Hashtag Sisonke

Names: Andrew Sebogodi, Kelebogile Dywili, Thabiso Mogorosi hashtag sisonke

Project: Hashtag Sisonke

Emang Mmogo Comprehensive School

Kimberley, Northern Cape

By Phakamile Khumalo

My experience of Kimberley was marked by excitement and anxiety all in one. The locals there are friendly and welcoming, offering directions and advice on the fastest routes, places to see and where to go. Nevertheless they all warned me of the high crime rate in the area and the need to always be alert, especially when driving. This made the reason for my visit more real than ever. I was in Kimberley to interview three young people that experience this reality daily and who have decided to run a Community Action Project (CAP) to tackle the issue of crime and substance abuse head on.

Andrew, Thabiso and Kelebogile attended the 2014 enke: Trailblazer Program in Cape Town. They are self-starters and very connected to their local youth organisations. They have been involved in several youth leadership programs such as Soul Buddies, Youth Enterprise, and Youth Against Crime.  So it came as no surprise when they came to Forum with a set idea of what social change meant to them and how they wanted to be part of that change.

During Forum, they talked a lot about Kimberley and some of the issues their peers were facing – the biggest of which was substance abuse. Nationally, substance abuse in young people is cause for concern as it often leads to other anti-social behaviour like violence, crime, risky sexual behaviour and school drop-out. Thabiso believes that part of the solution is to create youth-friendly spaces where young people feel part of the community. He has seen how young people need positive activities and a sense of belonging – some of his close childhood friends are now gangsters and as a result, their relationships have broken down. So the idea of starting a CAP wasn’t just about helping young people in Kimberly but also about helping their friends and family members. It’s become their personal mission to actively change the lives of the very people most important to them.

They started a CAP called Hashtag Sisonke, which means “we are in it together” in isiZulu. They started their CAP by asking some of the young people in their community what they enjoyed. Results showed that most people enjoyed sports but didn’t have an outlet to engage with it. According to the CAP team, this confirmed that young people wanted the opportunity to channel their time and energy into something where they can express themselves while remaining disciplined.

The CAP has been carried out through two main events – The first event launched the CAP by re-opening a nearby park that had been taken over by gangsters. No sporting activities were planned for the day, instead they wanted to focus on getting people to talk about the sporting activities, getting active and using the park for what it was meant for. The second event was through their connection with Kimberly Department of Arts & Recreation. They were invited to help plan and organize the Kimberly ‘Big Walk’ with the Department.

Impact of CAP

The first event attracted 30 young people along with various other community stakeholders such the police, Youth Against Crime, and Department of Arts & Recreation who all signed up to participate in the project. More than 1000 people attended the ‘Big Walk’, taking part in a variety of other sports activities – a huge success for the community. The team states that although both events completed under Hashtag were successful and got the youth talking, they have a long way to go before they can see real impact.

The central aim of the CAP was to provide an avenue for young people in Kimberly to move away from drug and alcohol abuse by engaging in sports with a supportive group of people. While Andrew, Thabiso and Kelegbogile have had some success in getting two events organised, they have experienced the difficulty that comes with getting young people to find a different way of being. The issue of crime and substance abuse is a national issue that has challenged the youth of South Africa in recent years. Similar to this, the CAP struggled to see young people actively moving away from these behaviours and ultimately have not achieved the kind of impact they were hoping for.

Even though they did not get people to change their drug taking behaviours, the CAP has impacted all three Trailblazers. The team states that being part of enke and the actual running of their CAP, has increased their organising and project management skills. It has taught them how to practically run a successful event. When they planned their CAP, they didn’t realise how much advice, resources and networks they would need. Although they had been part of several other organisations, they wanted to start on their own but soon realised how important social capital is and how far it would take their project.

Andrew remembers running their first event and how much work was involved. Getting sponsors for equipment, creating posters to advertise and personally confronting drug users and criminals in their area to invite them to the event took strain on their matric year. It was these challenges that convinced them that help wasn’t a bad idea. So they began the work of forming networks with other young people through the organisations they had collaborated with.

Their biggest impact has been getting the youth talking about how they can create a space that works for them. One participant that attended both events stated that “I didn’t think something like this was possible. I had given up on us but through partaking in these sporting activities and being part of the Hashtag group, I’m motivated to start thinking about the change that sports can have on the youth here.”

Future

Since completing their matric, they have moved on to pursue their dreams. Kelebogile enrolled at Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley to study towards a degree in teaching. Andrew has started his entertainment business where he manages local upcoming DJs and artists. He is also applying to study marketing at a local college in Kimberley. Thabiso decided to take a gap year and focus on building on Hashtag’s successes. He has joined forces with several members of Youth Against Crime to form a NGO called ‘Youth Development Agency’ that will take over some of Hashtag’s responsibilities but become more integrated into the local community. Currently his new team has visited two schools to campaign against crime and drug abuse.

Thabiso ends our interview by reiterating that the youth want to belong but there aren’t any constructive activities or organisations to belong to. This leads them to engage in substance abuse and criminal activities to pass time. He still maintains that for him, real impact is when the youth have a platform to engage in productive activities. He hasn’t quite figured out what the future holds for Hashtag, but he’s very confident that change is necessary.

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