Let's listen to the youth, says First Lady Madiba-Zuma

Saturday, June 10, 2017
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Pretoria- First Lady Thobeka Madiba Zuma says youth need to be listened to and be supported as they take the responsibility for their own health education.

She was one of the panel members speaking to youth on Saturday during a dialogue session that formed part of the Inaugural Higher Education and Training/AIDS (HEAIDS) National Youth Conference held in Durban.

She said the conference, which was attended by close to 2000 young people from across the country, showed that South Africa is devoted to ending the HIV/AIDS by 2030.

She recommended that government prioritise access to education for the youth, especially young girls.

To the law makers, the First Lady said she recommends that they enforce laws that protect children, youth and young women.

“Violations against women should be more severely punished. We need to promote gender positive media messages. We need to run media campaigns and raise awareness about the rights of our youth and broadcast positive images of young girls and women, not them as commercial commodities,” said Madiba-Zuma.

She said there is also a need to look at changing cultural practices and traditions through media and other campaigns. She believes that children and youth have opinions about how they want to shape their lives and their future.

“We need to start in schools, our homes and our communities by openly acknowledging and taking resolute action to address structural inequalities, harmful gender norms, and gender-based violence, which are both a cause and consequence of HIV [transmission].” She said.

Amongst the panel was the Chairperson for She Conquers organisation, Lerato Morulane, who also serves as the member of the steering committee on the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STI’s 2017-2022.

The 21-year-old Morulane believes that if a way to deconstruct power domination could be found, many women would not be victimised and denied access to things they want.

“We need to ask ourselves, what is it that women go through and what is it that they want? Most of the time we are told what to eat, what to wear and so forth… it is high time that we take a stand as young women and speak out about all issues that affect us. Women need to be empowered with the economic privileges that men enjoy,” said Morulane.

She said inequality needs to be addressed because gender can no longer be a reason why men can be superior to women, there need to be equality.

She also called on men to have an open dialogue and be honest with themselves, as well as feminists.

A lot of issues were raised throughout the day at the conference, which included young people calling for harsh punishments for criminals, especially murderers and rapists. They said it is sad that the justice system always considers criminals’ rights while they kill the society in inhumane ways.

They also expressed their gratitude to government for assisting with bursaries and other forms of funding, but called government to speed up payments because sometimes students fail to attend classes due to not having transport fare.

The youth also touched on the issue of old men who take advantage of young girls’ financial situations. They said these men capitalise of luring the girls by providing financial support to them, especially those in tertiary institutions, but in return exploiting them sexually and infecting them with diseases.

They also blamed a lot of social ills on patriarchy and said the nation must turn the norms around.

After the dialogue, they broke into commissions to further outline issues and coming up with possible solutions to their problems.

The event started on Friday and is expected to conclude on Monday, and it is a prelude to the 8th South African AIDS Conference Exhibition that will be held next week, also in Durban.-SAnews.gov.za

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