Gender Equality issues are an integral part of youth development

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By Commissioner Mfanozelwe Shozi

This article will critical raise gender issues that affect young people and provide a roadmap on how young people should deal with these matters.  

The foundation of all gender violations and discrimination is patriarchy. Young people should be aware of this phenomenon and should play a critical role in dismantling patriarchy.  If patriarchy is not destroyed completely will covertly destroy our democracy and all founding pillars of our Constitution.  Our progressive youth formations should support struggles that purport to end patriarchy and also develop innovative ways and strategies that will ultimately wipe out patriarchy and its effects.

 Young people are most vulnerable to violence of all types. Young people experience sexual abuse, domestic violence, emotional abuse, psychological abuse and economic abuse.  Our young people need to assist all of us to prevent Gender Based Violence.  Young People should be in the fore front and assist in reporting and monitoring cases of gender based violence. The students’ structures and student political organizations should incorporate the fight against gender based violence as part of overall student programmes. These formations should advise leaders of academic institutions and schools to overtly fight gender based violence and integrate programmes within overarching academic institutions’ programme. 

The extent of violence against disabled women is critical and our youth need to ensure that disabled women are not abused economically, psychological, sexual, emotional and physical. Young people should ensure that they report any form of abuse targeting disabled women.  Generally South Africans should protect young people especially girls and young women from all forms of violence, genital mutilation, incest, rape, sexual abuse, sexual, sexual exploitation, trafficking and pornography.

One of the emerging gender based violence issues amongst tertiary institutions is sexual harassment with regards to marks for sex. It is alleged that some lecturers demand sex so as to award high marks to students.  These allegations have not been proven but it is important for all sectors of society to   ensure that such violations are prevented from happening.

Sexual harassment is one of the critical issues faced by young women because most of these women are entering the job market and sexual harassment becomes one of the impediments because some senior executive members will demand sex before they assist employees or any prospective employees.  To support this claim , CGE has conducted employment equity hearings and found out that in most organizations that CGE has engaged,  shared that they have  receive few cases or no cases at all. This is an indication of the fear of employees to report such cases.  Government has amended the Labour Relations act to ensure that issues of sexual harassment are handled by the CCMA.  We encourage young people to report sexual harassment cases and follow their companies’ internal grievance procedures and Labour relations Act.       

It is also important to invite our young people to fight abuse against Lesbians, Gays, bisexuals, transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) and educate one another about protecting rights of LGBTI people.  Young people should work with progressive expert knowledge on LGBTI issues and this will in turn assist young people to comprehend and chat the progressive programmed that will end discrimination and homophobia. 

The attacks on foreign nationals and its impact on women, children, LGBTI, disabled people and elderly people is important to ensure that these discussions forms part of the youth development agenda and inclusion of these issues will ensure that our youth takes centre stage in preventing these attacks. 

The recent study released by Ohio State University, young men thinks about sex 19 times per day. In contrast, the Kinsey Report, which examined the sexual behavior of men aged under 60 years, found 54% think about sex every day or several times a week or a few times a month, and 4% reported just one sexual thought, or less, a month.  Another study found 16 to 17 year olds think about sex every five minutes. By age 40 to 49, this drops to a sexual thought every half an hour and it keeps reducing with age.  Young people especial young boys need to deal with their pre occupation with sex and ensure that they manage and able to control their sexual desires.   

The head of the organization South African Male Survivors of sexual Abuse argues in the article penned by Claire Keeton in the Sunday times of the 21st of June 2015 argues that People molested as children take years to remember, to realize that they were not at fault.  For men it is harder than women to speak out, because most perpetrators are male.  This means that the victims’ sexual orientation and masculinity come under the spotlight.  Mann further argued that in South Africa, men were the victims of roughly one in five adult sexual assaults, but the figures for children were not known. But internationally, an estimated one in six boys and one in four girls suffer some form of sexual abuse.  Young people are encouraged to deal with this scourge and dismantle sexual abuse directed to boys.   

Young people should be aware of traditional, cultural and religious harmful factors like child marriages, Female genital mutilation, and teenage pregnancy. The African Union has also considered the fact that child marriages should be outlawed in all African States.  Africa has the second highest rate of child marriages in the world after South Asia, West and Central Africa in particular follow closely on the heels of South Africa.  South Africa is not an exception to all of this and our youth need to ensure that they teach and share information about this and prevent it from happening.  Child Marriages have long effect on health, education, psychological, emotional and mental health of children.   The African Children’s Charter article 21 (2) states that child marriages and the betrothal of girls and boys shall be prohibited and effective action should be taken by various states. This article extends to boy children as well.  Child marriages perpetuates poverty, married girls often leave school and so can lack the skills to help lift their families out of poverty.  Child marriage drains countries of the innovation and exploitation of various and diverse skills from a wide pool of boys and girls.  Child brides are often disempowered because there are dependent on their husbands and deprived of their fundamental rights to health, education and safety.  Child brides are at a greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications during pregnancy, childbirth, becoming infected with HIV and AIDS and experiencing domestic violence.

 The 25th African Union Summit which took place in South Africa in June 2015 dealt with this matter.   Deliberations by African Union to end child marriages and the practice of Ukuthwala is a great innovation and will ensure that those young people who live in the poorest part of the continent benefit and spend their time preparing for their future.    A lot needs to be done to engage families, religious leaders and traditional communities to begin to internalize and change their attitudes with regards to child marriages and end child marriages in Africa regardless of their beliefs.   

Health is one of the critical issues that young South Africans should deal with; young South Africans should always strive to live health life styles. The issue of substance abuse by youth is critical and sometimes lead young people to commit horrendous crimes like rape and violence against women. Law makers should also deal with advertisers who are targeting young people.   Substance abuse and abuse of alcohol affect young people in the advancement of their studies and sometimes lead to dropping out of school and tertiary institutions.  Alcohol manufacturers need to educate society and young people in particular about negative impact and effects of irresponsible drinking. Government should craft laws that persuade manufacturers not to target young people through all advertising platforms.   Young   people need to refrain from abusing substance and alcohol and must focus on their studies and on perfecting their careers of choice.  Furthermore, South Africans should work around the clock to ensure that young people do not have access to drugs and alcohol.

Our youth need to take care of themselves and should ensure that they visit health care centres to test for communicable and non communicable diseases.  Young people should try by all means to live healthier life styles.  For young people to live longer, need to handle themselves in healthier fashion and need to exercise and eat healthier.  

Young people especially young women’s reproductive lives are critical to consider ensuring that young women are not discriminated against, understand and are aware of their rights with regards to reproductive rights. Pregnant young women and disabled women might be subjected to coercive mandatory pre and post natal testing.  Forced sterilization may be forced upon by health authorities or may make these choices under pressure or on the basis of misinformation.  Women need to report these issues to appropriate structures and it is also important for student bodies, progressive human rights organizations, and students’ organizations to incorporate these matters into their own programmes of action.

Young people are at their prime age and on the brink of starting love relationships and found themselves engaging in domestic partnerships.  Young people have a choice to settle or pursue any kind of relationship but it is important to raise issues associated with domestic partnership and most of the complaints that CGE receives relates to issues of estate and domestic violence. If young people enter into this kind of relationships need to regulate this relationship so that when the domestic partnership relationship is dissolved young people do not find themselves vulnerable and their rights violated.  

Our youth should seize the opportunities provided by our government and democratic dispensation. They should engage with various government departments and private sector to exploit opportunities provided to them.

 South African youth has an opportunity to assist with the advancement and promotion of the Constitutional democracy and should play a pivotal role in promoting our South African Constitution.   Young People should support democratic structures created by the new government and promote these structures within their rank. 

It is important to encourage our youth to utillise existing rights enshrined in the Constitution. But young people should be aware that rights go in hand with responsibilities and respect.   We encourage our young people to be robust and engage on issues affecting their lives but should always do that within the prescript of the law and respect.

Our youth should forge working relationship with other youth formations from continent and around the world. The purpose of these working relationships is to ensure that our South African youth gather as much information as possible that would equip them to understand diverse and complex fields which will assist them to build a better South Africa. Our Youth need to be involved in discussions of climate change and its impact on gender and youth.

In conclusion the challenges of poverty, inequality and employment juxtaposed with the triple oppression of women which are class, gender and race are critical to the plight and struggle of young people and need to inform the work of the young people. Specialists and activists who are involved in youth work should ensure that its programmes deal with challenges mentioned in this paragraph.  Youth involvement in economic and educational programmes is critical and will enable our country to prosper and develop faster and will assist the youth to solve the above mentioned challenges.