It is now more than five months since we started the journey as the first 16 YAC participant pioneers. We arrived in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on the 10th of July and had a three weeks preparation course in where we were taught so much. Not only did we learn new skills and knowledge on topics such as identity and advocacy work, we also learned a lot about ourselves. Young Advocates for Change 2016 has been a program that aimed to open the eyes of young people, to embrace change, and to speak out on behalf of the community and the key issues affecting people living there. Challenging policies, changing the usual ways of doing things, and encouraging responsibility as young people. To be responsible people.
Upon arrival in Zimbabwe, we had an idea of what we were supposed to do during our stay here. However, we did not yet know how we would go through with our tasks. Looking back, we have gone through both challenges and successes. It has been an experience, lots of learning, and we have been challenged to do the best we possibly can.
Our journey was not a walk in the park. Maybe we can blame it on the cash economy, which has been a great setback for the country – affecting both young people and its citizens at large. Some young people are no longer up to volunteering because they may prioritize income generative activities. There was less activities done by the youths due to this. Together with the Branch manager, we tried to come up with creative solutions and we chose that we could still join in on activities and be visible through activities planned outside YMCA, especially in various Youth Centres in the area.
YMCA organized quizzes during our exchange. These those quizzes taught us how to use such events for youths to learn about specific issues in the community. Apart from the quizzes, we were able to do numerous activities that we both planned and joined in on. We had Subject 2 Citizen trainings with youths and students in Y-clubs. These training’s taught both us and the participants a lot, and after a while they also became a sort of power space where the participants felt safe to express what was on their minds. We also emphasized on stakeholder engagement which made us able to facilitate sessions in various Youth Centres. This helped YMCA Bulawayo increase visibility and we reached out to many youths about the organization.
Our major success was the African Youth Day. We had planned for this day for a long time. Though the financial resources were very limited, we were able to come up with a program for the youths that was both educative and entertaining. We got much positive feedback, and we learned so much ourselves from planning the activity and going through with the day itself. The Ministry of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment also attended the event, where they acknowledged the importance of recognizing the African Youth Day.
We are so grateful for our opportunity to be in Zimbabwe as YAC participants. We have experienced so much while we have been here. Learning new cultures, being able to understand a few words of the local language, was priceless for us. We have exchanged realities with a different country and found time to teach on issues of tolerance in all diversities. We have seen the value of peace, both in our communities, and countries.
Reviewing our experience, we now realize we have learned so much during this exchange. We have gained skills and knowledge that is useful in future work life. We have developed in terms of personal characteristics and built confidence in facilitation, professional and leading skills.
It’s almost a week before our journey in Zimbabwe comes to an end and we leave to our home countries. We now continue with the journey we started on the 10th of July 2016 as we go back to our home countries. From the YAC exchange, we are taking with us experience which we intend to share with other young people back home. Activities such as Gender Based Violence and inter generational dialogues should be kept burning by the YMCA Bulawayo. This, we hope, will positively change behaviours of young people and the general communities. This will only work if we speak out and push for change in one voice as change is all around us, and especially within us.
Source: Maureen Nambuye Malaba and Lisa Birgitta Lundgaard