International Youth Day Reflections with UNITE

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Diana and Mtheza have worked closely with the UNITE Youth. Drawing from their own experience and from speaking to the UNITE Youth, they take this opportunity to reflect on International Youth Day.  

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One of the biggest issues that have come up in the UNITE discussions, is that the youth want equal access to opportunities. The Olympics taking place has highlighted this for the students – they are seeing sports that they have previously never been exposed to. 

Diana: “How can we include all youth in South Africa to be able to reach their highest potential? They [the youth] want good leadership – leadership that they can look up to, out there for the people, listening to their needs, taking steps and actions to better the lives of people living in South Africa.” 

Mtheza : “I would like to see South Africa catering equally to everyone. I wish the gap between the rich and the poor could be bridged…We need to teach people not to only think for now, but for the future as well.”   

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UNITE focuses on provoking critical thinking and activism in youth – nurturing future leaders.  

Mtheza: “Parents are noticing that their children are starting to question things. They are saying “yes, I am young, but I have a voice”. The parents are feeling very positive about this.”  

Diana: “The conversations they are having with their parents are starting bigger conversations. They [the youth] want to see change. I’m pretty confident and I hope that the learnings and teachings that they’re getting from the programme means we have an amazing chance to find leaders who stand up for what is right and that do the right thing. Because that is what they want.” 

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Mtheza: “We have kids coming from different countries and different cultures. I was working only with South African kids before UNITE. The UNITE Youth have taught me to understand other cultures better.  

Diana: “This year, we spoke about culture and the intersectionality of people. The people that we’ve got in the programme are kids from South Africa. We also have some non-South African kids, kids that are part of the LGBTQI community, Xhosa kids and Zulu’s. I’m from Ghana, Mtheza is Xhosa. So, there’s lots of different perspectives that they are exposed to. They are able to embrace each other and they have become a little family… We encourage the leaders to lead the conversations that take place in their schools. There is quite a big focus on peer led conversations. Sometimes you find that the topics are better received when it’s coming from someone that is more relatable to them. It hits different when it’s their friends pushing a message.” 

Mtheza: “They study identity, diversity and integration. These topics encourage the kids to promote intercultural understanding… The whole basis of the programme is to talk about these issues. At the core of the programme we promote integration through discussions and encouraging them to be activists and not to keep the discussions within the programme, but to go out and talk to their peers and talk to their community about these issues.” 

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