was only the beginning of this adventure. We did indeed have some twists and turns with the van, which was struggling to support our weight on the hills… But it was all greeted with good humor by the whole team! We finally started the hike at 10 am, on a path which was still in the morning shades. We walked our way through that side of the mountains, enjoying a view that can’t be seen from Lion’s Head. We were having such a great time together that no one realized we hiked further than necessary on the path to Signal Hill!! We then had to backtrack, but don’t worry we found our way back to Lion’s Head. As a team, we decided to keep going even if it meant walking more than what we expected. So we continued our way joyfully, cheering each other up! After everyone finally reached the top of Lion’s Head, we took the time to enjoy this amazing view under the warm sun. Dear reader, that’s how we ended up coming back at 5 pm. Instead of having a brunch together afterwards, we enjoyed some pizzas as our dinner. But that day was so great, we will only keep great memories!

Congratulations to all of our hikers who came to Africa Unite Team Building Hike! It was truly amazing to see the team spirit arose as we were making our way to Lion’s Head. You can be proud of yourselves. We are looking forward to our next adventures together!!

Posted in Events, Report, Staff, Uncategorized, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment