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Unisa Women’s Forum celebrates young voices

With the commemoration of Youth Day on 15 June, the Unisa Women’s Forum (UWF) held a webinar to give voice to our youth. Nozuko Langa, UWF Deputy Chairperson, was the programme director for the day. Professor Meahabo Magano, UWF Chairperson, opened the proceedings with a word of welcome, outlining that the 2021 Youth Day marked the 45th year after the uprisings of 1976 by young people who revolted against the oppressive regime. She further outlined the theme for the 2021 Youth Day as being “Learning from the past, questioning the present and shaping the future”. 

In setting the scene, Dr Thulile Shandu-Phetla gave an emotional outline of what people normally say they remember about that which transpired on 16 June 1976. In a poetic voice and lyrics, she echoed sounds of guns and the fear that struck the nation.

Speakers, from left: Dr Paballo Molepo, Lerato Mahlaela, Boitumelo Sehlapelo-Molepo and Thabo Makwakwa

An oppressed majority

Pindi Seloma introduced all the speakers, the first being investigative journalist Dr Paballo Molepo, who holds a Doctorate in Theology from the Trinity Bible Institute. Molepo challenged the audience by focusing on why property is damaged in our townships instead of focusing on constructive issues that will build our future. He posed the following question to members of the UWF: “How come women who are in the majority in this country found themselves being oppressed?” The question was homework for the UWF to digest and to come up with strategies towards the emancipation of women.

Allow room for creativity

The second speaker, Lerato Mahlaela, a young data analyst, who holds a BCom Business Informatics degree from Unisa and a certificate in Cybersecurity Awareness and Innovation, addressed the audience on the topic of active citizenship for youth development. She highlighted that one must never allow one’s background to dictate one’s future. She further critiqued the education system for not allowing room for problem solving and creativity. She criticised programmes that are not linked to practical projects linked to the world of work hence denying students an opportunity to experience the practical side of their qualification. Mahlaela purported that sometimes students’ voices are muted, and they are not given a chance to voice their ideas. Her concluding statement placed emphasis on Unisa focusing on youth development programmes.

Start building a legacy

Speaking next was Boitumelo Sehlapelo-Molepo, a student and political activist who wants to change the world of economics, specifically educational funding. She participates in the broader ANC political debates, and she is keen to advance economic freedom specifically for African people. Sehlapelo-Molepo stressed the importance of building a legacy for a future generation, which resonated well with the theme of learning from the past, questioning the present and shaping the future.

Going green can be profitable

Thabo Makwakwa, also an investigative journalist, provided insight into the enhancement of resilience in South African youth through creating a drug-free South Africa. He emphasised that the youth needed unconditional support in every initiative that they embark on. He named recycling as an example. He challenged academics to look closely at recycling as something that can be turned into a profitable venture.

Youth pledges were brought forward by Dipolelo Matoase from the Unisa Midlands Region. John Caswell Sambo from the Unisa North-Eastern Region, made a heart-warming statement to the effect that women in leadership positions, such as Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Puleng LenkaBula, should be celebrated. Judging by the reactions from the audience, the talks raised the energy levels of participants. 

The event was accompanied by poetry performed by Claudia Caia, Julia Fratini and Kate Mafate who brought the spirit of June 1976 to the event, and revolutionary songs were chosen as the music for the day.

UWF executive committee members and Pat Lethole from the Gauteng Regional Centre ensured that the day was a success. Kedibone Thantsha, an executive committee member from Midlands UWF, gave a warm vote of thanks.

* By Hetta Pieterse and Professor Meahabo Magano

Publish date: 2021/07/20