Young people are often told about how the future is theirs to shape and yet inreality, the agenda of that future is set by media, politicians and many other voices- which often marginalises the youth agenda.
BlaqApple Communications proactively grasped the opportunity to provide a space in which youth would be at the forefront of setting their agenda for 2014 and beyond. In partnership with Constitution Hill, they recently hosted the 2014 & Beyond Socio-Economic Development Engagement. This engagement had diverse groups of young people gathered together in one space, together with leading media figures, health cover experts, youth in business and the Gauteng Provincial Government.
Upon entering the venue, participants were welcomed by powerful artwork from young Sifiso Mokoena. City Year also had an exhibition, which was overseen by Activator Lebohang Ratjie- who asked the question “how are you serving?”, which set the tone for the day.
Despite the organisers being overwhelmed with a venue that was filled to capacity, they ensured to keep attendees entertained. Activator Sabelo Mnukwa challenged those present to think about what socio-economic development means to them and how they could move it forward. He went on to explain in length how the engagement was about bringing people together and creating a space in which “potential collaboration opportunities for 2014 and beyond could be identified”.
Renowned journalist, editor and activist, Ntate Mathatha Tsedu shared his life story of being a black and aspiring journo during the apartheid days. The story is one of incredible resilience and was relevant to all, even if not pursuing a career in media. Despite not having his by-line used in his first published article, his determination drove him to continue to write and without formal journalism training his career. Tsedu used his story to remind young people that “whatever it is that you do, make sure it is something you are passionate about”.
Media personality Naledi Moleo, took to the podium thereafter demanding to know why “we accept a media that feeds us stupidity”. She went on to describe the disjuncture between what we see in mainstream media and the realities experienced by many the majority of the country’s citizens. She also challenged those in the media industry to use whatever space they occupy to create positive change, despite the lack of recognition that often accompanies this path.
Many of those present expressed networking as one of the main reasons for their attendance and received much more than they had thought. Katlego from Youth Forum explained that for her, there was a deep curiosity about the networking environment and how it can be used to complement existing initiatives. Her colleagues went on to share how needed the experience was as the organisation had recognised the importance of collaborating with others for capacity building purposes.
The keynote address of the day however came from Tshepo Pilane from the Gauteng Provincial Government. “Young people are impatient”, he began, “if you can wait for nine months to be born, then surely you can exercise that same patience in other areas of your life”. According to Pilane, the greatest barrier facing youth is what he described as the ‘I want it now’ mentality which just doesn’t happen as there are processes involved in everything. He went on to describe how the province’s spending is aligned to national priorities, meaning that youth account for 30% of the provincial expenditure. Pilane also explained the various youth programmes undertaken by the provincial government and the processes involved in being a part of these programmes- including accessing grants for youth enterprises.
“The world does not owe anyone anything” said Pilane. “Waking up is not a favour, it is a privilege and every day you should ask yourself how much value have you added to life” were his final thoughts to those present, which deeply affected many present.
Elevator pitches from young people involved in a number of activities were also a part of the day’s proceedings, giving those present an opportunity to identify key initiatives they could become a part of or support. Pitches from Activators included Youth for Human Rights; yDiDi, Helping Hands Skool Tassie project amongst many more.
With the space created, it is now for those forward to either take the connections made forward or possibly face the risk of having the agenda set for them. Which it will be is something that only time will tell.