Text by Christie van Zyl
Photos by Lindeka Qampi and Zanele Muholi
An inspiring message of Social co-hesion and responsibility was set at the launch of the ZAZI – Know your strength campaign. The event took place at the University of Johannesburg on the 14th of August 2014. It was attended by approximately 500 people.. There was a morning and afternoon program, where some parts of the event involved youth dialogue spearheaded by a panel of six members of civil society, government and students.
Zazi is intended for the creation of a conducive environment for the honing of young women’s inner strength, to be able to stand up against a term coined as the 4 M’s – Macho Mobile Men with Money; as well any form of abuse intended for them due to circumstantial adversities.
The most important emphasis was placed on curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS across the plain, including the safety of young boys & men who are target to older women. During the afternoon event several speeches took place emphasising the importance of tackling poverty in South Africa. This was spoken to be the greatest influence on young people giving in to ‘sugar daddies and spicy mommies’. Amongst attendees that gave speeches, was present Dr Ramneek Ahluwali, Director of HEAIDS (Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS), as the voice of the students was present Ms Nikiwe Mboweni, president of the Student Representative Council.
The Minister sharing a joke with Steve Letsike…
Further attendance included Professor Ihron Lester Rensburg – Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Mr Nick Balkrishen – South African College of Principals Organization(SACPO), Steve Letsike – Deputy Chairperson of the South National AIDS Council (SANAC); as well as a Ms Hannalee as representative of the Honourable Deputy Minister of Higher Education & Training, Mr Mduduzi Manana. Speeches were centred around the ‘toxic mix in our midst of poverty and patriarchy as the driver of extra-ordinary challenges causing this extra-ordinary outbreak of disease’ – Professor Rensburg.
Several performances also took place by the likes of Lebo Mashile who recited poetry speaking about the responsibility of society shaping young boys into responsible men; as well the gracefulness if woman and her need for evolution to self love.‘Breath in protection, exhale love’ are the words she ended her performance with.
The Zazi video was also aired, which is a song that is performed by South African artist Zonke where the song speaks about knowing yourself in terms of your sexual health; the tying of the ribbon symbolizing bringing a helping hand to social ills & taking responsibility to lead with all of our strength and power. The Zazi video boasts green ribbons which are said to be symbolic of ‘new beginnings and protection’; this was established in a nation wide forum of workshops where young women were approached about the colour they would like to represent the Zazi campaign. The video was wrapped up by young poet, Nova Masango who spoke words of encouragement to young women to know their worth.
The last of the performances came from the UJ Soweto campus Arts & Culture drama group which outlined scenarios of how young woman get raped by their school teachers for marks and how AIDS spreads through vulnerable youngsters at tertiary level who are engaging in irresponsible as well as inter-generational relationships. Honourable Deputy minister of Department of Social Development Ms Henrietta Ipeleng Bogopane- Zulu, gave a touching speech on ten life lessons of trying to be a perfect human in the light of striving to be our best. She closed off the speeches with a beautiful ceremony, gathering young men and woman to tie ribbons to each others’ wrists to make a commitment to bettering the future of young people through giving them platforms to know themselves and their inner strength to avoid sexual health problems, as well as rapes and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Deputy Minister Zulu also gave thanks to JHHESA team – John Hopkins Health and Education South Africa for the sustainability of the Zazi campaign.
Khanyisa Dutywa of the SANAC Women’s Sector took the podium in closing and started her thank you’s with a powerful ‘WOMANDLA’, saying ‘my sister’s keeper , tshela mina ngale z’khiphani’ (tell me what’s happening on the other side). She went on to question where the women’s sector is on campus and then stated that we should unite and claim the youth of 1976 to fight gender inequality within the context of this launch happening in Soweto. It was a beautiful and heartfelt launch. All the speakers and Minister Zulu said all the right things that we young people need to hear.
I cannot help but wonder though when all this information would get to young people in the rural and township areas. How do we go about distributing this information to the rural areas of South Africa. It is all nice and well to have attendees of a high caliber and students of UJ attending the launch, but what of the young women in rural and township schools that are also experiencing the same things and are about to enter university; or even the real world of work because of circumstance. Many a young woman gets targeted by their boss so that they keep their jobs seeing as they are coming right out of matric. Can we have a conversation about having this Zazi launch in a rural area in a native language that the very people that need it will understand. Speakers spoke of the first generation graduates that suffer mostly from these inter- generational relationships that end up being cases if abuse because of poverty. They are aware that these young people are coming from the rural parts of South Africa, so what is their plan if action to reach those areas.
There is a need for this intervention of which I never heard being addressed at the launch of the Zazi – Know Yourself campaign.
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