Activators Take On 2016 Budget

This year’s budget speech promises to be more interesting than any other year. National important issues like drought, higher education student funding, youth, imminent inflation, food security, rural youth development, job creation and entrepreneurship stimulation are some of many that will create interest of many young people in this year’s national budget speech.

For the very first time the Finance Minister has ?invited the public to voice their views on the economy and what issues they would like government to highlight in his Budget Speech?. In a statement that was published on government online platform “SA News” the Minister challenged ordinary citizens to submit their views on the three areas that government spending should be directed to, as well as how South Africa can achieve inclusive economic growth. “It is in this context that the Minister of Finance invites South Africans to voice their views about their economic concerns and issues they would like government to highlight in the Budget on 24 February 2016,” said Ministry of Finance.

Contributions can be made on the National Treasury website or Treasury Facebook page

Activators might not have submitted their views directly to National Treasury via the above mentioned platforms but they have made their voices heard in different platforms.

Insufficient tertiary funding was a big issue in South Africa last year. Most tertiary education students, members of Fees Must Fall Campaign and other concerned people are expecting to hear government’s clear plans on how much money is set aside to address the insufficient tertiary funding. Africa’s oldest university, Fort Hare University is one many universities that have always been underfunded. Student leader and social change driver from Fort University Isasiphinkosi Mdingi believe that the 2016 budget speech is one of the most important tool or documents to mostly university students who have “been ducking bullets all in pursuit of free education. “I am sure by now everyone know that for a very long time, National Student Financial Aid Scheme has systematically excluding children of the working class parents, therefore the 2016 national government budget is very important to us as student. It is one of many ways forward information document that all our academic financial support concerns. I hope Minister Gordhan will explain how Treasury is going to raise funds that will once and for all make the elusive free education dream become a reality to poor students.”

R7 billion was allocated to support agricultural development. Access to finance for emerging farmers was also expanded in collaboration with the Land Bank. That didn’t do much to avert the ongoing drought that is hitting South Africa right now. Free State based Small scale farmer and social change driver Innocentia Maine said South Africa needs innovative ways of dealing with drought. According to Maine, National Treasury cannot fix current problems by just pump huge amounts of money but rather form partnerships with key agriculture and farming stakeholders “We are not always looking for funding, but we do not need the money to be used on programs that will equip us. As small scale farmers, we want access to the markets. So, in my view one of the best things that government can do is to look at alternative support mechanisms like assisting farmers to build more boreholes and many other efficient ways crop farmers could use when such weather conditions strikes again.” said Maine.

“Besides that, Finance Ministry and all government departments must start working on a long term sustainable strategy for the country. They might as well look into how much land we have, how is it used and how they can better help those who love the field but have not got access to land. Build infrastructure on state land, rent it out and provide them with enough training to make their businesses a success. “she emphases

To address unemployment, last year the treasury allocated R4 billion to Jobs Fund. To stimulate entrepreneurship culture, the Department of Finance allocated R3.5 billion on mentoring and training support for small businesses. During his State of the Nation Address President Jacob Zuma said government will invest more on youth development projects. Most young people applauded government’s decision but some of them also believe that national government budget allocation alone is not the only solution the countries leadership can do to combat poverty, unemployment and accelerate youth self- sustainability through entrepreneurship.

A Johannesburg based entrepreneur and social change driver Herbert Njabulo Sibanda besides telling the nation how much money is allocated to who, Minister Gordhan’s bigger task is to give an honest overall report on how government is planning to remove red tape that discourage most emerging entrepreneurs. “I am sure any emerging entrepreneur like myself would agree with me that 2016 Budget Speech is very importance. SMME funding information, limiting business legislation, access to bigger market and resources are some of huge challenges for most of us as entrepreneurs. So besides big amount allocation announcement to different departments, I would like Finance Minister to share more government solution driven decision on these issues.”

Adequate funds allocation to address rural youth development was one issue that kept on coming up from a number of social change drivers. One of those activators who raised the issue is Qunu Youth Development Project co-founder Phikolomzi Habe. “I would like the minister to allocate budget in small young people’s business especially in deep non-remote rural areas because when budget speech is done young people that are living in non-remote rural areas are less fortunate to access the funding for their businesses. I also would like the minister to allocate budget on youth empowerment and skills development.” said Habe

Prominent political analyst Somadoda Fikeni believes that this year’s budget speech content will be more directed to issues that appeal. Fikeni said that even though big numbers allocation might excites youth and various interest groups, South Africans should remember that government implementation slow pace and corruption might once again stifled the real progress. “Surely issues like tertiary education funding, job creation, enterprise development and many other issues that are off interest to youth will be among the prominent issues that will feature in Minister Pravin Gordhan budget speech on Wednesday.  One thing that I don’t think young people will like to hear from the Minister Gordhan is that the issue of free higher education will not be sorted immediately. Only time will tell how the tertiary will students will respond to that. The fact that South Africa economic growth does not look like there will be enough jobs created or opportunities for new youth development might also frustrate some young people. So in essence I expect national budget speech as usual might paint a predominant very youth focus agenda.”

Economist Tshegofatso Ramatlo believes that 2016 Budget Speech is coming at a critical time for all South Africans. According to Ramatlo Minister  Gordhan’s Budget Speech has to redeem South Africa from 2015’s sluggish economic growth which was caused by lower growth in China, local political instability and questionable leadership have contributed to the uncertainty. “With expected growth levels at less than 1% for 2016, the government needs to be very cautious with their moves. I expect the budget speech to give a more concrete plan about how confidence in the country will be restored. Young people are seeking financial inclusion and I expect the minister to tell us how he will be creating jobs and promoting the growth of small businesses.”

Ramatlo went on to say what makes Budget Speech 2016 is more important to young people than any other past Budget Speech before is that during his State of the Nation Address President Zuma acknowledged that the country needed to employ a new approach to stabilizing the economy but said very little about the plan for job creation, access to free education and young people’s last hope to have clear way forward solely depend on those pertinent issues  

Minister Gordhan As usual, the Budget Speech will be delivered at the Parliament’s National Assembly and it will be broadcasted live on Parliament Channel, SABC News, ENCA, ANN7, Aljazeera and many national and international radio stations. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers media partner Live Mag will also be updating the public live from Parliament.

The official Twitter handle for the Budget is: #Budget2016. What would you like Minister Pravin Gordhan Budge to focus on?  Tell us @ActivateZA.   

 

 

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT GETS RECOGNISED

The ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Network’s first academic course has been accredited by the ETDP SETA[1].
The official accreditation of the contents of the NQF level 5 Community Development Certificate Course training programme coincided with the last module session which was held at the Alpha Conference Centre outside Broederstroom in the second week of November 2015. The intense 9-month training programme infused with theory and practice was facilitated by Landy Wright, Erika Joubert and Pam Hicks. It was attended by 38 Activators from all over the country.

The thrilled programme director and facilitator, Landy Wright, explained the logic behind the course. “We wanted to create a tertiary formal education opportunity for young people / social change drivers who are already doing community development”, she said.

Here are the views of other course participants:

Gauteng based participants, Sifiso Mabuza said “I used to describe myself as one of many young ambitious people who couldn’t afford to further their studies purely because of financial challenges but today I consider myself as one of the very few blessed people to have been part of this programme.  The academic information and training I have received exceeds everything that universities can offer. Today I can confidently say that this course has unleashed the great leader in me.”

Eastern Cape based Activator Ncedeka Angalakha Mangwane said somehow the facilitators fulfilled the world’s renowned icon Nelson Mandela’s famous quote that says “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation.” Mangwane said “I am grateful to be part of this course. All our facilitators made us to realize that driving social change is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that differentiates one person from another. I will use all the contacts and information to uplift my community”.

Northern Cape connector, Fernando Visagie said “Attending this Community Development certificate course was a life changing highlight that I will always treasure. This course has affirmed me that choosing a road less traveled in terms of career can go beyond being a fulfilling life experience but also can create a brighter future not for only myself but for my community, country and the world. I am sure South Africa will be different, peaceful, prosperous if youth can have a taste of what we (as the first CDCC students) were blessed to have tasted.”

Western Cape based activator Nicole Alexander said “Well, this course has not just taught me theory about community development, but how does one also practice it. This was my huge expectation for applying for this course. When given assignments I could simply see what has been happening in the organization I work for which is Educo Africa. The course widened my perspective of what we do as development workers and how we can do it better through innovation. It has opened doors of opportunity, whereby I can implement these ideas at work and in my personal life. I have met amazing individuals across the country whom today I can say positively they are my friends. This course shows us how to be Sustainable Community Development Workers.”
 
All activators praised the facilitators (who turned out to be also parents, friends, and advisers), the ever hard-working, friendly and silent logistic anchor/mastermind of it all Andiswa Madinda, all guest facilitators, financial management expert, ‎Working Capital Management owner, Arno Erasmus, conflict resolution expert, Consultant, Coach, Co-Owner of the Pan African Market, Vuyo Koyana, president of Amnesty International WITS, International Relations analyst, Sociologist, Human Rights Activist, Amir Bagheri and president of Youth for Human Rights International, Lion’s Den Global and fellow activator Tony Matipa.

The Department of Higher Education also congratulated ACTIVATE! Change Drivers for being one the first accredited independent service providers for the university entry level course. While speaking to one of the programme participants, Department of Higher Education spokesperson Khaye Nkwanyane said “I may not know much about that organization (ACTIVATE! Change Drivers) but if our two stakeholders, South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and Sector Education Training Authorities (SETA) approves the organization, then as the department we also would be more than willing to support such an organization.” said Nkwanyane. 

Watch to how Activator Kabelo feels about the training.


[1] The Education, Training and Development Practices Sector Education and Training Authority (ETDP SETA).

5 Minutes With Kanyisa

What’s your passion?

My passion is in lobbying and advocacy. Lobbying for people to sit up and take notice and act and advocating for structural and legislative changes. This takes shape in different ways, my passion requires a talent to organise people and to motivate them to connect to the issue.

Why do you believe in the work that you do?

Because it is the elevation of voices that could easily otherwise be involved. It says all things are connected and that privilege should not dictate who gets an ear. My work connects people in ways that would otherwise impossible. I do this work selfishly; because want my kids to inherit a better country. I do it because it feels good to know that change is possible if you put your back into it

How do you connect with Activators and those around you?

I prefer physical spaces to connect with Activators and people around me. I must say though that I find that speak with my people virtually purely because time and space does not allow for physical spaces all the time. This is not to say the connection is not genuine. I have be part of successful projects that were started and planned virtually and electronic mediums.

Share with us what you do, how many people you touch and how long you have been at it.

Mocha Panda: This an initiative that was born in 2012(while I was part of year1 of the Activate! programme) when I saw the need for young people to be part of policy making through consultation. My belief was that young people should not wait to be asked what needs to happen but should organise themselves and submit what they see as an alive National Youth Policy for their on development. This happened successfully in 2013. Over 500 youths were part of this initiative.

Mocha Panda has since grown to be a conversation driver that disseminates information to young people and elevates their voices. It has the following of 434 people though we do not have constituencies. Currently we are running advocating for young people to register to vote and to stand as candidates in the upcoming election.

How has ACTIVATE! Supported you so far in driving this change?

Being part of the network has allowed my missions to happen nationally. The incredible connections have allowed me to grown in my approach of things. You have got to love the project planning model! The network has carried me and inspired me when I thought, the magnitude of what I wanted to achieve was too big.

What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country in the next 5 years?

Economics is priority. I have heard people say education but I think that every single one of us is being educated by life one way or the other but economically our people are at a back foot. In speaking of economic, you speak of land and mineral right. I must insist that land and economy are same thing.

How do you motivate yourself?

By reminding myself that possibility of things to be better always exists. I can be a better person, I can make my immediate surroundings better. Other young people recognising the work that I do through Mail and Guardian Top200 in 2014 made me say ; “Thyini!,  so I am making it better.”

Final message to young people?

Inkunzi isematholeni! We are leaders of today. Every day we wake up, it is an opportunity for us to connect and mission to our vision.

  1. What’s your passion?

My passion is in lobbying and advocacy. Lobbying for people to sit up and take notice and act and advocating for structural and legislative changes. This takes shape in different ways, my passion requires a talent to organise people and to motivate them to connect to the issue.

  1. Why do you believe in the work that you do?

Because it is the elevation of voices that could easily otherwise be involved. It says all things are connected and that privilege should not dictate who gets an ear. My work connects people in ways that would otherwise impossible. I do this work selfishly; because want my kids to inherit a better country. I do it because it feels good to know that change is possible if you put your back into it

  1. How do you connect with Activators and those around you?

I prefer physical spaces to connect with Activators and people around me. I must say though that I find that speak with my people virtually purely because time and space does not allow for physical spaces all the time. This is not to say the connection is not genuine. I have be part of successful projects that were started and planned virtually and electronic mediums.

  1. Share with us what you do, how many people you touch and how long you have been at it.

Mocha Panda: This an initiative that was born in 2012(while I was part of year1 of the Activate! programme) when I saw the need for young people to be part of policy making through consultation. My belief was that young people should not wait to be asked what needs to happen but should organise themselves and submit what they see as an alive National Youth Policy for their on development. This happened successfully in 2013. Over 500 youths were part of this initiative.

Mocha Panda has since grown to be a conversation driver that disseminates information to young people and elevates their voices. It has the following of 434 people though we do not have constituencies. Currently we are running advocating for young people to register to vote and to stand as candidates in the upcoming election.

  1. How has ACTIVATE! Supported you so far in driving this change?

Being part of the network has allowed my missions to happen nationally. The incredible connections have allowed me to grown in my approach of things. You have got to love the project planning model! The network has carried me and inspired me when I thought, the magnitude of what I wanted to achieve was too big.

  1. What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country in the next 5 years?

Economics is priority. I have heard people say education but I think that every single one of us is being educated by life one way or the other but economically our people are at a back foot. In speaking of economic, you speak of land and mineral right. I must insist that land and economy are same thing.

  1. How do you motivate yourself?

By reminding myself that possibility of things to be better always exists. I can be a better person, I can make my immediate surroundings better. Other young people recognising the work that I do through Mail and Guardian Top200 in 2014 made me say ; “Thyini!,  so I am making it better.”

  1. Final message to young people?

Inkunzi isematholeni! We are leaders of today. Every day we wake up, it is an opportunity for us to connect and mission to our vision.

activateleadershipsa@gmail.com

#ActivateSONA 2016

SA Youth Predicts SoNA

With everything that has taken place in South Africa in the past year, the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) 2016 is, without doubt, the most anticipated event at the moment. The suspense will finally come to an end this evening as President Jacob Zuma will take a stand to report on the current political and socio-economic matters of the country.

ACTIVATE! Change Drivers took to Twitter to gather young people’s opinions on the current state of affairs as well as their expectations from this year’s SoNA. Previously, the President stated that youth development is a top priority for government; therefore more focus would be devoted in that area. We asked young people whether they think this was fulfilled. @Tickle_Me_Joey said it was somewhat achieved because the National Youth Development Agency’s efforts were more visible in some parts of the country like the Free State.   

It is clear that young people are more interested in the details of how the government is tackling issues that mainly affect the youth. The high rate of youth unemployment and access to free and quality education are on top of the list. These are the issues that young people feel are being neglected by the Presidency.

@InvolveYouth said the creation of job opportunities for unemployed youth should be on top of the agenda for the country this year. @Oz_lart feels that our current education system and methods are not efficient in serving everyone so new ways of enforcing educations such as practical skills schools should be implemented.

As it seems, the government alone is struggling in resolving youth related issues. We asked what steps can the youth take in moving South Africa forward. @TebohoTenyane thinks young people’s involvement is more crucial than ever in creating a sustainable environment for the country and @Tickle_Me_Joy encouraged the youth to be active in resolving issues that affect their communities. @InvolveYouth stressed that every young person in South Africa should make it their duty to fight corruption.

SoNA 2016 will take place this evening at the Parliament of South Africa at 19h00. The speech will be broadcasted live on Parliament Channel, SABC News, ENCA, ANN7, Aljazeera and many national and international radio stations. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers media partner Live Mag will also be updating the public live from Parliament.

For more insights by the youth from our Twitter engagement, please follow this link

ACTIVATE! Change Drivers will initiate a similar conversation with the Deputy Minister for the National Planning and Monitoring in the Presidency, Buti Manamela tomorrow, Friday 12 February at 13h00.

Issued by ACTIVATE! Change Drivers. For more information please visit www.activateleadership.co.za

For media related queries, please contact:

Nelisa Ngqulana

Communications Manager: ACTIVATE! Change Drivers

Email: nelisa@localhost (cc: communications@localhost)

Cell: 073 817 8017


Moments Away From Sona

South Africa is consumed by all forms of emotions, thoughts, and feelings as it gravitates its focus and attention towards the State Of The Nation Address (SONA) 2016. It has also been reported that Parliament received a record high volume of applications from media houses to be granted access to cover the event. My guess is that owe part of this media and public attention towards this year’s SONA to the unprecedented dramatic events that played itself out on the previous one, which saw some Members of Parliament being manhandled out of the chambers and some members staging a walk out. But few minutes later after the whole fracas, it was ‘Business as usual’. The President proceeded to address the nation.

The recent occurrences building up to #SONA2016 have not been positive either. However; to counter this, the phrase “boost confidence” resurfaces. Because we are in election season, the President has a lot of confidence boosting to do. It seems as though he will have to boost everybody’s confidence during the address.

Starting with that of the beloved business market confidence, among other things in an already slow economic growth the turmoil was exacerbated by change of three Finance Ministers in just a period of two weeks which saw the Rand hitting record lows. The New Age reported that “South Africa is rated one notch above junk status by international ratings agencies”, so the poor SONA speech could hasten the country’s descent to junk status or even recession. So business is expecting serious confidence boosting.

With  the shrinking economy, tax law revisions, electricity hiked and increasing inequality, I wonder how the confidence of the constituencies, young people and general public will be boosted. These challenges are a huge monkey on the backs of South African citizens, even Izinduna (headmen) in KZN do not want to get left behind as they need some boosting. They are even threatening to disrupt the local government elections should provincial government’s Department of Traditional affairs fail to meet their salary demands.

I, myself could do with a bit of boosting, I will be following the address very closely to get a sense of how the government is planning to reverse these economic challenges and how it plans to tackle other social challenges we find ourselves in…Blah! Blah! Blah!! Who am I kidding?? The only reason I will be watching the SONA is because inside Parliament the EFF is planning to disrupt the speech in seeking clarity and to find reasons that resulted in the former Finance Minister axing. The second one is that about few organisations will be marching outside Parliament, so there’s bound to be drama there. That will help fix my drama cravings.

Seriously though, expecting something solid from the SONA is like watching that new Beyonce “Formation” video that has been trending. You sit there you wait to see that ‘woke’ moment people are talking about, and  it just ends without giving you anything tangible and leave you hanging like that. Even the emerging market economist Peter Montalto shares this sentiment when he stated “He is expecting no surprise policy changes or any major growth boosting move. Despite the current rhetoric about doing everything possible to manage growth”.
 

So ladies and gents , the SONA will consists of the usual rhetoric, promises, statistics, sugar coating, promises, “politricking”, and more promises. The only difference about this one is that we will be having members of the public outside the Parliament making their voices heard and challenging the status quo. If the President is to be taken seriously, he must make use of the advice that he gave on his Presidential Investor Luncheon and World Economic Forum Review. That in these tough times the “Business and Government must abandon the ‘Business as usual approach.”


5 Minutes With Thembinkosi

What’s your passion?

I’m very passionate about seeing people working together to achieve success and significance. I’m also passionate African economic progress. I believe that Africa has the talent and raw material to be a leader in world economics.

 

How are you driving change?

I’m currently working for Project Playground as an operations manager. The organization has more than 300 youth and children from the community of Langa that benefit from the project. We use sports and recreational activities to build their self-image. I’m also a founder of Nzulu Group. The purpose of Nzulu Group is to educate and organize black people so that they can work to achieve success and enjoy significance.

 

How has ACTIVATE! Supported you so far in driving this change?

The education I got throughout the 3 modules I did has enhanced my leadership skills. I have met so many leaders that I’m currently collaborating with through Active. I’m currently working as an operations manager for Project Playground because of the recommendation I got from Activate.

 

What do you think is the priority in setting the agenda for our country in the next 5 years?

I think the priority should be addressing youth unemployment. The South African education needs total transformation. South African economy will not grow with an education system that continues to produce more employees that job creator.  I believe that social entrepreneurship should be our agenda in the 5 years

 

You have brands such as the Nzulu group and Umqababa Natural Health that are futuristic. What are your goals in transforming young people in that regard?

I want to transform young people’s mindsets in Africa so that they can believe that we are capable of creating and owning brands. I have created these brands as an invitation to African youth to come forward and be part of this movement.

 

How do you motivate yourself?

I motivate myself by spending most of my time with hungry people. I hang around with visionaries, I’m talking about people that believe that they owe the universe. People that believe that living a purpose-driven life is the best way to make a contribution to the universe.

 

Final message to young people?

The time is now for us to create and own brands that will create a positive in impact in the lives of other fellow Africans.


 

SONA 2016: WHATS IN STORE FOR YOU(TH)?

On Thursday, 11 February, President Jacob Zuma will deliver his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the annual opening of Parliament. The SONA marks the beginning of the year’s political governance program and focuses on the current political and socio-economic state of the nation. Also in his address, the President will set out the government’s key policy objectives and deliverables for 2016 to the Members of Parliament.

In his last SONA in 2015, the President stated that youth related issues were among government’s top priorities. He declared 2015 as the year of investing more into the future of the country by putting more effort into youth development. The President mentioned three youth related focus areas, on which the government is putting emphasis:

  1. Investment in youth employment – The President said the Employment Tax Incentive which was introduced in 2014, mainly for the youth, was progressing well. R2 billion had been claimed by 29 000 employers for at least 270 000 young people. In 2014 the President announced a target of six million work opportunities over five years. By February last year more 850 000 work opportunities had been created.
  2. Promoting opportunities for the youth – The National Youth Development Agency disbursed R25 million to 765 youth owned micro enterprises all around the country. The Agency also partnered with the Industrial Development Corporation and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, which resulted in a R2.7 billion fund for young entrepreneurs.
  3. Improving the education system – The President said the government continues to improve the infrastructure in schools and higher education institutions to create a conducive environment for learning and teaching. He added that work is also continuing to establish three brand new universities, Sol Plaatjie in the Northern Cape, the University of Mpumalanga and the Sefako Makgatho Allied and Health Sciences University.

With just a few days before the President delivers this year’s SONA, the question now on everyone’s lips is, “Did the government deliver to its promises last year and what is in the pipeline concerning the interests of the youth?” 

Among the usual pressing youth related issues, young people are also expecting President Zuma to touch on how the government is rolling out National Youth Policy (NYP). Developed to create a platform of engagement in society and economy for the youth, the NYP is an area of interest for most youth. Other issues like free education for all, youth unemployment, increasing crime rate, land redistribution and racism also appear to be the youth’s interest in this year’s SONA.  

 

Some members of the ACTIVATE! Change Drivers network expressed their expectations from President Zuma’s SONA 2016. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers is a network of more than 1600 young change makers or “Activators” across South Africa who are finding innovative ways to transform their communities and the country as a whole.

A Kwazulu-Natal law student and Activator, Alex Khoza is concerned about some of the government departments who do not adhere to the Batho Pele principles of governance and hopes that the President will address this issue.

Eastern Cape based Activator and United Nations Population Fund & Youth Advisory Panel Deputy Chairperson, Baxolise Dlali would like the president to talk about the rapidly increasing youth unemployment, racism, the continued under-performance of the economy and upcoming local government elections.  “We all know the devastating effects that racism has on the general well-being of a country. Regardless of our different racial backgrounds, we should be able to live harmoniously and respect each other,” he said.

Community development and media practitioner Liza Smith believes that education will be one of key items that the President will talk more about. Smith said:  “Tertiary education will definitely take center stage. The fee structure and funding for tertiary institutions ought to be highlighted. Bursaries and job opportunities for the youth as well as NSFAS will be paramount in the SONA. With all that said I would like the government to focus on NSFAS including how needy applicants are identified and how NSFAS plans to get payment from previous loan recipients.”

Johannesburg based success coach and published author, Tshepang Mokgatla is one of Activators who think that President Zuma has to share more information about government plans for making free education a reality.  “We have a multitude of issues that need urgent attention and one of them should be the free education. A report with recommendations on how we can achieve free education was drafted and publicly released by the Department of Higher Education. It is now time to action those recommendations. I also think most of the focus of the SONA will be on rallying our nation and especially the youth to cast their votes at the upcoming local government elections,” he said.

The contentious land redistribution that political parties like Economic Freedom Fighters and Pan African Congress are campaigning for seems to continue to resonate with many young people. Activators like Khanyisa Booi is calling the President to give a detailed plan with timelines and strategies that will see the country properly dealing with the land debacle. “We need a clear stance on how land will be restituted so that matters of inequality are sorted. We need answers on how commercial land that belongs to people will start benefiting them,” said Booi.

Rural youth development is also one of the main issues that Pretoria based Activator Donahue Adams expects the President to focus on. He also hopes that the President will put more action into his words and engage the nation in the execution of government strategies.  “This year I would like to see more action and less talking from both the citizens and the government. South Africans must remember that the responsibility of transforming the country does not lie with President Zuma alone,” said Adams

Polokwane based Law student, Evodia Mashamaite shared similar sentiments. Mashamaite added that the public should not expect anything extraordinary from the President. “I believe this is his last chance to connect with the people and inspire a sense of hope. There is a lot that President Zuma has to focus on but I won’t hold my breath and expect him to deliver. In many instances his decision making has not shown that he takes into account the ordeals that face many South Africans daily. I also don’t think he cares about issues like economy, education, crime, unemployment and many others. I really do not want to hear statistic figures of millions of rands which have no real felt impact in the lives of the people, but knowing President Zuma, he will do exactly that,” said Mashamaite.

Entrepreneur and Activator Nazareen Ebrahim thinks the 2016 SONA will not be different to any other Parliament opening ceremony by President Zuma. He said the only important thing the president can do is to surprise the nation by announcing his immediate resignation. “I am hoping that President Jacob Zuma will take a morally correct decision and announce his move to step down from leading the country. However, I would also like him, as a very last resort to showing some responsibility towards his leadership, to address how he sees the National Development Plan rolling out in relation to unemployment, poverty and startup entrepreneurship,” he added.

Aphiwe Ntlemeza offered some advice on how ordinary South Africans can keep government officials accountable. Ntlemeza is a member of the Youth Advisory Council. “In order to be aware of the happenings around your province or country as a whole, citizens need to take an informed decision of being aware and involved in the entire process. That’s when it will be easier for us to make the government accountable and make sure they keep their promises,” he said.

SONA 2016 will take place on Thursday, 11 February at the Parliament of South Africa at 19h00. The speech will be broadcasted live on Parliament Channel, SABC News, ENCA, ANN7, Aljazeera and many national and international radio stations. ACTIVATE! Change Drivers media partner Live Mag will also be updating the public live from Parliament.

So I need a hymen to access my future?

The issue of adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights is not just one about information; it is fundamentally enlaced with intersectional issues of social justice, finances and poverty alleviation. So in dissecting the issue of Global Commitments, Local Actions, these external influences ought to be considered”, these are the words I used when addressing an international audience at the International Conference on Family Planning (#ICFP2016) , which took place in Bali, Indonesia just a week ago. Meanwhile, my own country is contradicting this statement.

I would like to start by highlighting the two main Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this regard:
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning

Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

None of the above says anything about restricted access to education, nor does it speak to conditions to equality. I’m putting all of this together because I am attempting to decipher where the issue of virginity testing to access bursaries comes in. I am failing dismally.

First of all, not that this is of any relevance really, but the accuracy levels of virginity testing are declining due to the fact that an intact or broken hymen is not related to sexual activity in modern times. The hymen could be torn by other forms of physical activity and many young girls, particularly those strongly affected by the culture of virginity testing, resort to other forms of sexual activity, such as anal sex. These forms of sexual activity are a higher risk of getting infected with Sexually Transmitted Infections if necessary prevention methods are not taken into account, which is rarely the case considering the lack of sexual health knowledge amongst young people. So, inasmuch as this strategy is already violating young women’s rights, it is still not accurate or considerate of external factors that may affect their so called “deserving beneficiaries”.

Secondly, in addressing the issue of gender equality. Is it just women that need to get tested and remain celibate? This question spreads across all religious, cultural, and social groups. Why is it only females that are under the pressure of not having sex to a point where they might lose out on accessing their future through education? Where is the male responsibility in all of this? Also, if celibacy is not a woman’s choice, where is their agency to decide what they want to do with their bodies?and who are we to contest their decision?

Women have been, for so many years, oppressed psychologically and have understood themselves as servants and not agents of their own being. This has been evident professionally, economically, socially and sexually. We cannot be having policies, departments, research papers, pledges and commitments that speaks to women’s rights and gender equality but we fail to take basic steps of understanding women as individuals with their own identity and desire to do what they want, when they want to do it.  I am so sick of this nonsense of using gender equality, feminism, women empowerment as buzz words for people to look good and not necessarily implement such in their spaces. It FRUSTRATES ME TO THE CORE! Why the hell aren’t young boys included in this? Are we doing it for women or to continue the sense of entitlement instilled in men; thinking they own a woman’s body and that they deserve it as ‘complete’ it is, regardless of their lifestyle? What the flying fish!

I watched an online television program called Women on Sex. The first episode speaks to virginity, and the first lady to comment speaks about how “it is a thing of joy for the man to meet you at ‘home’ meaning that until that night, it is your husband that will ‘deflower’ you”.  The first problem is the use of the term ‘deflower’ to add value to something that does not define a woman in attempt to steal away her dignity.  And it is joy for who? The husband, the family, the community. Where is the woman, who is the owner of the body, in this case? Nothing about us without us!

Abstinence is the best prevention strategy against unplanned pregnancies and STIs yes, but it is a preference of one’s sexual lifestyle. It should be a choice, and should be what I decide to do for myself and not for anyone else. Understanding that will be the first step towards achieving the above mentioned SDGs in this context.

Young girls who want to explore their sexual lifestyle end up rushing into marriage because they are afraid of being ‘demoted from pure womanhood’. This results in so many more expectations and ideas that continue to define who they are.

We speak about women empowerment in academic and professional spaces. If we deny them the education, which is one of the major constituents to breaking glass ceilings (because women still need to prove themselves by working twice as hard), how do we expect “empowerment, growth and development for women and girls”? Let us be realistic in the implementation strategies when setting goals for a better system.

As we approach the State of The Nations Address, we need to look forward to how our president will respond to such. These are conversations that should take place at parliamentary level. I am curious to hear what will come from the address in this regard.

So to sum it all up, I am encouraging you to fight. Take a stand and speak for your sister, you friend, your girl. Take a stand for the young woman who cannot speak for herself. If you cannot do it with what you have- find people who can and make them do it. As young individuals we carry so much power. Let us use it. The chorus on the sub-header is from a song by Otuck Williams, who is an artist and was one of the delegates at the ICFP 2016 conference. Share it, live it. You are also encouraged to support Amandla.mobi and the Sexual Reproductive Justice Coalition by signing the petition against virginity testing for bursaries here