The first cohort of young people selected to participate in the second phase of the National Youth Resilience Initiative completed residential training in July 2023.
The training took place in Gauteng from 3-7 July and brought together 25 committed community champions from the Sedibeng region for training on building resilience in themselves and other young people in their communities.
The NYRI is a multi-stakeholder initiative, implemented by Activate! Change Drivers, which aims to support and promote the psychosocial well-being and resilience of South Africa’s youth. The initiative is a partnership between the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), supported by the German Development Cooperation through the GIZ Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP), with co-funding from Global Affairs Canada.
During the first phase of the initiative, the NYRI aimed to address the psychosocial well-being and resilience of young people in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and to facilitate access to quality, evidence-based psychosocial support programmes and services. Now, the focus has shifted to localised district-level community-based intervention, targeting 75 young people in three provinces; Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.
The training will provide participants with relevant skillsets and practical tools under the following five overarching protective factors:
- Human Capital Social Support/Connectedness
Resilience action tools and awareness
- Structures for Youth Employability
Professional development and work readiness
- Emotional Regulation/Socioemotional competence
Psychosocial Support Systems
- Creating Avenues for Youth Participation
- Rescripting Sociocultural Identity
Self/community identity, Gender-Transformative Approach and Inclusivity
Amongst the Gauteng cohort was Mordecai Ndlovu, a 33-year-old social entrepreneur and activist from Sedibeng.
Ndlovu runs several programmes, ranging from agriculture to information technology, which seek to provide young people with economic opportunities while having a sustainable social impact.
This includes a farm project which upskills young people and a programme focused on introducing affordable internet access in the townships of Mbombela, Mpumalanga. Ndlovu’s mission is to bring life to the Township Economic Development Bill and empower young people and women in the process.
“When we speak of resilience its hard for many young people to believe they can succeed, because of all the challenges we are facing in the country. Our ideas are not taken seriously, and we are not getting the opportunities we need,” said Ndlovu. “We need to be resilient to keep believing and working towards our dreams, even when it’s not easy.”
As a social entrepreneur, Ndlovu is accustomed to dealing with setbacks.
“One of my biggest challenges is on an agricultural project. We got some land, but lacked resources, like a tractor and heavy equipment. We could have given up, but we decided to expand the programme and place a larger focus on manpower to compensate for the lack of equipment,” says Ndlovu.
“This has taught me that resilience is crucial, and I will take what I’ve learnt here to the communities where I work and empower young people further. The biggest takeaway from this training has been the importance of social networks and social capital. Already I have made connections with an NGO that presented here to contribute to my work.”
For Matshediso Masita, participation in the NYRI has also led to firm connections that will contribute to her work in the coming months.
Originally from Welkom in the Free State, she started a non-profit organisation called Lesedi La Lethabo when she moved to Waterdal, a rural community in Sedibeng. Initially her organisation focused on providing community members with food parcels, but she soon realised that residents were desperate for sustainable opportunities, and she pivoted her project accordingly.
“There are many young people and women in the community with no skills, no experience and very limited prospects. I implemented an agricultural project to involve the older ladies in the community and initiated a community policing forum to improve safety in the community,” she explains.
“I want to be able to transfer some of these skills that I’ve learnt here to my community. Being from similar communities some of us have already started thinking of joint ventures and looking at ways we can work together,” she says.
Rammolotsi Sothoane, a senior facilitator at Activate! Change Drivers and the lead civil society implementor for the NYRI, highlighted the transformative nature of the programme.
“The NYRI conducted its Cohort 1 training with a dynamic group of young people from across Sedibeng in the Vaal. The training provided these young people with an opportunity to reflect on their respective journeys as leaders and change agents. Moreover, the training sought to empower participants with knowledge and key competencies to contribute towards building a more resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. One of the key highlights of the training was the opportunity participants had to engage a representative from the NYDA, Phuthi Semenya, about what government is doing to address youth development challenges,” said Sothoane.
Skills-sharing and capacity building are core offerings of the NYRI with the training covering topics such as developing resilient leadership, implementing community mapping and stakeholder engagement, turning ideas into action, and systems thinking. Once each cohort has completed their residential training, they will undergo a six-month group-coaching process where they are tasked with applying the tools they learn within their communities and tracking the impact their interventions bring about. This in turn, provides an opportunity for each NYRI youth to become a multiplier for social change by extending their reach in their local communities.