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Unemployment and a lack of support from parents are some of the main challenges young people face in Orange Farm, in South Africa, according to youth activist and LoveLife Y-Centre manager Gilbert Buthelezi. 

Buthelezi joined representatives from organisations including She Conquers and LoveLife — both South Africa Department of Health initiatives — along with Global Citizen, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and Global Affairs Canada, for a Youth Health Festival on Friday. 

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Held at Orange Farm, near Johannesburg, young people at the festival were urged to empower themselves through free HIV testing and high blood pressure screenings, among other health services made available at the festival thanks to health workers from a nearby clinic. 

Sandra McCardell, Global Affairs Canada’s ambassador to South Africa, also had a health screening on the day — to help encourage the young people at the festival. 

"You are the future of the world, because my country and South Africa cares about you," McCardell told the crowd. "We are here, to encourage the youth the get tested because Canada cares about girls, they should stay in school and participate in the economy."

Volunteers at the event on Friday also helped to repaint the building that accommodates the LoveLife Y-Centre.

And everyone who participated also got the chance to earn tickets to Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, presented and hosted by the Motsepe Foundation — which is coming to Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium on December 2.

Canada works to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in order to empower women and girls, and help advance gender equality. 

Residents, including both primary and high school learners, came out in their numbers to hear what representatives had to say about the importance of healthcare for young people.

Buthelezi worked as an LoveLife "Scamtho Groundbreaker" before being promoted to the centre director position two years ago after completing a number of programmes at the centre.

“I was very young when I started being involved with the centre and have gained a lot from being part of one of the programmes here, to volunteering my time which led to my promotion,” he told Global Citizen.  

But he said that there is still work to be done in supporting young people in the area. 

“Parents are not supporting their children and their personal endeavors, including education,” he continued. “Parents don’t talk to their children about important things that might have an impact in their future. Instead these children look outside home for answers, and those answers might not be as they should which is contributing to issues like self-esteem [issues].”

He said life in Orange Farm was not easy for many young people, who are presented with few choices to make.

“Currently, we are also faced with unemployment and the blesser-blessee phenomena,” he continued. “Parents can’t afford to give their children the life they want as they are poor, therefore young people end up dating older men in exchange of money.” 

The blesser-blessee phenomenon means a young person getting into a sexual relationship with an older person in exchange for money. And, says Buthelezi, it’s a phenomenon that has plagued South Africa.

The township, like many in South Africa, is also facing HIV challenges — with children as young as 16 getting the disease, according to Buthelezi.

While Orange Farm also has a high unemployment rate, Buthelezi said the Y-Centre has taken good steps in reducing that rate in the township through the programmes it runs. 

“Our programmes are designed in such a way that a young person’s mind changes from the moment he or she enters the centre and enrolls in one of our programmes,” he said.

The programmes offered at the centre range from mentorship, internships, peer education, support groups, leadership, and skills training.

“We implement programmes in schools as well as at healthcare centres around the townships,” Buthelezi continued. “These programmes, which are solutions driven, are designed by LoveLife for young people in South Africa.” 

Most of the programmes are conducted on a 1-year basis, leaving room for more young people to be placed in the programme.

Zama Mazibuko, who was one of the first young people who took part in the first programme told Global Citizen that it had helped him gain the knowledge that enabled him to start his own businesses.

Mazibuko now runs a skills development company that places over 450 young people annually in skills and training programmes in South Africa.

“I owe my success to the first centre manager and the team who encouraged us to do better and inspired hope in us,” Mazibuko said, adding that if it wasn’t for the centre, he would have been in jail by now.

He said: “This township doesn’t offer one something to build for your future, but you are forced to go out to places like the Y-Centre and shape your life to ensure a greater future for yourself.”

The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.


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