Everyone has dreams and growing up we all need someone to look up to and emulate, was the message that resonated at the Women With Integrity (WWI) teen talk programme themed “What it means me to be a teen in SA”, on Saturday June 16 at the False Bay College in Khayelitsha.
The WWI, a non-governmental organisation, held a June 16 Youth Month commemoration where young people reflected on their future and their challenges.
Teenagers said the major challenges affecting them today include teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, peer-pressure, and the high vulnerability of poverty.
The organisation said it organised the event to enable and encourage young people to become problem solvers, developing their capacity to survive from situations and know the role they can play at times as victims and perpetrators. The organisation said young people need to realise that they have the power to lead.
The teens were put together to discuss burning issues that affect them.
They said that most young people involved in drugs and crime either do not have parents or good role models. In the lively discussion they seemed to agree that there is a lack of good parental role models and that this and peer pressure sometimes drive them to do drugs, crime and join gangs.
Young Vuyiseka Sanda said all these things put pressure on young people. “When one does not have parents a lot is put on your shoulders. For example a girl child would have no sanitary towels. Where does that lead you to? Peer pressure also plays a big role in driving some of us to wrong things. All we need are role models at home,” she said.
Although she said she was grateful to her mom for doing everything for her, she said young people need to learn to do things for themselves too. “We do not have to look outside for role models. Those who are fortunate enough to have parents should make their parents their role models. The fact that parents work for us should inspire us,” she said.
Mihlai Roro said dysfunctional families is a big challenge. He also said some parents have different dreams than their children.
Guess speaker, Siwaphiwe Sibeko, related her story of poverty and of having to work while studying and said there is no justification for people to use drugs or do crime. On her topic titled “Against all odds”, the Lower Crossroads resident, who has a Bachelor of Social Science degree in Anthropology and Environmental and Geographical Science, an Honours degree in Anthropology and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Linguistics, urged young people to first find a sense of identity and know their dreams.
She said although there are direct and indirect influences on our lives that is not a reason for people to do crime. “Even though I went to school barefeet I managed to go to the University of Cape Town. Only my feet were naked, not my mind. You know why, because I was married to my dreams. There was no one to buy me things. I was a ‘deputy parent’ at home. I had to work to feed my siblings. Young people need to know that being black and ambitious, there is a lot of sacrifices to make,” she said.
She told the teens as the future leaders of tomorrow they should be very choosy about the kind of careers they pursue.
WWI co-ordinator Zoliswa Lonja said she was happy to have hosted the young people. She said young people have been crying and pointing fingers at parents and accusing society but she hopes that now they have solutions.