The townships where most of the children CHOSA serves are raised, have little by way of open and inviting spaces for their youth. Those that do exist are under-resourced or few and far between. Many teenagers who get bored sitting at home all day end up frequenting taverns or becoming involved with gangs and drugs. But that’s not the only problem. Even when positive spaces exist for youth, they rarely are able to organize themselves together to confront the challenges they face on an everyday basis.

Realizing that these children and youth grow up dis-empowered, isolated, and often without spaces to grow emotionally and intellectually amongst their peers, CHOSA decided to help create this space for the kids.

On Saturday the 25th of May, CHOSA brought together about 45 teenagers from six different organizations on the Cape Flats for our annual youth networking event and workshop. We organize for the workshop to be facilitated by the Children’s Resource Center with the goal of bringing out in the teens a conversation about their own power to effect change and address their feelings of alienation and everyday oppression.

After getting to know one another, the kids were able to discuss some of the more intractable problems facing their communities. Things like poverty, crime, violence, and HIV/AIDS came up. Teenage pregnancy, gangs and lack of opportunities for young people were also issues they immediately identified.

Members of the youth dance group, Intsika Yoluntu, spoke of their living conditions in Sweet Home shack settlement in Philippi – the lack of services provided by government, the lack of electricity and proper sanitation in the settlement. These young people spoke about how they must organize themselves like their parents in the community, who had joined the shack dwellers organization Abahlali baseMjondolo to fight for their rights. “No Land! No Freedom! No Justice!” they exclaimed.

In QQ Section, the kids suggested that they needed a resource center of their own with computers so that they could be trained in both basic application use and more complex aspects of computer programming.

Encouraged to come up with their own solutions to the problems they raised, the youth from Nolungile Safe Home came up with some things they could do as teenagers to combat peer pressure and the issues stemming from the poverty they live under. For instance, they suggested that when they go home, they should organise meetings within their own community to discuss setting up a youth body to deal proactively with these various issues that they face. They also suggested that they continue to engage with one another through future networking events.

But the most promising aspect of the day came during the feedback session at the end. The youth were very engaged, pulled no punches, and demanded that the next event be organised more interactively giving them a chance to connect with others on an artistic level. They wanted to perform their unique dances and drama plays, while learning from one another’s expertise.

QQ Section youth even offered to visit some of the children’s homes and teach them drama and dance so that they could be able to form their own groups.

In the months to come, CHOSA will continue to support these exchanges and the teens’ desire to work together to change the conditions they live under. Alone they may not be able to do much; but together, the youth are powerful.