Izwi Lethu: Our Voice

Posted by Martin Keat


Over the last two years the Bishop Simeon Trust has been working closely with our South African partners Themba Interactive and our friends in the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Culturesat the University of Leeds to develop a ground breaking new way to help develop youth leadership in South Africa.

In 2018 46% of the population of South Africa is under the age of 25. Shockingly unemployment for the portion of youth who are economically active is over 60%. Our work is focussed in Ekurhuleni Municipality, to the East of Johannesburg. Here children and young people experience multiple social deprivation, resulting from the cruel convergence of poverty, marginalisation, HIV/AIDS, etc.

It has long been the belief of the Bishop Simeon Trust that we change things in South Africa but changing the lives of children. During Apartheid we focussed on assuring access to education – this being vital to assure that young people were equipped to be the future leaders of South Africa, in pursuit of the vision of Bishop Simeon Nkoane. But now that education is available to children and young people our commitment to leadership persists.

Creating leadership is not a ‘stand alone’ action. For children and young people it depends upon the provision of basic needs – security, protection, a home, nutrition, good health, etc. This is why we support the development of community led Isibindi Safe Parks, helping them to work towards national standards and the possibility of statutory funding and independence.

Beyond this leadership is a function of confidence, awareness, knowledge, skills, platform and the ability to claim your own voice. We achieve this by supporting the development of Youth Committees in Isibindi Safe Parks. It is a statutory requirement that must be in place to achieve accredited status, but we have explored the role and function of a Youth Committee as a forum for the development of advocacy, voice and youth leadership.

We have done this by bringing together a toolkit of creative arts: grassroots comics, forum theatre, song, dance, community film making, etc. In fact, however young people wish to express themselves or communicate their message we will seek to support them to do this.

Creative arts are a fantastic way to engage young people in developing their voice and leadership through Youth Committees. They provide the opportunity for them to place the incredibly sensitive issues they and their peers face in a fictional context where they can examine the matter at hand, communicate the dynamics of it, but also explore the solutions to the problems for themselves. They are the experts on these issues, it is their life. It is absolutely vital that they lead the identification of solutions – we do not claim to possess these solutions, we exist to support them identify them.

It is our belief that through developing this leadership at youth level that they will be able to begin to address the problems they face in their lives and communities. Not only this, it can help them to build contemporary democracy in South Africa, creating greater links between communities and the government, so that accountability is stronger and that policy is more effectively representative of the experience of young people.

This is a highly effective approach which is already gathering the interest of the National Association of Child Care Workers in South Africa – the agency which accredits Isibindi Safe Park. It is our hope to see our model adopted within these national standards over the next year or so. This will mean that our work will reach millions of children across South Africa, beyond the area we can reach directly on our own.

We are very proud of the work that we do to support children and young people on a day to day basis. It is vital and is unlikely to go away quickly. However, it is also vital that we work in a way that looks over the horizon and helps to create a future where this support is no longer required. Where children are protected, confident and can enjoy a childhood in the knowledge that they have choices and opportunities ahead of them. That they can change the story, across all of South Africa.

On 15th May 2018 – the International Day of the Family -  we will be releasing a short film called ‘Phendulani’s Story.’ Over recent months we have been working with the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds, Themba Interactive and our partners at Lethi’themba Safe Park to help a young man called Phendulani tell us his story, his view of modern South Africa and the future for the nation. Please take a look at this short Teaser Trailer – we think that Phendulani is a remarkable young man and a fantastic Youth Leader. Our friends at Lethi’themba have done an amazing job in helping him to turn his life around. He is the future of South Africa.  

 Phendulani's Story - Trailer

Please do consider supporting the Bishop Simeon Trust. We are not a large charity and our work depends upon the generosity of our supporters who help assure that we can help those vulnerable children and young people that others do not.

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A big part of our work here at the Bishop Simeon trust is committed to assuring that children and young adults in South Africa are able to challenge and conquer those obstacles in their lives that prevent them from accessing education and assuring that they can  make the most of the potential they possess to thrive and build a positive future.