Exploring Human Rights through self-expression

Celebration of youth leaders: an afternoon of SELF and poetry

Every Wednesday, a group of local and migrant school leaders gather online for the Social Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) to discuss relevant issues affecting their personal lives and communities. In acknowledgment of both Human Rights Month (March) and Sexual Harassment Awareness Month (April), Africa Unite hosted a special event on April 7th, 2021.

Our special guest, the poet, publisher, activist, and tv personality Kay-Dee Mashile welcomed the audience. In the first part, the participants focused on sexual harassment discussion and how it affects them personally and socially. The second part focused on the winners’ announcement of the Africa Unite Poetry Competition on Human Rights Day.  

Out of the 18 poetry submissions received, seven got shortlisted and received a chance to perform their spoken word live infront of the camera during the Zoom event, which saw an attendance of over 30 learners from different cultural backgrounds and provinces.  

This event was so successful that Africa Unite decided to renew it for Africa Month (May) and Refugee Month (June). Kay-Dee Mashile offered to partner with Africa Unite for the Poetry contest. She even extended an invitation to our young writers to submit their work for the next competition. The top 5 will be published in The Poetry Pulpit Journal, which comes out every month. The Journal is also recorded as a podcast every few months.

This online event brought together over 30 persons, more than half of whom have a migration background.

SELF-active discussion about sexual harassment

Every week, through the SELF program, each participant can propose a topic and moderate the debate. As an opener, Peer educator Avuzwa Ngubo facilitated a game where participants collectively had to create a poem with the first line being “No man is an Island.” Then, the youth shared their different views on sexual harassment, which led to tackling other vital subjects such as gender differences, equal rights, toxic masculinity, consent, and social media users. In the end, youth acknowledged that we are all humans who live in the same world and experience feelings. We have to help each other take accountability for what needs to be done to generate change in our communities—as a youth, being a proactive actor of change means starting in your own environment, whether with your family or friends. No action is too small if it is done intentionally.

Event’s poster: “Poetry competition on Human Rigts – Announcement of winners & original spoken word”.

Poetry Competition for Human Rights

This poetry competition was launched during Human Rights Month. It was extended outside the SELF group, and there were 18 submissions in total, from which seven were shortlisted. Those shortlisted were allowed to perform their poetry during the event. After powerful recitals and online voting via Zoom poll, the winners were finally announced as follow:

1st: Death of an African Dream, Sasikelelwa Matshayana (R500)

2nd: A thousand more tears, Natasha Muberuka (R300)

3rd: We are all born free and equal, Fayth (R200)

4th: A child has a right too, Danielle Uwacu Ndagijimana – grade 4, the youngest participant (R100)

A special moment with guest Kay-Dee Mashile

Kay-Dee Mashile joined this event to share her own experience as a poet and an activist. She gave some valuable advice to the young writers. She reminded them that blogs and social media are very significant to reach a larger audience, but she recommended only to share small parts of their poems, just enough to convey their style and still own their work. She also talked about the motivation behind writing, making some inspiring comments:

“The importance of activism is not about what we are against but who we are for.”

Writing can be used as a form of activism, but you have to know:  What are you standing for? Who are you speaking for?

All in all, we would like to thank all of our participants and are looking forward to the next event, where we expect great contributions on the topic of Africa.

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