Youth speak out at conference

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Durban - South African youth attending the Ethekwini Municipality's Women Empowerment Conference were eager to voice their thoughts about empowerment and role models.

The municipality recognised the need for the youth to be invited to the conference and top female pupils from various schools were selected to attend.

Some of the learners, who attended the two-day conference at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre on Thursday, told BuaNews they felt privileged to be there as the youth generally get painted with the same brush - as being largely irresponsible.

Grade 12 learner Thabile Mhkize, who wants to become a dental surgeon after school, said South Africa lacks role models.

"I don't see much role models in South Africa. I have to turn to myself and hope that I can become one for the generations to come," said Thabile.

The Inqabakazulu School pupil said her idea of an empowered woman can be seen in her older sister.

"When I look at her, I see an empowered women. There are so many challenging things that happened to her. But the manner in which she has overcome the obstacle is inspiring. Her life shows me how I can be strong," said Mhkize.

Welile Hlophe, who goes to school with Mhkize, feels that celebrities like Khanyi Mbau should not be followed.

Hlophe said the actions of celebrities are sometimes more destructive and doesn't inspire empowerment.

"Empowerment for me is about the strength that comes from inside a person".
Durban College students Binwa Adebayo and Courtney Kapferman said that the stereotype that youth are irresponsible is continuously perpetuated and that is one of the reasons why the youth feel uninspired.

"There is no incentive for the youth to change because we have got used to the low expectations. The reason why the youth look to celebrities is they are the only people who connect with us. People in media, government and business don't connect with the youth and this needs to change," said Adebayo.

Kapferman added that families play an important with helping youths.
"If teenagers are brought up by stable parents in a good home, then they won't have to look outside for role models," said Kapferman.

South Africa's first lady Sizakele Khumalo Zuma, who attended the conference, unveiled the declaration which was a call for the spirit of ubuntu in business.

South African women in business were urged to use their skills and knowledge to create opportunities for each other.

Themed "showcasing success," the conference is being attended mainly by women in business and government from across the province.

Some of the issues that will be addressed include, raising the profile of women in business in the country and creating opportunities to increase business. Other topics include information on business support and the creation of platforms to network.

The conference will end with a banquet dinner on Friday night.