It was a cold winter morning when Tsakane resident Snenhlanhla Zwane joined hundreds of other young people who had registered for the Ekurhuleni Job Summit. Snenhlanhla acknowledges being one of the lucky few that knew about the job expo.
“We were told that to register to be a part of the summit, we had to give the city our CVs, which I did. It was accepted and I was told that transport would be provided to get us to the job expo, however on the day the bus sent to collect us, there wasn’t enough room despite the city knowing how many of us had registered. We stood speechless as the bus drove away with only 60 young people, leaving the rest of us behind thinking ‘what do we do now’”, she says.
Snenhlanhla who is part of the Activate! Change Drivers network, together with other Activators in the city connected with campaigners from amandla.mobi to launch a campaign for youth desks in the city.
The population of Ekurhuleni is home to over three million people, of whom the majority fall within the youth bracket. So it was clear to these youth that an ongoing attempt to connect youth with opportunities on a more regular basis, within the communities they reside, is necessary.
This problem is addressed in the National Youth Policy, which mandates each municipality to provide a youth desk. This youth desk was envisioned as a key point of youth mobilisation within all municipalities- where young people residing in the area could get information about jobs, bursaries and other opportunities in their area. It was also seen as potentially playing a huge role in ensuring youth participation in the municipality to ensure that young people play a part in making decisions that affect their lives.
So on Youth Day, the campaign was officially launched with youth in the city urged to join the campaign by dialling *120*4729# from their cellphones. The code also allowed for young people in the region to state what they envision a youth desk prioritising. Activators took to the streets to promote the campaign, handing out posters in public places such as taxi ranks and clinics.
Hundreds of young people joined the campaign and on the 29th July, a letter requesting a meeting with the Youth Unit was sent to the City. According to the letter, the youth involved in the campaign planned to “discuss the feasibility of funding and establishing youth run Municipal Youth Desks within Customer Care Centres as a way of main streaming youth development, making access to municipal information accessible and to ensure that youth have a go to point in regards to youth development related programmes and employment opportunities”.
The City agreed and engaged with them last week. The list, with the names of all who had joined the campaign was handed over to the City, along with the information about what people young people in the city would expect from a youth desk. After constructive engagement with the Youth Unit of the City, it was agreed that the demand would be passed on to the Office of the Mayor, with a response to the youth due.
Whatever the outcome, these young people have made it clear that they will not be backing down from their demand and will further mobilise should the City not agree to implement what is national policy.
The City did not respond within the 14 days, so campaign supporters flooded the Youth Unit with emails demanding a response. The City apologised for the delay and committed to responding within the first week of September 2014.