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"Keep Rising" says Natalia Kanem and Jayathma Wikramanayake to Teenage Girls at Steve Tshwete Secondary School in Olievenhoutbosch, Tshwane

13 February 2018
UN Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy, Jayathma Wickramanayake and UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem with girls of the “Rise Young Women's Clubs” at Steve Tshwete Secondary School in Olivenhoutbosch. 13 February, 2018. Photo Credit: Sarah Kenyi

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director, Dr Natalia Kanem, together with the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ms. Jayathma Wikramanayake, visited two Rise Young Women Clubs at the Steve Tshwete Secondary School in Olievenhoutbosch (township of Centurion), to listen and speak to young girls about the challenges of growing up and the issues they face in their communities. The Soul City Institute initiated Rise Young Women Clubs to empower young women aged 15- 24 years who predominantly live in poor- resourced and vulnerable communities with comprehensive sexuality education and life skills to help them make informed decisions on their sexual and reproductive health, defend and demand their reproductive rights.

 

Receiving the UNFPA Executive Director and UN Youth Envoy’s delegation were the Chairperson of the School Governing Board (SGB), the CEO of Soul City Institute, Ms. Lebogang Ramafoko and newly appointed COO of Soul City Institute, Mr Zane Dangor, and over 50 teenage girls from the 2 Rise clubs. The girls welcomed everyone with song, before enacting a drama performance which detailed the risks faced due to a lack of comprehensive sexuality education. The play focused on HIV infection, teenage pregnancy and sexual exploitation (through “blessers*”) in the community.

With the drama performance, the young Rise club members showcased the knowledge they are receiving from Soul City and demonstrated the impact it is having on their lives. In a dialogue after the play, the teenage girls had an exchange of ideas with the UNFPA Executive Director and UN Youth Envoy on teenage pregnancy, HIV prevention, blessers and need to stay in school.

The UNFPA Executive Director expressed how much she was encouraged by the path the Rise clubs were charting for young girls in the school and in the community. With the global youth population at 1.8 billion, Dr. Natalia underscored the need to invest in and empowering young girls, noting from the example of the school’s Rise clubs, the urgent need to address sexual exploitation, and accelerate comprehensive sexuality education and services. More so, it also underscored the need to partner and work with communities to protect and enable young girls to reach their potential – and "keep rising".

Speaking during the visit, the UN Youth Envoy shared her childhood experiences, noting the lack of sexuality education. Openly discussing that sexuality was generally a taboo and many girls grew oblivious to the changes they were going through she noted further. The Youth Envoy encouraged the young girls to do more with the information and education they are receiving – use it to interact with other girls in their school, stay safe and speak up about their health. Emphasising the importance of education in providing the opportunities to realise one’s potential, the Envoy encouraged the Rise girls to stay in school and "keep rising".

The dynamic and vocal Lebogang Ramafoko further emphasised this message, calling on the Rise club members to keep talking, keep demanding their rights, voicing their concerns and holding on to the inspiration of their dreams!!

*”Blessers” is a term used in the community for older men who prey in young girls for sexual exploitation, often playing on their vulnerabilities.