Youth energy to tackle persistent malnutrition
Empowering young South Africans to advocate for good nutrition
UNICEF South Africa has started the first ever trainings on youth advocacy for good nutrition, to empower young South Africans to advocate for the changes they would like to see in their community and country to enable them to lead healthier lives.
The nutritional status of children and young people in South Africa is poor. Some 27 per cent of the country’s children are stunted, while wasting, micronutrient deficiencies and obesity remain a challenge and sometimes even coexist in the same household. Rising food prices and the ongoing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to worsen these persistently high rates.
That’s why young people are now speaking up and using the UNICEF trainings to strengthen their advocacy for an environment that is conducive to, promotes and provides access to nutritious foods.
The main nutrition topics identified include the marketing of unhealthy foods to children and young people, breastfeeding and the marketing of formula milk, fiscal policies for nutrition, as well as the link between mental health, nutrition and physical activity.
“It was very thrilling and educational to attend the nutrition advocacy training. I discovered mental aspects of myself that I had no idea existed, which greatly increased my optimism for the youth and overall future of South Africa.”
The trainings were made possible thanks to support from AstraZeneca and the technical expertise and guidance from the Adolescent Development and Participation section at UNICEF Headquarters. In South Africa, the nutrition and communications sections adapted and contextualized the newly launched ‘Youth Advocacy Guide’ to in-person trainings for UNICEF South Africa Volunteers.
Led by Lea Castro, Nutrition Officer and Amir Bagherioromi, Volunteer Programme and Campaigning Officer, with support from Ariza Francisco, intern at the Health and Nutrition section, the two trainings in July and August, engaged nearly 200 young volunteers at the University of Pretoria and North West University.
Students learned about the main priority areas for child and adolescent nutrition in the country, including a situation analysis as well as the main policy opportunities, to inspire them to pursue their advocacy journeys and support the UNICEF programmatic objectives to reduce all forms of malnutrition.
“Networking and a healthy diet were two of my highlights. I now think networking should not be limited by age of social position, and nutritious cuisine does not have to be boring. With networking, even Patrice Motsepe is reachable via a contact if I so choose. I'm thankful that the session as held and that Kgalalelo Tshelane, our volunteer president, introduced us to UNICEF.” Lebohang elaborated.
UNICEF South Africa is committed to empowering young people to become advocates for change and two more trainings will take place in the coming weeks at different provinces.
Moving forward, the SACO nutrition and communications team will continue supporting young advocates in their journey through a mentoring programme in which they can also support each other and expand their networks to achieve their goals.