Volunteer Day on Freedom Day

I held my volunteer day at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for abused women and children in Manenberg.  For the day, I organised for friends of mine to share their skills and expertise with the women, and so create a day filled with a variety of transforming and empowering activities for them.  

The activities included a gentle body workout by a pilates instructor; a talk on parenting skills by a social worker; a mini yoga and Shakti dance session by a yogini; and a guided meditation in the form of a storytelling by a hypnotherapist.  there was also the option of hoola hooping, which both the moms and the children enjoyed.

While the women were engaged in the activities their children enjoyed a party that  was arranged by 3 of my friends.  The party included a clown named Jo-Jo, who the children loved!  They also got to try cupcake decorating to add to the sweet eats in their party packs.  

My mother made a hot, cooked meal for lunch using the money that was contributed by many people from my network.  The women seemed to really enjoy this as they have only one meal a day that is made for them.  With the help of others from the larger sphere of my network 4kgs of biscuits, a box of kiddie’s movies, 4 litres of Powerade, 3 large boxes of women’s and children’s clothing and a large children’s painting were given to the centre.

I believe the day was a great success!

Unacceptable sanitation! What is the solution?

Young South Africans have grown up in a ‘free’ country, and yet, a simple thing like sanitation is still such a problem. While some South Africans have four bathrooms in their own houses, others suffer the indignity of having no clean toilet at all. See the link below and think of innovative ways to get communities involved in changing this situation …

http://mg.co.za/multimedia/2013-04-25-cape-towns-dirty-secret/

The role of memory in creating change

Some Activators recently had the opportunity to attend a talk on “Leadership and Innovation for Social Change and the role of Memory & Legacy.” This talk was hosted by the Board and Alumni of the South Africa – Washington international programme. Below are some reviews from the Activators who attended.

It was an event organized by the South African Washington DC International program (SAWIP) and InkuluFreeHeid (IFH) which is a movement that has been founded by ordinary South Africans. One of IFH key goals is to drive unity behind solving social problems. One of the key topics that were discussed was on how do we mobilize the youth and drive social innovation? How do we move away from looking at leadership as a status to understanding leadership as facilitating evolution and that things change with time and understanding that issues of concern from generation to generation have not been the same and to ask ourselves what is our mandate?

We talked about how the youth feels that they are misrepresented in SA politics. One of the panellists said social innovation starts with questions and what questions are we asking? Government cannot be the sole agent for social innovation.

 My take home message was, what is it that I am doing in my space, what conversations am I having with people I interact with? And what is it that I am fighting for. This was my previous facebook status after the dialogue “What are you fighting for? I am fighting for conditions that everyone can live in. I am fighting for access to resources, Nation building and personal development. I am fighting for a generation that actually takes the step and do things; I am strong on development of individuals and challenging the Status Quo. What are u fighting for? Thank you InkuluFreeHeid for quite an informative discussion” – Zanele Lwana

The questions tackled were how does legacy inform memory and perpetuate a historical narrative that doesn’t represent the complete fabric of SA society. Also how does this legacy idolize our leaders and place all the answers in their hands while they continue to mistreat their power and reinvent injustices to different groups of people.

My feedback would be that we didn’t touch on social innovation enough and come up with any innovative solutions which is what I was interested in. The question for me is how is the Legacy of apartheid and the memories it continues to invoke, prevent the youth generation from tackling the social issues they face and find solutions for them. India has one of the poorest populations in the world (without the legacy of the apartheid) and as a result one of the highest levels of entrepreneurialism. Why do we not see this in SA? Everyone expects the government to fix things in SA but our leaders are beneficiaries of the apartheid era doing little to redress the inequalities of the past, rather they are perpetuating racial inequality and segregation in different ways.

I would have liked the event to have had an end goal- one which everyone could move forward with i.e. a basic action plan. The wrap up speaker did encourage everyone to consider how they could implement their learnings/thoughts generated from the discussion though.

Mandy from the District Six Museum disclosed some fascinating facts about how people in District 6 innovated toward social cohesion and met on mountain hikes to align and keep their activities unsuspicious.

My question was if people innovated in those times why do we find our youth today less innovative in terms of tackling unemployment and the crises they are faced with today. Youth of the apartheid generation had something to fight for but today many people are not fighting unemployment, prostitution, crime, drugs etc- all symptoms of poverty arising from the apartheid legacy.

I proposed that Nation Building was the mandate of our parents’ generation- Nelson Mandela’s legacy of forgiveness- a very solid basis for nation building. I suggested that the platform for nation building had been laid and that it was the youth generation’s mandate to tackle unemployment and through this nation building will continue and many of our social crises dealt with. – Joanne Anderson

Mocha Panda Movement

Activator Kanyisa Booi started a youth movement called Mocha Panda. She explains what the movement is all about and what its goals are.

Mocha Panda (Youth Forward) is a sturdy show of solidarity amongst youth. Activators will conduct jam sessions throughout South Africa. Symbolically this will be carried out the Youth Month (June) up to Mandela day (18 July) marked by a 67 minute peaceful ‘Youth Attest’ walk to the Union Building. Information gathered in these jam sessions(dialogues) will be compiled into an Interactive Research, Study and Findings for Youth Development this to be handed on completion to Ministry of Performance and Evaluation Collins Chabane on the 18th of July. This will be a valuable contribution in devising an effective integrated Youth Strategy. With the South African Youth Policy being reviewed in 2014, Mocha Panda (Youth Forward) will be carving the way to a meaningful discussion document.

To stay in touch with Mocha Panda you can join the Facebook Group and follow us on Twitter.

Man Up Durban Exchange

The exchange was held in Durban on the 6th of April 2013. The award-winning human rights activist Jimmie Briggs spoke to the Activators about his Man Up Campaign.  Activator Nkosinathi attended the exchange and he wrote this review about it.

The rising number of gender based violence was the talk of the day. The young men were brought together to look at where does it all begin and where can young men address the issues of gender based violence. A statement that came through during the event was that, a young man is likely to see abuse happen to a female close to them in their life time. The Activators at the breakfast meeting agreed with this statement and also mentioned that as young men we have to rise and address the issues of abuse and violence against the opposite sex.

This led to a discussion around emotions and men being able to express them. The Activators started to question the statement “men are not supposed to cry”. We felt that this is led men to have anger within them and in return they become violent toward the opposite sex. The final word on this was that as men we need to learn to express our emotions.

Jimmie Briggs facilitated a discussion that got young men talking about what standards we have set as men in the communities and what measures have we used to define a man. This shed light on the issue of mentorship; men helping each other better themselves and their community. The idea behind mentorship is to help create a masculine identity that is not solely based on wealth status. 

Briggs highlighted that networking will assist young men to address the issues of gender based violence and also that until we address it at the individual level, i.e. how it affects our family first and then deal with the community; by doing so we can then be able to drive change within the country and to the world at larger. One lesson that was learnt was that we have to do something as young men to change the increase of gender based violence act, we need men to stand up and MAN UP and say it shall not happen with me and when around, I shall blow a whistle on gender based violence.

Young men need to remember that “A Man who sees far does greater”


“Civil society organisations need to prepare for new opportunities and challenges” says Activator Juzaida Swain

South African civil society – quo vadis?

In tough economic times, civil society organisations need to find new and innovative ways to cut costs, find resources and work more effectively, writes JUZAIDA SWAIN.

(First published http://reconciliationbarometer.org/newsletter/volume-eleven-2013/south-african-civil-society-quo-vadis/)

Post-1994, the tasks of confronting social inequalities and driving development in South Africa have increasingly become the work of civil society organisations (CSOs). This sector is already saddled with a mammoth task, but now also faces challenging economic and political constraints that have forced some CSOs to scale down on their activities, or close their doors altogether. According to a recent survey conducted by GreaterGood South Africa, 80% of CSOs participating in the 2012 Job Losses and Service Cuts study have experienced significant declines in funding. This has also led to increased anxiety about the future health of the sector. The downsizing and closure of several established human rights and peace-building organisations in the country has forced CSOs, as well as government, corporate and philanthropic initiatives, to re-strategise and find new funding practices and alternative models, in order to keep to their mandates in a restrictive climate.

These new challenges raise a few fundamentally relevant questions for the sector. Who should ultimately foot the bill for the crucial work carried out by civil society? How best can the different role-players face the current challenges, and achieve both the support and reforms that the country and the sector so desperately need? How best should these challenges be approached, and what opportunities and new models exist that would aid in overcoming the sector’s current uncertainties?

A look at the civil society landscape reveals that, in the BRICS economies alone, there has been a major increase in the numbers of CSOs. The Yearbook of International Organisations estimates that there are approximately 3.3 million registered non-profits in India, 338 000 in Brazil and 460 000 in China – growth in the sector is particularly pronounced in these emerging economies. With about 90 000 organisations in South Africa working across a range of different focal areas, CSOs take on a substantive role as convenors, facilitators and advocates. However, these high numbers also mean an exceedingly competitive environment and a contest for financial support that plays out across the global stage.

Given these levels of competition, as well as contracting funds from many northern state funders and philanthropic organisations in the continued aftermath of the recession, many CSOs have looked to corporate social investment (CSI) initiatives as an under-tapped source of support. According to Trialogue’s 15th edition of The CSI Handbook, South African corporates spent R6.9 billion on CSI in 2012. Many corporates, however, have not traditionally funded peace and human rights work, and in fact seem to steer directly away from these areas. There is also a general misperception that CSOs which receive corporate funding are inherently working in opposition to the state, or actively undermining sovereignty. This view has begun to change, however, and many corporates are now both active contributors to governance and economic policy processes, and stakeholders and partners to CSOs.

In fact, partnerships for sustainability between civil society and the private sector should be valued highly now more than ever, and are needed if South Africa is to achieve its developmental goals and realise solutions for ongoing peace and reconciliation work. But these crucial partnerships can only produce the best results if government is also involved in agenda-setting and joint planning. Civil society also needs to be a part of multi-stakeholder platforms if these are to lead to effective practice. Bearing these considerations in mind, formalised efforts to align strategic priorities could translate into greater impact, compared with fragmented efforts of government, the private sector or civil society acting alone. South Africa may have some of the best laws and policies in the world, but problems with implementation are principal causes of recent protest and social unrest. Particularly in the wake of the fatal shooting of protestors at the Lonmin-Marikana mine last year, integrated efforts by all stakeholders could lead to greater stability and prevent future tragedies of this kind.

New opportunities for collaboration also exist through the explosion of technology and social media use, which has revolutionised the work of many CSOs. Citizens and organisations involved in the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, as well as initiatives such as the Right2Know campaign in South Africa, show just how powerful and effective social media can be as an advocacy and activist tool. Sceptics might question the mobilisation and advocacy capacity of organisations that work and build a following and support base primarily online, but the results speak for themselves. For CSOs working in a funding-constrained environment, this trend may increase cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and new, replicable modes of working. In fact, with such rapid technological changes afoot, it is becoming clear that organisations without a strong online presence may ultimately be left behind. Strategising and planning around these changes are critical, as is advocacy around increasing internet accessibility for those who aren’t currently connected.

Looking further into the future, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has developed four scenarios on the possible role of civil society organisations in the eventuality of failing economies and political instability. CSOs need to undergo intense and critical self-examination, and assess their roles in relation to both current and future possibilities. Those of us within the sector need to continually ask ourselves whether we are adequately prepared for worst-case scenarios, in which access to funding continues to diminish as a result of scarce resources, global competition and geopolitical uncertainty.

In a turbulent world, it is likely that CSOs will be forced to become more self-critical in order to prepare for new opportunities and challenges – not only in terms of funding practices, but also to ensure their continued relevance in ever-changing times. It is fundamentally important that CSOs begin looking now at new collaborations for sustainability, innovative fundraising and cost-saving tactics, and tests of impact and relevance, and not just simply invoice governments and corporates.

Juzaida Swain is programme officer for fundraising and strategy at the IJR.

Activate! Exchange – Durban

Last week the Activate!Exchange was launched in Durban, the first in a series of events that discuss what young people are doing to create change and what can be done to support them. We would like to widen activator’s networks of opportunities and create awareness around what they are doing. The panellists were Lynette Ntuli, Sesethu Sidzama, Andrew Layman, Mthobisi Mkhize, Darlene Menzies, Debbie Heustice, Malusi Mazibuko and Nqaba Mpofu. The next Exchange will be held in June in Johannesburg.

‘Deforestation is dehumanization’ says an Activator volunteering at Greenpeace Africa

Amir Bagheri, an Activator who joined the network last year and who is currently volunteering for Greenpeace Africa, took part in an awareness campaign in Johannesburg recently that focused on the negative effects of deforestation for communities in a specific region in Cameroon.

Here, he shares his thoughts:

(originally published on Greenpeace Africa’s blog: http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/News/Blog/deforestation-is-dehumanisation/blog/44468/ )

In many cases we tend to separate the well-being of the environment from the well-being of ourselves as a human species, not realising that a healthy environment is connected to human dignity, and therefore is a human right.
On the 21st of March, the UN dedicated a day to the important role of forests by creating the International Day of Forests, with many events and activities all over the world.

Despite widespread awareness of the importance of forests, many are under threat. For example, Herakles Farms, a US-owned company, poses a serious danger to tens of thousands of hectares of forest in Cameroon, and the livelihoods of small farmers who depend upon it.

Herakles wants to flatten the forest to create space for a a palm oil plantation. Cameroonian and international NGOs and experts are critical of the project on the grounds of illegality, socio-economic injustice, and the environmental destruction it will cause.

On Saturday, 23rd March, an awareness event was held by Greenpeace Africa’s volunteers at Brightwater Commons in Johannesburg. It included a photo exhibition, showing photos taken in the rainforest of Cameroon.

This was my very first time as an environmental activist with Greenpeace. After four years of working as a human rights activist, I found that human rights cannot be ensured when many people across the world live in unhealthy environments that violate their human dignity, livelihoods and health.

When I arrived at the venue, about four or five volunteers were at the stall with a queue of people who were waiting to sign the Greenpeace petition calling for Herakles Farms to abandon their project. For the first time in my life, a queue shed some light into my day and energized me to spread awareness amongst all those who were interested.

Many people were utterly shocked when they found out that Herakles Farms is imposing its plantation without the free, prior and informed consent of the communities that will be directly affected. The project would also have a disastrous impact on biodiversity as well as produce millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

In five hours – and with the help of the South African public – we racked up 250 signatures for the petition against Herakles. We also handed out about 600 flyers, and spoke to countless curious people, spreading forest awareness far and wide. If that wasn’t enough, a surprise appearance by Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, left us feeling incredibly inspired.

Deforestation affects every single one of us directly and indirectly, and we shouldn’t allow any corporate projects to take away our human dignity and human rights.
Deforestation is dehumanisation. Let’s stop another tree from falling in the forest!

Are we waiting for a messiah of sorts, asks Lynette Ntuli

Lynette Ntuli, chief executive officer at Innate Investment Solutions (Pty) Ltd, put the cards squarely on the table last week at the first Activate!Exchange when she spoke about the type of youth leadership that could fill the current vacuum in our country. She later said, “The calibre of the panel members, audiences interactions and even some of the reactions and comments I received post the event made the morning well worth it.”

Her speech, which stimulated some much-need conversations about youth leadership in South Africa, went like this:

“I did not anticipate last week that the news would completely change and influence the angle I was going to take this morning, but we live in interesting times and this week, leadership in South Africa, at various levels, is under pressure and severe scrutiny.

This week the ANC NEC took the decision to disband the executive committee of the most powerful youth movement in South Africa, the ANC Youth League. With 366 000 members spread across approximately 3517 branches, it can be argued that we are about to enter a significant phase in the turning fortunes of our country in terms of defining and delivering upon what credible, educated, dynamic youth leadership should ideally characterise today.

So what? Why does this matter to any of us? The ANC Youth League has perhaps reaped what it’s sown from the anarchy and division it came to represent in the last 2 years in particular. However “We wish them well…” is not likely to cut it as a response this time.

The vacuum of power at the highest level within the ANC Youth League does not just affect the party. It affects everyone under the age of 35 (and the young at heart!) today within our borders, whether you are a card carrying member of the ANC, DA, IFP, COPE youth factions or not.

In the last 5 years the most visible face of young people in South Africa has been that of the former president of the ANC Youth League. Just behind him, the rise of another young political leader in the opposition has also been in the spotlight. And then they have been followed by the rest of us – the founders, leaders in corporate and entrepreneurial South Africa, organisers of causes, social commentators and Twitter activists.

There is a missing face in this picture, a massive group of young South Africans we have not accounted for. The forgotten 85% under the age of 35, stewing in poverty, without access to a brighter future, a 40% level of unemployment for work ready young people under the age of 30, an education system that is not delivering freedom to many of them, who stand without leadership.

A vacancy therefore exists not only in the ANC’s youth corps, but in the leadership of an entire generation.

Poverty, unemployment and a lack of hope and inspiration knows no colour or political affiliation…but it does know a culture of entitlement, it does know the power that can be bestowed by violence and it can learn the inside of prison walls.

Various sources of social and political research and a certain bank’s social campaign in the last 6 months have indicated and highlighted that young people are disaffected, apathetic and disillusioned by the politics of the country. In fact, most political parties can expect that this apathy will result in uncast votes in 2014.

Our existing youth structures and leadership that sit in and close to the seats of power have largely failed to separate social, youth and political issues and in so doing, created untold confusion, have lost a vital connection to the ground and sight to the next decade of the reality of life in South Africa for the average young person.

We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the future are represented by suffering millions; and the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity. – Benjamin Disraeli

Young people in South Africa essentially want and aspire to the same things irrespective of their differences. The freedom to live in a safe, vibrant, progressive society and optimise the benefits of democracy, as promised 18 years ago is still a priority to young people. Access to education, basic needs and rights, information and certain livelihoods is the source of both hope and fear in young minds today.

Economic freedom is the struggle of this generation and with the necessary support, knowledge and capability to create wealth, remains within our grasp.And I am not talking about nationalisation – we just want a solid foundation for entrepreneurship and innovation in our lifetime!

What we need to achieve these common goals is Leadership.

Visionary leadership that is not afraid to lead from the front and from the back.
Leadership that is not afraid to work hard and insist upon sweat equity from each of us.
Leadership that will listen, act impartially and take decisions… the tough calls for progress
Leadership that will not be intimidated by new ideas, learned minds and the potential of a society that is driven, literate, numerate and global in its world view.
Leadership that will empower a new breed of leader, that is ready and able to take on the challenges of our country and enable their peers to create solutions in collaborative efforts.
A leader unafraid to share what they have learnt and who is willing to un-learn, re-learn and keep learning again to move us all towards our goals.

It is a tall order and one wonders if we can rely on one visionary, the chosen one to live up to such expectation. What would we do if our candidate stumbles, errs, falls and fails?

Perhaps the alternative to fulfil the overwhelming requirements of this one vacancy, is to engage a council of a few, brilliant young leaders to start with. This council will not be difficult to constitute if we chose wisely, broadly, with merit and with the image of the end in mind. Because do not be mistaken – thousands of young leaders are hard at work, empowering themselves and their communities right now. Our leader is already in these ranks. A star that already twinkles, that just needs a platform to shine.

What we as a country lack is authoritative structures and policy creation processes that legitimately recognise and harness the extraordinary capacity of youth in civic action today. The world is too complex, too large and too frightful a matter for youth to change on their own, but given purpose, opportunities, resources, encouragement – young people can change the tiny fragments of world they find themselves in and are able to influence.

What is the greatest output and priority task against which we will measure the performance of our successful candidate?

The ability to eliminate doubt, debate and distraction around the creation of a purpose driven, post-apartheid, proudly South African identity in young people everywhere.

From this single deliverable, the achievement of the goals of the NDP are perfectly possible but more importantly, the future can lean on a generation that has been set up to succeed.

Izikhothane: clever statement or waste of youth? Have your say!

BURNING BLING

(credit: The Star newspaper)

Fame comes at a staggering price for Izikhothane youths – designer clothes, costly accessories  and expensive alcohol.

But it’s not just the consumption of these expensive items that earns status or popularity.

In parks and other public spaces before expectant and excited crowds, these teens destroy expensive goods to seal their standing in a trend that has found a growing popularity among youths in SA townships.

Izikhothane, the Zulu word for “those who lick”, have gained an infamous reputation for their acts of waste – they tear up or burn wads of cash, designer clothes and shoes, and recklessly slosh expensive alcohol on the ground.

Clinical psychologist Simphiwe Sinkoyi, from Joburg, says the Izikhothane bill themselves as street performers, “but their art consists of little more than branded clothing and face-offs with rival crews who compete over who has more money”.

He says ukukhothana is a money-conscious SA version of the diss battles in the US, but where the American jokes would begin with, “Yo mama is so…”, these kids start theirs with “I’m so rich I can…”

“They then proceed to demonstrate how much money they have by engaging in wasteful behaviour.”

According to Sinkoyi, this fad started in smaller black communities of Gauteng’s East Rand and quickly filtered into Soweto.

But it’s a phenomenon that’s “not entirely new in the townships and in black pop culture”, says Lebo Motshegoa, director of Foshizi, a company that specialises in market research into the black consumer market.

“In my time, almost 14 years ago, if you had enough money, you’d buy Carvela or Rossi Moda shoes. They made a statement that you were now living the life,” says Motshegoa.

“Fast track two decades later and it’s the same thing but with a twist. Every generation wants to be different. Now, it’s about extreme waste. Back then it was good enough to be seen wearing the right label.

“These days, you diss your opponent, who’s also wearing something expensive, and dare each other to set alight a R1 000 T-shirt. Setting that shirt alight is the same thing as burning R1 000.”

Sinkoyi says he is aware of a recent incident where “a boy from Pimville bought a bucket of KFC chicken, threw it on the floor and then stomped on the chicken pieces using his R2 000 pair of loafers to grind the white meat into the ground before setting the food alight – and then the shoes.”

Motshegoa reduces the attitude of Izikhothane to this: “I have more where this came from.”

He added that it’s about going to the park and dressing up in expensive clothes. It’s about taking Ultramel custard and expensive whisky or Cognac to throw around. Many Izikhothane will also have pairs of shoes in different colours to show that they have more than one pair.

Afterwards, when the dissing battle is over, they perform a “gloating dance”.

Many of these youths don’t come from affluent backgrounds, says Motshegoa.

“Their parents often don’t have the best of jobs and aren’t rich. They’re factory workers or work at the supermarkets.”

Says Sinkoyi: “The question remains, though, why do it at all? By their own admission, they aren’t as moneyed as they pretend to be. Why then spend the little cash they do receive on clothing which in some cases will end up as tattered rags? The boys provide no answers.”

Sinkoyi says that, in a typically teenage manner, Izikhothane have paid no thought to the psychology behind the trend.

“It’s tempting to think of Izikhothane as some kind of nihilistic reaction to a rampantly consumerist culture, a negation of the power that ‘stuff’ has over us.

“But really it comes off as an overexaggerated homage to consumerism – the desperate quest for individualism that ties its success to brand names and price tags.”

It gives these young people their moment in the spotlight.

“It is a search for self-value, and not notoriety. When all the romanticism has been sucked out of the ghetto, when history’s lessons have stripped you of what should be inherent self-respect, dignity is inferred. Izikhothane will borrow Armani’s name and Diesel’s reputation until they can make their own.”

Motshegoa agrees.

“These kids don’t think about their future. They look at their popularity. And parents are pressured into it and give in to their children.

“It’s also a question of pride on the parents’ side where they don’t want to look as if they cannot provide for their child.”

Motshegoa says that quite recently girls have joined in.

Kefilwe*, 16, Mpho*, 18 and Thandi*, 17, were unapologetic for being a part of this fad and proudly admitted being Izikhothane.

They looked the part, striding confidently across Thokoza Park during a night of revelry. They wore pricey labels worth thousands of rands – such as Carvela, Adidas, Guess and Nike – and boasted shiny gold teeth and Krugerrand earrings.

“I do it for the fame,” said Kefilwe.

“Money is not a problem. Both my parents are working and have good jobs. Yes, we burn clothes, we brag and we do the talk of the Italian with our real Carvelas. It’s to show that money is not a problem, that it’s just to spend.”

And what’s with the gold teeth, I asked?

They laughed. “It’s to show uhleka ngamalini (how much are you smiling with?). Without the gold teeth, you’re cheap.

“We’re using Listerine to clean the gold and we can afford to go to the dentist.”

Kefilwe admitted her mother was aware of the trend and opposed it.

“But she doesn’t know I burn the clothes. She gives me an allowance of R5 000, she doesn’t know what’s in my closet or where the money all goes,” said Kefilwe.

Izikhothane is a big thing – if you’re not a part of it, then you’re nothing.”

Mpho chimed in: “It’s just a trend and we show off just like other trends.

“The old people say that what we’re doing is devil worshipping. It’s not that. Being Izikhothane, people respect you, and there’s all that attraction and attention.”

Kefilwe agreed: “We have to spend in order to impress. I’m famous, many people know me.”

Thandi said she felt no guilt for what they did, calling it a “celebration of life”.

“Besides, we’re meant to spend our parents’ money,” Kefilwe added.

“They are working for us,” said Mpho.

However, the three teens insisted that being Izikhothane was just a youthful phase for them.

“We’re all in matric and we do have a future,” said Thandi.

“We’re not going to be Izikhothane for our whole life. After high school, we’ll grow up, we’ll leave all this childishness behind.”

Said Kefilwe: “We’ll be done with it. This is futureless, but we do it now for the fame and just to enjoy life. It makes sense.” .

Mpho adds: “Yeah, for us it’s like I’ve been there, done that.”

But there are those youths who have chosen “not to fall into the trap” of this trend.

Bafana*, 17, believed that teens like Kefilwe’s group were “doing a foolish thing”.

“They’re just wasting their parents’ money. What I’d like them to do is put their expensive clothes in a box and donate it to charity, and not burn them. Why don’t they rather do a game of donation, instead of dancing, bragging and burning?” said Bafana.

Mzwandile*, 17, was of the same opinion. “It’s disturbing. I know my friends do it not only for fame and to fit in, but to show that they are alive. And you get kids who are nine years old to people in their 20s doing this.”

Financial reasons and his firm belief in his future, said Mzwandile, had stopped him from following the trend.

“When I ask my friends why they do it, they can’t really give me their reasons. They’re just trying to be a part of something they don’t know. They wear their expensive clothes, and others who can’t afford will buy fong kong (obviously fake) stuff just to fit in.

“I look at the new generation and I think we are going down the drain. Two years ago, it was all about music and dance. Lately, it’s about the swag, which doesn’t allow us to be united.”

Mzwandile believes these activities separate the youth. “What about the generation after us? They’re going to grow up thinking this is what they have to do.”

“I really don’t think there’s any positive thing about this. Kids are getting on drugs and 13-year-olds are drinking alcohol.

“And if they cannot afford it, they’ll turn to crime to feed their swag and their lifestyle… There is no future in being Izikhothane. It will damage your future.”

Motshegoa said that it was a fad that wouldn’t last because it was not sustainable.

“It requires far too much of people.”

* Real names not used

 Have your say: What do you think of izikhothane? Write to activateourvoices@gmail.com

Re-imagining education and all of its possibilities

The Innovative Teachers Institute (ITI), sponsored by the Khulula foundation, is a movement for passionate, skilled, connected and revolutionary educators committed to the quest of creating change through adopting innovative strategies that promote development and improve student performance.

It is extending an invitation to stakeholders in education to attend their inaugural workshop on the 25 April 2013, at the Ridge School at 26 Woolston Road, Westcliff, Johannesburg from 8:00-16:30.

ITI provides a platform for public & private school teachers, pre-service teachers, professors of education, after school programme coordinators, principals, education students, and youth programme coordinators to engage in a meaningful way through workshops and open discussion forums aimed at empowering participants with strategies and practices that will enable them to create change in their classrooms, facilitate learner development and improve performance.

This institute was founded with the primary purpose of creating space for educators to re-imagine education and all its possibilities bringing them to the realisation that they possess the power and ability to activate meaningful change that makes a difference in the lives of their students, broader community and the country in general.

“Teaching is a calling, similar to that of religious order when not done just for mere pay can truly bring-about an uplifting experience to both teacher and student,” comments Waahida Mbatha, founding member of the institute.

Participating organisations in the inaugural event include: Assitej, BEEM, Deliver NPO, EAdvance, Home Language Project, Ikamva Youth, Kgololo Academy, Karen Walstra Consulting, Mathemaniacs, Spark Schools, The Ridge School, Think Ahead and XoliswaMoraka Communications.

Registration to participate will be open from the 25 February – 22 April 2013 and those interested can register online at www.khululafoundation.org/innovative-teachers-institute/ . For more information about this initiative contact Waahida Mbatha at  wmbatha@khululafoundation.org  or 079 594 5682.

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AN ACTIVATOR GOES LIVE ON HUFFINGTON POST!

Activator Koketso Moeti, who completed year one of the Activate programme last year, was recently involved in an online Live Chat interview with world-renowned publication the Huffington Post. Opportunities like this give South African youth a voice and ensure that our views are not shrouded in silence or sitting beneath the radar. click here for the panel interview!

‘There is a way out’: An activator speaks of suicide, success and the path between the two

by Sandile Tsie

‘In life we experience challenges, and at times they drain us emotionally in such a way that we don’t see our way out (solutions). But through my life I have realised that in all our challenges, we can find our way out – even if you sometimes feel like I once did: hopeless, full of anger, demotivated and swimming in a pool of confusion. These were testing times in my life.

I was a young boy who was a communication tool between my parents, especially after they had conflict. I remember during my adolescenbet life when I had to use one pair of shoes for various occasions (weddings, funerals, school). It wasn’t because I liked that pair more than others. It was the only pair I had that wasn’t completely falling apart.

At some point I failed grade 10 twice, smoked dagga, drank alcohol and ended up trying to commit suicide because I was tired of not seeing a positive picture in my life. The turning point was after the death of my mother (May her soul rest in peace) which forced me to realise that I have to be accountable for my own life, no one else.

Before I realised my way out, I had to undergo a process of self-introspection and to what I want in my life. I realised that I have been a curse in my own life. I then started to embrace the basic principles of life, started to respect my self, accept my family environment, adopt a positive attitude, and share with others. I also continued with my grade 10 for the third time as I wanted to finish and pass my grade 12 which I later did.

I have managed to learn to use what I have to gain what I don’t have rather than taking what is available in front of me for granted.
Through embracing the change I needed, a lot of things started to change and I realized I could achieve great things.

But, after my matric another challenge posed itself as a threat. I passed my matric but with low symbols. Unfortunately, I was stuck: no money to further my studies and not able to get a bursary. I decided to volunteer in a local organisations and since then I never looked back. This taught me that as you achieve, an achievement comes with its own challenges. Some of our huge challenges need simple answers and commitment to stick by those answers.

There are 3 leadership lessons that I learnt from a Mr Tope Popoola (Nigerian Writer, Preacher and Speaker) life of Ntethe which drive our approach in delivering solution orientated services:

  • We see a way out in every situation
  • We take an initiative to get to that way out
  • We request support from other so they help us get to our way out

I worked in various organisations as a volunteer, manager, and recently a founder of my own consulting company “Ntethe Consulting Services” – a social entrepreneur initiative where I get an opportunity to offer personal and organisational development services. We still have people who find themselves stuck in situations that steal their happiness; we still see community organisations that are initiated out of passion but lack capacity to deliver effectively. It is for these reasons that I have started this social entrepreneur consultancy to give assistance to others.

Where to from here?

Another major challenge I have identified is the lack of effective leadership within our communities and lack of solidarity amongst existing community structures. So, under the company, we will be implementing an in-school youth leadership programme (2012 -2013) with a vision of impacting 2110 young leaders in 10 years to address this need. This is the vision that has been shaped by various institutions that trained me (Common Purpose International, Future Fit, Youth Connection Organisation, loveLife, Nokuphila Community Services, Ithemba Foundation, Winning Teams in Education, Activate! Leadership for Public Innovation, and UNISA).

Last year I attended year one of the Activate programmes which has stretched my thinking to another level. I apply critical thinking using the innovation tools that allow me to navigate my leadership journey by looking at leadership in myself and others.
I just want to challenge all of us as young people of this country: let us value what is inside more than what is outside. What is inside is wired in you, it’s your authentic you, it’s you inner voice that guides you in every challenge but mostly we decide to ignore it. Government might give you a bursary, but if you don’t respect yourself you will misuse the opportunity and blame others for that, if you don’t accept yourself you won’t realise your internal resources that can take you from the one level to the next.
I’m still experiencing challenges but I now know that I don’t have to run away. I approach challenges with a winning attitude. I see a way out in every challenge; I always see a blessing in what others see as a mess.

Now, I am a young Husband, Father, Edutainer, Inspirational Speaker, Activator, Consultant, Community Development Practitioner, Social Entrepreneur and a Networker.’

Leadership: Six secrets to doing less

By: May, Mattheew E.

Posted on: 06 February 2013

Source: strategy+business (28 January 2013)

In the pursuit of innovation, leaders are often faced with three critical decisions: what to follow versus what to ignore, what to leave in versus what to leave out, and what to do versus what not to do. 

Many of the most original innovators tend to focus far more on the second half of each choice. They adopt a “less is best” approach to innovation, removing just the right things in just the right way in order to achieve the maximum effect through minimum means and deliver what everyone wants: a memorable and meaningful experience. 

It’s the art of subtraction, defined simply as the process of removing anything excessive, confusing, wasteful, hazardous, or hard to use—and perhaps building the discipline to refrain from adding it in the first place. These six rules help guide that discipline. 

1. What isn’t there can often trump what is. As Jim Collins wrote in a 2003 USA Today article, “A great piece of art is composed not just of what is in the final piece, but equally important, what is not.” 

Designers of the automotive youth brand Scion essentially used this strategy in creating the fast-selling and highly profitable xB model, a small and boxy vehicle made intentionally spare by leaving out hundreds of standard features in order to appeal to the Gen Y buyers who wanted to make a personal statement by customizing their cars with trendy options. Buyers would commonly invest an amount equal to the US$15,000 purchase price to outfit their xB with flat-panel screens, carbon-fiber interior elements, and high-end audio equipment. It wasn’t about the car, it was about what was left out of it—and the possibilities that absence presented. 

2. The simplest rules create the most effective experience. Order and engagement might best be achieved not through rigid hierarchy and central controls, but through one or two vital agreements, often implicit, that everyone understands and is accountable for, yet that are left open to individual interpretation and variation. The limits are set by social context. 

Visitors to the 2012 Olympic Games enjoyed the “shared space” redesign of London’s cultural mecca, Exhibition Road. It enabled motor vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists to share the road equally, with the only rule being “all due respect to the most vulnerable.” Shared-space design is void of nearly all traditional traffic controls, signs, and lights. Curbs have been removed, red brick has replaced asphalt, and fountains and trees and café seating are placed right where you think you should drive. It’s completely ambiguous. You keep moving, yet you have no choice but to slow down and think. The result? Twice the fun and a steady flow—with half the normal number of accidents. 

3. Limiting information engages the imagination. Conventional wisdom says that to be successful, an idea must be concrete, complete, and certain. But the most engaging ideas are often none of those things. 

Specifics draw people in, but give too many and they turn their attention elsewhere. The former Cadbury Schweppes, makers of the U.K. candy favorite Cadbury Dairy Milk, aired a 90-second television commercial for its chocolate bars a few years ago that featured a gorilla (or rather, a man in a gorilla suit) seated at a drum set in a recording studio while Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” played. For the first full minute, we see only close-ups of the near motionless gorilla, which looks to be contemplating the music and preparing for the performance of a lifetime. The next 26 seconds shows the gorilla rocking out on the drums. The only reference to the product is a four-second shot of the chocolate bar at the very end of the spot, with the tagline “A glass and a half full of joy.” Sales rose 10 percent in the two months following the ad, during which period it was viewed more than 7 million times on YouTube. 

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ONE BILLION RISING: LET’S JOIN ACTIVE CITIZENS ACROSS THE GLOBE!

Wow! Imagine us South Africans joining one billion people across the globe in the world’s biggest peaceful protest! On February 14 this year, the earth with shake with the sound of feet dancing in protest against the horror of rape, a violent act that far too many of the women in our country experience on a daily basis.

And so, this is the call to action for February 14 that fellow citizens across the globe have already planned for …”Stage a rising in your community, office, social group, or school. Organize a flash mob at a landmark building/site, in the streets or in a nearby mall. Have a dance party, produce a theatrical event, march in your streets, protest, strike, dance and above all RISE!”

Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.

On February 14th, 2013, we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, “Enough! The violence ends now.”

To find out more, click here

PUBLIC INNOVATION: AN ACTIVATOR SHARES HER STORY

When Siphelele Chirwa took the stand in front of nearly 200 other young South Africans  at an innovation showcase outside Johannesburg last month, her words rose above the glorious thunderstorm breaking outside. Imagine, she asked, getting to the end of your life and nobody has ever asked you what your big dream was.

Inspiring, honest and clear, Chirwa set a great example of the power of humility and the mighty potential that can be ignited when community members become active citizens and say ‘what if’ instead of ‘if only’ …

JAY NAIDOO PASSES THE BATON ONTO THE NEXT GENERATION

Struggle stalwart Jay Naidoo has called on young change-makers in South Africa to not fall into the trap of pursuing individual success at the expense of their communities.

Addressing a group of young ‘activators’ who wish to lead South Africa into an era of innovative thinking for the public good, Naidoo said,

“As a generation, you will not be judged on your individual success but rather on how you thought in terms of ubuntu and your communities.”

And, he added, “We have to ask ourselves what we have to do today to be the world’s leading country and continent with a narrative that speaks about ‘sailing’ together. We have the dubious honour of being one of the most unequal societies on earth, and it is up to you, the young change-makers of the land, to make sure we have accountable leaders.”

SMALL INNOVATIONS, BIG CHANGES

How could a lunchbox change a life? How could a rural matriculant know the sky is the limit when nobody has given her career guidance where she lives?

As 2013 goes into full swing, a group of young innovators are riding high on the acknowledgement of their brilliant ideas which could benefit whole communities.

At the event late last year, organised by civil society organization Activate, young innovators showcased their ideas and projects based on a principle of public interest. Those present, including well-known television and education personality Pat Pillai, said they had been ‘blown away’ by the scope of ideas and projects presented by young people who came from rural areas and urban areas alike.

The winning project, which received a start-up cash injection to begin implementation, is called The Lunchbox Project and was chosen by the panel of judges because it was an easy-to-implement intervention that would nonetheless change the lives of many school-going children. Tebello Rampo, the young woman behind the innovation, said, “We have seen a decline in the number of children who queue for food that has been prepared for them as they are sometimes teased for having to do so. My idea was to design a conventional lunchbox to be carried by every learner at school. This product will restore the school’s unity by having all learners carry their lunch box and eating at school. As the learners will all drop their lunch boxes at the kitchen while they are in classrooms nobody will know who brought food from home and who got food that was made for them in the kitchen.”

Other winning projects included an initiative to build postboxes in townships where correspondence goes unread and litters the streets as the postal services has nowhere to put it, an initiative to bring career guidance to rural youths who often lack the social capital to think beyond working in the civil service, and a social media app that connects young people who are working towards bettering their communities.

Speaking about the training that the young ‘activators’ have undergone, facilitator Injairu Kulundu, said, “It is inspiring to witness how the conversations move from a pessimistic view to one that opens up opportunities. What gives me hope is the feeling that we can boldly and collectively choose to move forward together.” She added that a major challenge for young people was “negotiating and navigating a very persistent and rigid system that blocks out the efforts that young people make” but how important it is to craft a vision and have resilience.

Nobontu Webster, who was the master of ceremonies at the event, said that the gathering of young change-makers had given her hope that the “sacrifices of those during the struggle had not been in vain, and that the young ‘activators’ who are in the programme are not just dreaming about change but are activating it.”

BEN OKRI: WHAT DO WE DO WITH OUR FREEDOM?

Literary Nigerian treasure, Ben Okri, has called on South Africans to find innovative ways to heal the wounds. At his speech (click to hear podcast) at the Steve Biko memorial lecture event last year, he said that for most of his life it seemed unthinkable that Apartheid would ever end. “It seemed like an unalterable fact, like fate, or the moon, or hunger.” He described apartheid as a long, nightmare-laden sleep, and the democratic era as a new day.

“With awakening, a new question is posed. The nightmare is over, but what do we do with the day?” People go about healing in different ways, he said. For some, healing is “probing the wounds, seeking causes and redress”. For others, “healing is dreaming…a chance to transform themselves out of all that trauma”.

And in that process, the youth are a vital ingredient to be tomorrow’s leaders who are looking forward.