Online awareness initiative launched

Bulelwa Ndibonga, youth programme manager at Ikamva Labantu.

AMAZE, an online animated video series to foster conversations between parents and children, and to try to stop hate speech, has been launched at Ikamva Labantu’s offices, in Gugulethu, on Wednesday November 1.

The video series is aimed at pre-teens, to help them navigate their adolescence with accurate, age-appropriate information about sexuality. Three videos that are in English and Xhosa were screened, with parents giving them the thumbs up.

The videos tackle the tough questions young people have about their changing bodies, sexuality, healthy relationships and behaviour. The series originated from the US, and has been adapted for a South African audience, including translation into Xhosa and Afrikaans and new locally relevant characters and topics.

AMAZE SA spokesperson, Funeka Peppeta, said they wanted to help. She said parents grappled to talk to their kids about certain topics, particularly sex, and they wanted to bridge that gap.

“We are calling on parents and children to have conversations on sexuality and reproductive health. The purpose of AMAZE is to equip young people to understand their bodies. These videos will tackle sexually transmitted infections (STIs), female and male puberty, bullying and many others. Children can come to Ikamva to watch the videos,” she said.

Ms Peppeta said while the Department of Basic Education worked to address these through Life Orientation as a subject within schools, young people often have few resources for helpful, safe information outside of the curriculum.

“This will be in their space like Instagram and other social media. We want to suit their level of understanding. The series also creates an opportunity for fun, youth-friendly tools to help start these conversations earlier, with tweens and teens, in a way that resonates with their everyday experiences,” she said.

AMAZE’s local partner Marie Stopes South Africa, a national network of sexual and reproductive health centres, said it was happy to have worked with AMAZE to help children realise their dreams.

Brand manager Whitney Chinongwenya said there was a gap between children and parents in sexual orientation teaching.

“There is no platform for them to speak out. There is also no content for them,” she said.

Parent Portia Makhehle said the videos would bring much-needed awareness to children.

She said children would be able to ask questions and prevent bullying and any form of ill treatment.

Another parent Pat Nqotole said her children were affected by bullying.

“They do not even play outside because of bullying. They are bullied at school and on the streets. That is why I took the decision that they should not play outside. Hopefully this will create awareness around that topic and help the situation,” she said.

Bulelwa Ndibongo, programme manager at Ikamva Labantu, called on parents to speak to their children and make the videos their first step. She said some children got pregnant at an early age due to a lack of proper information.

“AMAZE will help us with topics but we will have to come up with others. These topics are relevant to them. They make sense to them and parents need to give them support,” she said.

The series will be rolled out on YouTube, social media and www.amaze.org with two new videos introduced each week. They can be viewed by young people directly on their devices, as well as shared with them by parents and teachers.