Re-think­ing roles in 2018

Inner City Gazette - - Front Page - ABC 100% AU­DITED Cir­cu­la­tion

Com­pla­cency is a dan­ger­ous thing, of­ten creep­ing up just when we think we have made progress, when we take a mo­ment for self-con­grat­u­la­tions, and with­out quite re­al­is­ing, through a se­ries of non-ac­tions, of re-ac­tivism, we al­low our own achieve­ments to crum­ble, leav­ing us right back where we started with the ini­tial strug­gle.

I pen these thoughts in re­la­tion to con­sid­er­ing the role of youth, and other sim­i­lar groups within our so­ci­ety, as June 16 ap­proaches. Over the past two to three decades, much progress has been made with re­gard to the rights and role of youth within the South African and global com­mu­ni­ties. In var­i­ous sec­tors, rang­ing from po­lit­i­cal par­ties to re­li­gious or­gan­i­sa­tions, a youth di­vi­sion has be­come com­mon­place.

Sim­i­larly, we have seen di­vi­sions for women and peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties be­come ac­cepted and ex­pected sub-groups. This has been pos­i­tive in many ways, al­low­ing these groups to ad­vo­cate for their spe­cific rights and needs. I ac­knowl­edge too, that in many in­stances, there is still much work to be done even at this ba­sic level of cre­at­ing spa­ces for youth to be heard. But look­ing for­ward, I have to ques­tion whether the cre­ation of sub-groups is re­ally in the best in­ter­est of so­ci­ety.

Ja­son, a 17-year-old Youth Force Mem­ber from the Bronx in the United States, made some re­marks which ini­ti­ated my thoughts around what role the youth should ac­tu­ally be play­ing. He said: “If you had a prob­lem in the Black com­mu­nity, and you brought in a group of White peo­ple to dis­cuss how to solve it, al­most no­body would take that panel se­ri­ously. In fact, there’d prob­a­bly be a pub­lic out­cry… But ev­ery day…adults sit around and de­cide what prob­lems youth have and what youth need, with­out ever con­sult­ing us.”

His words made me re­alise that while there is a place for the cre­ation of sub-groups for ad­vo­cat­ing spe­cific is­sues, if we aim to truly build a united and demo­cratic so­ci­ety, then the needs of each sec­tor within that so­ci­ety should be rep­re­sented within the broader group. Youth (or women or peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties or any­one else for that mat­ter) should not be as­signed sep­a­rate spa­ces within which to dis­cuss their con­cerns.

They need to sit at the same ta­ble as the rest of so­ci­ety, un­der­stand­ing the space they oc­cupy there, and learn­ing how to en­gage ef­fec­tively in order to build a com­mu­nity which caters for the needs of all liv­ing within it. Some of the projects which City of Jo­han­nes­burg has em­barked on in order to em­power the youth, have tried to ac­count for this need to in­te­grate youth into larger so­ci­etal spa­ces, and to pro­vide as­sis­tance in ways that will be most mean­ing­ful to them.

An Op­por­tu­nity Cen­tre was launched in March which sup­ports ap­prox­i­mately 300 SMMEs per quar­ter, and we plan to roll out more of these cen­tres through 2018. The cen­tre will start reg­is­ter­ing thou­sands of work seek­ers on the Work Seeker’s desk data­base, who will for the first time be­gin re­ceiv­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­vi­ously re­served for the con­nected care­ful not to dis­tance those sec­tors too much from the re­al­ity of how the broader na­tion and world op­er­ate.

In re­cent years, there has been an interesting and sig­nif­i­cant shift in global pol­i­tics, with younger and younger party mem­bers push­ing for top po­si­tions once oc­cu­pied by only the old­est of mem­bers. And the ad­vent of young politi­cians in top po­si­tions has sparked an in­ter­est in pol­i­tics from younger and younger vot­ers. The his­toric Obama cam­paign for­ever shifted the rules of en­gage­ment, with so­cial me­dia cre­at­ing a re­mark­able new level of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween a politi­cian few. The City will pro­vide ar­ti­san train­ing for 300 young peo­ple in Jo­han­nes­burg. From 2016 to date, 29 177 peo­ple have been trained through the EPWP pro­gramme. It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber, how­ever, that while we cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties, we do not cre­ate un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.

The youth need to un­der­stand that al­though they may be given first pref­er­ence for train­ing, or funds, once they are op­er­a­tional, they will need to com­pete on a level play­ing field with other small busi­nesses. We do not want to un­wit­tingly cre­ate youth busi­nesses that are de­pen­dent on as­sis­tance and pref­er­ence in order to suc­ceed. And again, this is why it is so crit­i­cal to en­sure that all ini­tia­tives aimed at spe­cific sec­tors within so­ci­ety are

It is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber, how­ever, that while we cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties, we do not cre­ate un­re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tions.

and his/her vot­ers. Justin Trudeau’s fol­low­ing is some­thing more akin to a pop star than a prime min­is­ter.

As the age of pres­i­dents and par­lia­men­tar­i­ans be­gins to drop, youth across the globe are in a bet­ter po­si­tion than ever be­fore to make them­selves heard. But if they are left at the fringes of de­ci­sion-mak­ing bod­ies, rel­e­gated to their sep­a­rate groups, they will miss the op­por­tu­nity to be heard where it counts. Youth Day in South Africa is a day when we re­mem­ber the in­cred­i­bly sig­nif­i­cant role which the youth once played in mov­ing this coun­try to a brighter fu­ture.

While we cel­e­brate how far we have come, and the achieve­ments of our youth, let us not be­come com­pla­cent. We must al­ways be think­ing ahead, think­ing about where we want to go. And so, let us start re­con­sid­er­ing the ways in which we in­cor­po­rate the Youth into our so­ci­ety; let us start build­ing a space for them which is in­te­grated with other groups, rather than al­lo­cat­ing them sep­a­rate spa­ces, and later won­der­ing why they are so mis­aligned to the over­all sys­tem in which we all op­er­ate. Let us en­sure that our youth are given the op­por­tu­nity to make the valu­able con­tri­bu­tions which they most def­i­nitely have to make, in ev­ery sec­tor within our so­ci­ety.

“If you had a prob­lem in the Black com­mu­nity, and you brought in a group of White peo­ple to dis­cuss how to solve it, al­most no­body would take that panel se­ri­ously”

Mayor Mashaba opens the first Op­por­tu­nity Cen­tre in Joburg

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