“Millennials don’t want to work”, they said; “Millennials are lazy”, they said; yet significant social and economic changes in Africa will be and are being effected by Africa’s youth who have seen the gaps and the inabilities of their governments to provide for the people’s basic needs. Congolese born and South African raised sisters Sophie and Louise Kanza started the Sophie A Kanza Foundation in order to help bring changes in the lives of orphaned and poor children around and outside South Africa. In a space of 2 years the foundation has done more than the government has done through fundraising initiatives like Fabulous Female Fashion Show that raised enough money to supply hundreds of girls with sanitary pads. #CandyCraftsDay as the Sophie A Kanza Foundation is sometimes known is interactive and engages the children in making crafts and supplying clothes and sanitary towels to the girls who have reached puberty. A huge number of charities and schools benefit immensely from the Sophie A Kanza Foundation through sanitary pads donations, clothes and food; and matric dance packages for girls who cannot afford all the expenses of a matric dance.
Being Congolese born and living in South Africa, the Kanza sisters have been deeply hurt by the Afrophobia attacks that started in Rosettenville when service delivery protests erupted against drug dealing and prostitution in the area. Although the culprits where known Nigerians; the community turned against all foreign nationals and the attacks caught on in even some parts of South Africa. This meant that the sisters were not safe even though South Africa is the only home they have known which led to them producing and directing a video titled “Singabantu” which means we are people. The video featured young immigrants from other African countries and their flights as “Foreigners” in South Africa. The video went on to win the “I Am Migrant” award at the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Plural plus Festival.
It is sad that Africans do not feel safe in Africa because of the harm that we inflict on them as South Africans. The harm is not only physical but it is emotional as well, from isolation to name calling. Despite the challenges, the sisters have brought together young people from different parts of Africa to engage on matters that affect us all and bring forward solutions and ways to work together. A conversation has been started and young South African are against Afrophobia which means the older generation is the one that institutes these attacks by painting everyone with the same dirty brush. One foreign person’s sins are paid for by all the foreign people who live in SA and that is not right at all. If the young cannot change the mindsets of the old then we will need ways to protect our brothers and sisters from outside South Africa from these senseless attacks.
The good work of the foundation has not gone unnoticed, Sophie Kanza has been nominated as one of 100 Most Influential South Africans for 2017/18 and Louise Kanza was nominated for “Advocate of the Year” at the Africa Youth Awards 2017. We really need more young people like Sophie and Louise Kanza.
Check out the Singabantu video
Yemurai Nyoni is a 25-year-old Zimbabwean activist, who expects to influence global governance within the next 15 years through equipping young leaders and creating and supporting spaces for youth to exercise their leadership. As a leader in his country, he helped build and eventually led a national network of over 1200 young leaders working on sexual and reproductive health in Zimbabwe. His experience as an activist has seen him serve in a number of leadership positions nationally, regionally and globally. He also provides constant mentorship support and voluntary consultancy for young leaders in the African region who lead organizations in their countries.
Yemurai cares about women and girls because they’re largely at the receiving end of bad social policy, the repercussions of war, and the impact of drought and disease. According to the World Bank, women account for 61 percent of those living with HIV and young women are three times more likely to be HIV positive than young men. Girls continue to be married off in their adolescence, which puts them at grave risk of experiencing violence from their significantly older counterparts as well as adverse complications of pregnancy and childbirth.
In my view, according to the statistics we see everyday, being a young African woman is perhaps the most perilous form of identity in the world today. African women and girls face heightened life risks from the complications of pregnancy and child birth, are subjected different kinds of violence and t disenfranchised by our patriarchal society. I believe this isn’t right, and that we must turn the world on its head to right this injustice.
Yemurai also believes that the current investment case for women and girls should not focus on the burden of disease or the development challenges they face. He believes that we should focus instead on the strength and immense potential that women present as the ‘better-half’ of humanity. We must not invest in women because of their perceived weakness but because of their definite strength. Women are the driving force behind agriculture in the continent, they actively build the capacity of their children, are innovators in business and politics and have great resilience in the face of adversities like war, famine and disease. This is what fuels his passion for women and girls and he has determined that if he can play the smallest part in ensuring gender equality then he must play it well.
What does Africa Reign mean to you?
I value the concept of building a generation of African youth with the power to redefine their identity, shake of historical inferiority and claim their God-given influence. Africa Reign to me represents a movement with these values; a reflection of the strength of the youth of our continent and a chance to reconstruct the perception of what it means to be African.
What steps should we as African youngster take in order to move Africa Forward?
The first is to stop thinking small. To do this we must become more inquisitive, we must seek to find out why things are the way they are, to analyse the things we consume and find out how we can create them ourselves. We must change our mindsets from being perennial consumers of foreign culture, technology and education, to being producers of authentic African products. Who says British citizens shouldn’t learn Swahili or that the African drum shouldn’t become a core feature in international orchestras. So I challenge every young African to learn something new every year, to buy a notebook and think of new inventions. Create your own vacuum of innovation and force yourself to produce solutions to our continent’s challenges. Refuse to accept the existing order.
Check out Yemurai on his social media platforms