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The UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) launches its Youth Publication in Kwa-Zulu Natal

It was smiles all around on 4 May 2017 in Durban as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in partnership with the KZN Department of Social Development, launched the “Voices of the Youth Advisory Panel in South Africa” publication and convened an engaging youth dialogue at the very scenic Moses Mabhiba stadium. The publication features the UNFPA Youth Advisory Panel members who have been empowered to meaningfully represent young people and youth networks at various advocacy and policy platforms; and have been capacitated to participate in the design of youth-friendly policies, advocating and educating young people on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). The programme director of the launch was the vibrant and energetic YAP member, Sicelo Sibiya, who comes from Ladysmith in KwaZulu Natal.

 “I am excited by the Youth publication being launched today as well as the presence of the Youth Advisory Panel, whose members were recruited in collaboration with my Department,” remarked Mrs Weziwe Thusi, the MEC for Social Development in Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Mrs Weziwe Thusi, MEC for Social Development in Kwa-Zulu Natal    Mrs Weziwe Thusi, MEC for Social Development in Kwa-Zulu Natal and Dr Esther Muia, UNFPA Representative

She continued saying “today is a very important day as these young people are officially launching their publication, which gives expression to their aspirations and will hopefully inspire others, while at the same time guide us in the direction we must take, as we continue the work of developing the lives of our young people.” 

In an inspiring speech Dr Esther Muia, UNFPA Country Representative, gave a brief history of the formation and evolution of the UNFPA Youth Advisory programme and noted that she was very proud of the calibre of young leaders produced as part of the programme. She went on further to challenge the leadership present to continue providing young people with opportunities not lectures! Three YAP members, Lindokuhle Msele, Levi Singh and Sifundo Ncama, gave very moving testimonies which outlined some of the difficulties they faced as young people growing up in South Africa and how they overcame the challenges. Acknowledging their efforts, MEC Weziwe Thusi stated that “these young people are the beacon of hope in our province and assist us in addressing social ills, in particular teenage pregnancy, as mentioned in some of the testimonies reflected in the publication…these social ills have had devastating effects in the lives of many young people in the province. 

Lindokuhle Msele, YAP member, giving her testimony.  Audience listening attentively to the speeches


With these powerful opening remarks the scene was set for a very engaging youth dialogue, which was effectively moderated by Baxolise Dlali, a fellow YAP member who hails from the Eastern Cape. Young people were divided into four groups with the aim of getting them to discuss the barriers that hinder youth participation, the possible solutions and what their ultimate vision for youth participation is. It was interesting to see that the different groups had unique and different visions, but had similar barriers and solutions, as well as identified similar cross-cutting issues.

Continuing on the running theme of the day of ensuring youth empowerment and engagement, Alma Scott, ‎Head for Africa Operations and Partnerships at Johnson & Johnson urged young people to find solutions to the barriers they have, that they must go beyond describing the barriers and go out into their communities to find the solutions. Some of the barriers identified include the lack of- jobs opportunities and livelihood activities; apathy and lack of interest among the young people; concerns regarding the definition and classification of the age bracket for young people and the lack of information on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights and Adolescent Youth- Friendly Health Services.

Alma Scott, ‎Head for Africa Operations and Partnerships at Johnson & Johnson   

The very thought- provoking dialogue concluded with the young people proposing possible solutions to some of the barriers, such as: redefining age gaps, making efforts to deal with social cohesion, seeking support and mentorship, skills development, resource mobilisation and exploring avenues for knowledge management and strong partnerships to move forward.

With the conclusion of the dialogue, the MEC and UNFPA Representative, surrounded by the YAP members present at the event, officially launched the youth publication, with the MEC’s words lingering on in our heads..."young people we are here to hold your hands, and we are committed to YOUR cause!”