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Stakeholders commit to working together to find solutions aimed at addressing young people’s challenges at Nelson Mandela’s birthplace

The Eastern Cape World population Day was commemorated on the 18th July under the theme 25 years of the ICPD: accelerating the promise”. The commemoration was organised in collaboration with the Department of Social Development Provincial Population Unit (PPU) and Walter Sisulu University at Mqhekezweni Great Place in Mthatha where President Nelson Mandela grew up. The 18th July is significant in this community as it is also the birthday of the former statesman, the late President Nelson Mandela.

World Population Day was preceded by a series of dialogues held by the Walter Sisulu University (Social Sciences Department) and the PPU with young people of Mqhekezweni Great Place on Gender based violence, substance abuse and unmet need for family planning. Challenges that were highlighted affect women in general and in particular adolescent girls and young women. Young people highlighted that the National Development Plan which mirrors the Sustainable Development agenda envisions a South Africa where all people feel safe at school, work, community where women, girls and older people are able to walk freely without fear. However, in Mqhekezweni Great Place this is far from reality as women and girls live in fear because of violent nature of crimes that are committed in this rural community that was once peaceful and is still honoured as the place where President Mandela grew up. Another challenge that was raised by young people is unmet need for family planning and young people emphasized accessibility and quality of services.

During the commemoration event Professor Sikhumbuzo Mfusi of Walter Sisulu University committed the Department of Social Sciences to work in partnership with the Provincial Population Unit, local leadership of Mqhekezweni Great Place, Development Partners and other key Government departments to come up with local solutions for the challenges facing this rural community. Ms Siziwe Jongizulu, Programme Officer at UNFPA in the Eastern Cape, commended the Chief of Mqhekezweni Great Place for hosting this advocacy event in his homestead and further underscored youth leadership as a key strategy to address the remaining challenges that will ensure that the ICPD agenda is achieved in the remaining years. ’Young people are a great asset to this community as they are able to come up with innovative solutions that will ensure that this community is safe and that health and security services are accessible and of great quality.’’

The commemoration of the 2019 World Population in Mqhekezweni Great Place marked the beginning of a partnership between the Provincial Population Unit, Walter Sisulu University and the leadership of this rural community in ensuring rights and choices for all in ensuring zero gender-based violence, zero unmet need for family planning, zero preventable maternal deaths, and zero new HIV infections among adolescent and young women.