Tragically, the cost of protesting resulting in the devastating loss of many youth lives during the June 1976 uprising.
Even this sad time in SA history bears testimony to the involvement and interest of the YMCAs and YWCA during the SA apartheid years.
Following the tragedy of the June 1976 uprising, the Soweto Parents’ Association (SPA) initiated discussions for plans for the mass funerals of the victims of the uprising. Discussions also centred on the provision of financial aid to afflicted families. The SPA was formed on 21 July 1976 as an umbrella organisation of representatives from SASM, SASO, the Post Primary Principal’s Union, Black Social Workers Association (BSWA), Black Community Programmes (BCP), YWCA, YMCA, Parents Vigilante Committee, South African Black Women’s Federation and the Institute of Black Studies.
A youth herself during this era, Sibongile Mkhabela recounted the movement’s involvement in the well-being and empowerment of young people:
“The YWCA had facilitated a positive reawakening among young people..…..through the work of institutions such as the YWCA and convening seminars which addressed the political and social issues of the day. It was as a result of these seminars that young minds began to shift more and more towards a critical awareness then promoted by, and linked to, the philosophy of Black Consciousness … ‘The Road To Democracy’ in South Africa Volume 2 [1970 – 1980])
The reality of SA and African youth at large today is that even though language barriers (post-apartheid and colonial rule) reflect significant developments even with better access to education, other current challenges (source: Fin24) still require urgent attention and addressing:
• Employment is no longer guaranteed through mere academic performance as youth are not gaining soft skills, technical and practical exposure employers require
• Sourcing qualified talent is a struggle
• The lack of resources and networks available to youth to seek employment opportunities
The possible solutions based on research findings (source Fin24) and already promoted in various YMCAs programmes includes:
• Accessible youth-inspired opportunities. Technology provides a platform for young people to connect and be exposed to socio-economic opportunities and benefits
• Private sector engagement establishes both rapport for value -chain engagement and linking to opportunities for youth investment
• Creating opportunities for entrepreneurship. This will promote both gainful employment as well as creating the climate for self-sustainability for youth to determine their own destiny
YMCAs inculcate the philosophy that self-awareness, the foundation of faith and the understanding of the difference between being a subject versus a citizen, contributes to the overall empowerment of young people. Further structured leadership development, vocational training and linking to opportunities enables young people to be healthy and confident contributors to society as a whole.