The City of Johannesburg in Region F and a youth group have agreed to work together to find solutions to challenges confronting young people, including unemployment, poverty, inequality and the dearth of skills development opportunities.
The agreement was reached at a Youth Dialogue Forum in Newtown on the eve of the 40th anniversary of National Youth Day.
The forum was addressed by several key stakeholders, including Regional Director Irene Mafune, who said it gave the youth a platform to engage the City’s management and to hear their views on how their socioeconomic conditions could be addressed.
“Significantly, the forum meets during Youth Month and the City is aware of the youth’s concerns - that they feel excluded both socially and economically.
"As the City of Joburg, we are keen to hear their views and understand where they are coming from. But, most importantly, we plan to have a joint programme of action with the youths in terms of which the issues they raise are addressed,” Mafune said.
She added that though this was the first session of its kind, it was important that the approach be “outcomes-based”.
“The youth feel that their expectations are not being met by government. We will support the youth in their efforts to improve their conditions," she said.
The forum was championed by a group of eight young social entrepreneurs under the umbrella of a company called Bhambatha, established about four years ago.
According to Jeffrey Zondi, Bhambatha Group co-founder and director, all the founders of the company had dropped out of university because of "financial issues".
“We realised that we as the youth needed to create a vehicle that could mobilise each and every one of us to address our socioeconomic challenges."
He added that Bhambatha, as a social entrepreneurial company, planned to run profit-making projects through which it could assist other youths to improve their conditions. After the speeches, the participants broke into five commissions to discuss key issues facing the youth. These were broadly outlined as economic challenges, social challenges, influences or peer pressure, Black Consciousness, self-hate and success principles.
Discussions during the plenary session after the debates in the commissions were robust and passionate.
What stood out the most was that the youth took the lead in highlighting their plight.
Motivational speaker Thabang Mashego took issue with the practice by parents to choose careers for their children.
She said: “We don’t have to choose careers only because they will make us rich, such as medicine, law, architecture, engineering, etc. We need to ‘educate’ our parents that there are other careers that their children want to pursue because they like them, such as performing and creative arts, speech therapy, sports management, etc. You must follow your heart and do what you like, not what your parents choose for you, which might make you rich but unhappy.”
The forum concluded by deciding that all key issues emanating from the commissions would be compiled into a report by Bhambatha, the facilitators of the initiative. This report will then be shared with the City’s Region F and will form the basis of a programme of action to be implemented as a follow-up to the meeting. The next forum will be held in next three months' time.