Children take the lead at CEO Network meeting
Children present their issues and solutions to leading minds from South Africa’s business community
There’s an infectious energy and anticipation in the air as people take their seats in a packed meeting room at Investec’s offices in Sandton, Johannesburg.
“The average age of this meeting has been reduced considerably,” states Robyn de Villiers, the usual Chairperson of the UNICEF South Africa CEO Network but not for today.
That’s because kids are taking over the final Network Meeting for the year and Robyn duly hands over to 15-year-old Azania Shezi to chair the gathering.
Ahead of World Children’s Day – 20 November – the 33rd anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children are being put front and center of the meeting to present on priority issues affecting them and their ideas and solutions to some of the leading minds from South Africa’s corporates sector.
Learners from four schools in Gauteng province, Leondale, Moletsane and Greenside High Schools and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls take the business leaders on a journey of engaging and informative presentations, from climate action to transforming education and improving nutrition. There’s no shortage of concerns about the state of child rights in the country but also plenty of energy to tackle some of the most pressing issues.
“Children are the leaders and decision makers of the future.”
“Children are the leaders and decision makers of the future,” states Liyema Jacob as she starts her presentation focused on children’s mental wellbeing. “The invisible backpack represents the hidden baggage that children carry,” she explains as the room learns about the mental health challenges for learners across the country.
The presentations sparked lively discussions, with business leaders questioning the learners on issues from agriculture to access to healthcare and the use of technology in bridging educational gaps. Azania, Liyema, Anele, Paballo, Phila, Omogolo, and Omphile led the dialogue and called for everyone, including the private sector, to be responsive to children’s specific needs. The challenges that children and youth face today may be vast, but the energy, creativity and determination that the learners expressed to build a safer, fairer and better South Africa for every child, for everyone, left all participants leaving full of hope.