Poet, storyteller, and activist Lebohang Masango is set on telling stories that affect young South African women.
A newly-appointed UNICEF South Africa ambassador, Masango told Global Citizen that she especially hopes to impact the lives of young women and girls.
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In her debut children’s novel co-authored with Masego Morulane,Mpumi’s Magic Beads, Masango writes about a young girl called Mpumi who discovers how beautiful and magical her hair is.
The discovery is made in South Africa’s largest city: the cultural melting pot of Johannesburg, where people’s perspective of beauty is complex. Better known as Jozi, the city can be a complex place to live, especially when raising a child battling with their self-esteem.
“The story is about friendship, self-esteem, discovery and beautiful hair in Joburg city,” says Masango’s website.
Masango’s journey to publishing the book began when she was selected as one of the influencers for the #Today campaign, launched by Standard Bank — for which she organised a storytelling event for children in April 2017.
The book follows Mpumi, Asante, and Tshiamo as they find out more about the world that exists outside their classroom window, and it’s particularly aimed at children aged between five and 10 years old. It’s also available in all of South Africa’s official languages.
On World Children's Day November 20th UNICEF South Africa had the honor of appointing Lebohang Masango into the UNICEF family as a UNICEF Volunteer Advocate. #WorldChildrensDay#GoBluepic.twitter.com/oABKQ7chVj— UNICEF South Africa (@UNICEF_SA) November 21, 2018
For Masango, according to an article she wrote for Nal’ibali, a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign targeting children, she is an “absolute lover of storytelling.”
“We all care deeply about our history, our heritage, our future, and the present human condition in the world,” she wrote. “Whether it is writing captivating lyrics or poetry; conducting research for an academic paper, a documentary, or script; going over business contracts, or finding ways to articulate ourselves on our social media platforms — our worlds revolve around reading, storytelling, and critical thinking in the pursuit of becoming better versions of ourselves.”
“We use words and our work to navigate what it means to be young, African, and how to leave our society a better one than we found it,” she added.
“In the quest to encourage more African youth to read and to become involved in promoting a culture of reading, I believe it is important to illuminate the ways that literacy contributes to the life journeys of people across different vocations,” she wrote. “It is also important to meet people where they are.”
Masango told UNICEF that she felt “honoured” to be appointed as a UNICEF South Africa’s Volunteers Advocate.
“In all my work, I strive to contribute to building a more loving, healthier, and kinder society for children to flourish,” she said. “I believe in volunteering because each of our individual contributions serves humanity for the better.”
The aim of the UN Volunteers programme is to contribute to peace and development around the world through volunteering, according to the UN’s website — and it’s active in around 130 countries every year.
Kherann Yao, Deasy Helena Muzima, Detty Dione Datto, Lebohang Masango and Tchonté Silué: These young Africans were just recognised for making a difference #UNICEFYouthAdvocateshttps://t.co/aqtJu5GD0Ipic.twitter.com/eqY24ibatZ— Charles Onyango-Obbo (@cobbo3) November 21, 2018
In her role, Masango has pledged to use her voice to help make UNICEF an even more powerful force to benefit children, according to a statement from UNICEF.
She joins a list of other South African celebrities who have been selected for the role in recent years, including former Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss, singer Tshidi Moholo, and music producer Zakes Bantwini.
Masango has also been chosen as one of 25 young women from Southern Africa, to be a part of the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship in feminist leadership. Not only that, she has also been identified by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a Goalkeeper — one of a number of young people all working to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As well as her work in education and empowering children, Masango has also been involved in raising awareness of sexual health across higher education institutions in South Africa.
In her role as an ambassador for the “Zazi, Know Your Strength” campaign, Masongo helped spread positive messaging about contraceptives, HIV, and AIDS — and why sexual health is empowering, especially for young women and girls.
She was also a youth representative for South Africa at the 2014 UNAIDS consultations in Geneva, Switzerland.
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