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Empowering young men in South Africa

UNICEF South Africa/2015
© UNICEF South Africa/2015
Simpimwe (30) and Maxisole (18), Queenstown, Eastern Cape, South Africa.

31 July 2015 - Simpimwe has been working as a child care worker for the past five years. He is from Queenstown in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa and he cares passionately about supporting his community. You can immediately sense this from the command he has over the group of young men he has been working with. He is subtle, but definitely in charge.

Thanks to the UNICEF-supported Adolescents and Youth Development Programme in the Eastern Cape, Simpimwe trained to be a youth development facilitator last year and he now runs a men’s empowerment programme. The focus of the programme is to empower young men to make better choices that will positively affect their lives. Maxisole has been working with Simpimwe for the past year and explains that he did not realize he had a choice before taking part in the programme. Like so many young men from his impoverished community he spent his time in the local “shebeen” or drinking hole. He drank every day and smoked marijuana which he said enabled him to “forget about things”. When asked what ‘things’, his quiet response of “just things” and his deep look of pain is enough to know that this young man has been through a lot in his young life. When asked what has changed, he points at Simpimwe.

Over the twelve-week programme the group discuss eight main themes: HIV, gender-based violence, male circumcision, heritage and tradition, drugs and alcohol, family planning, employment and how to become a man. Most of the discussions are with the group but there are also one-to-one sessions. Young men are encouraged to consider the type of man they would like to become and the future they want. The youth development facilitators then take time to explain how the choices they make now will determine their respective futures.

Maxisole never knew his own father and his girlfriend is expecting their first child. It is a vulnerable time for any young person and, without support, the natural transition into adulthood is made much more difficult. Interventions at this time truly can change lives and break negative cycles.

Simpimwe encouraged Maxisole to complete his Grade 12 (final year of schooling). He is now hopeful that he will gain a place at a technical college in Queenstown next year. In the meantime, he has been doing manual work and no longer goes to the shebeen. None of this is possible without the dedication of child care workers like Simpimwe to act as role models and invest in young people. He claims that he “got lucky”. While his father left when he was young, he has a supportive mother, who never gave up on him.

Because it should not come down to luck, UNICEF partners with government and civil society to empower children and youth like Maxisole to access internal and external resources to reach their potential.

Through the Eastern Cape Adolescents and Youth Development Programme UNICEF invests in the opportunity for adolescent girls and boys to acquire critical assets as they develop to harness their abilities, skills, values and experiences as they negotiate multiple life domains, and to become economically independent while avoid risky behaviour, such as unprotected sex and alcohol and drug use.

Over the next two years, the programme will reach over 25,000 children, adolescents and youth in the Eastern Cape, giving them better opportunities in life.





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