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In early 2001, a group of young adults from the New Crossroads Township came together to express concern over the increasing levels of crime, alcohol, drug abuse and xenophobia in their community. Together, the youth were determined to find a way of solving these problems.
With the assistance of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), an initial workshop was held at Uluntu Centre in Gugulethu with 46 young adults mainly from New Crossroads and Gugulethu, in which they expressed their deep frustration about the problems facing their communities.
Most of these problems stemmed from the high levels of unemployment in the townships, and a sense of abandonment that prevailed among the youth. They felt that no commitment had been shown from government, at any level, to give young people in the townships confidence to face the future.
In contrast, they felt refugees from other African countries living in their areas were successful in achieving a better quality of life, whereas they could not. Although this was a misperception, it caused great resentment between South African youth and young refugees.
As a first step, support was requested so that the group could begin building channels of communication and co-operation between themselves and refugees living in their area, so that a mutual and supportive relationship could develop. The group named itself Africa Unite (AU):
The organization’s vision is a united, prosperous Africa in which all people live together harmoniously and peacefully.
AU is a human rights and youth empowerment organisation that works with citizens, refugees and migrants to prevent conflict, enhance social cohesion and promote socio-economic development.
AU strategic objectives are to build united human rights communities, empower children and youth in Africa in order to achieve peace and stability, promote self-sufficiency towards the realisation of socio-economic rights, and build the long-term sustainability of the organisation.
AU achieves these objectives through the following activities; human rights peer education, conflict mediation and community dialogues, capacity development, advocacy, psychosocial counselling, and cultural exchanges.
AU programme areas are articulated as follows:
- Human Rights for Social Cohesion;
- HEAR Me;
- Children at risk (Singamakhalipa).
Human Rights for Social Cohesion Programme - Youth from diverse backgrounds are provided intensive human rights training. The aim of this is that they take their knowledge back and disseminate it among their peers and their schools, communities, churches and organisations, usually through workshops and information sessions. The youth are also encouraged to embark in conflict mediation and practical activities in order to dispel prejudice and to encourage a spirit of solidarity and unity, regardless of geographical place of birth or cultural background thereby promoting social cohesion.
Hear Me - Through the Eyes of the Young - to give voice to African youth, through the promotion of intercultural exchanges, creative arts education and skill sharing. The specific objectives are to inspire hope and vision among African youth through sports and creative arts education; promote mutual respect and cooperation through skill sharing; and equip youth with the skills and confident to articulate their concerns and aspirations through creative arts.
Children at Risk (Singamakhalipa) Programme - The programme provides holistic, psychosocial support, including after-school care, to South African and migrant child headed households and community violence, including xenophobia-related violence. Based in Gugulethu Township, the programme caters for children and youth from the age of 7 to 17 years old.
The main challenge is financial constraints as many funders are leaving South Africa. It is difficult to work with limited resources and our work is in high demand among the young people. Most of the AU work is done by young people who work on voluntary basis, however, the organisation faces another challenge of rewarding them with a small stipend. The other challenge is to provide a daily meals to children who attend the programme ‘Singamakhalipha’, as well as lack of competitive staff salaries in attracting skilled staff.
Some of Our Achievements:
- AU has created a platform for young people from different backgrounds especially from marginalised communities to participate in facilitated dialogues, life skills and capacity development programmes to address the negative social and economic effects of marginalisation, unemployment, poverty and to celebrate diversity, and promote respect for human rights for all;
- Underpinned by its organisational slogan ‘Building Human Rights Communities’. Over the years, AU has trained more than 350 young people from different backgrounds as Human Rights Peer Educators; in return they have reached thousands of people in various communities in South Africa by conducting human rights workshops for the police, high school learners, interfaith, community-based structures, local councillors and migrant communities. The use of various languages, such as isiXhosa, Afrikaans, English, Swahili, Portuguese, Somalia and French by our Peer Educators allows for a wider range of participants in our workshops and a wider range of voices to be heard. It also enables participants to connect issues raised in the workshop with their everyday life experiences;
- With sexual and gender-based violence being prominent in South Africa, AU conducted eight dialogues which were held in three sites in the Gugulethu district over a period of three months (January to March 2014) as follows; one session in township- Europe informal settlement, three sessions at Sthembele Matiso High School, and four sessions were held at Phakama High School. A total reach out of 200 in and out of school youth in the district were mobilised to participate in cross-gender dialogue process. These workshops aimed at understanding the different beliefs and norms that the young people in townships have in relation to sex and gender;
- Africa Unite was selected by African Monitor to lead the South-African campaign to popularise the Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is part of the bigger Africa inter-continental campaign. This campaign was mainly targeting young people who were encouraged to voice their aspirations for an ideal future Africa in which they want to live. AU have reached close to 12 000 young people and is are currently working on the second phase which is to lobby to the local government and United Nations to include the voices of young people in the post 2015 development agenda;
- Early this year during national elections, AU was selected by Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to conduct voter education targeting young people in the Western Cape;
- In this period most of our activities were more invested with respect to developing the capacity of the peer educators to identify and intervene in community conflict ‘hot-spots’. It detailed the interventions undertaken to date to identify community dynamics, potential social tensions, priority issues identified by the community themselves, and capacity that can be an asset to address community-based conflict. We have managed to develop some training materials for the peer educators in order to involve them in community mediations and development;
- Through our social media - blog, Facebook and Twitter recently, our activities are being followed by young people not only from South Africa but also other African countries and young people from the rest of the world, thus our rating on Facebook has increase recently from 1 star to 5 stars.
Tel: 021 461 6551
Fax: 086 614 5266
6 Spin Street/ Cape Town
For more about Africa Unite blog, refer to http://africauniteblog.wordpress.com.
For more about Africa Unite, refer to www.africaunite.org.za
To view Africa Unite on Prodder NGO Directory, click here