Keynote address by the Deputy Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, on the occasion of the United Nations Population Fund 16th annual Poster Competition ceremony, KwaZulu-Natal
3 Dec 2009
Programme director, Mr Jacques van Zuydam
Honourable MEC of Social Development, Dr Meshack Radebe
United Nations Population Fund representatives; Dr Ademola Salau and Mr Mark Schreiner
Parents and teachers
Boys and girls
Ladies and gentlemen
I am grateful to have been invited today to participate and witness the final outcome of this exciting competition. Allow me from the onset to congratulate all the participants for their willingness to gather here in a spirit of healthy competition. Congratulations and well done to all of you!
Ladies and gentlemen, it is always a pleasure for me to address young minds because children are our tomorrow, our future. The bright faces that I see here today receiving prizes will be the citizens of tomorrow. To grow up as good citizens one needs values. It is therefore in our hands as teachers and parents to instil those values in them which will help them to grow up as good human beings who will contribute to the society.
I therefore find the theme for this competition; ‘Plan your family. Plan your future’ very appropriate because it captures the objective of translating into practical outcomes our efforts in working with young people in order to build a prosperous future. Charles Reader once said: “Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit, and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny”.
I therefore entreat all our teachers and parents present here today to focus on developing children in a holistic spirit and instilling in them love for their country and people, deep moral values and a strong work ethic so that they grow up to be assets for the nation. Through this competition, we are sowing the seeds for a generation of young people that will boldly take the future in their hands and build a better society.
In honouring the young men and women gathered here today, we are affirming our commitment to nurturing youth talent in all fields of expertise, while at the same time making a lifetime investment in the future of our country. I have no doubt that the awards we proffer today would foster a sense of nation building and galvanise the young people into armies of reconstruction and development that the nation obliges them to be. When the battle for freedom and democracy was won in 1994, another new struggle was evident in the horizon, the one we are currently engaged in, which is the struggle to eradicate poverty and build a democratic and a prosperous society.
As you may know, young people constitute the largest and ablest sector of our population. In South Africa more than 70 percent of the population constitute young people and children below the age of 35 years. Almost 40 percent of the country population are between 14 and 35 years of age. Two of our country’s largest provinces, namely KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng contain the majority of the youth population.
It therefore goes without saying that we must all put our hands to the plough and our hearts to the conscious effort to ensure that every young person has a part to play a part in the process of nation building if our country is to move forward.
Ladies and gentlemen, I was informed that this competition has received overwhelming response from young people. It is indeed fulfilling to see them participating on matters of national importance such as population and development. As a parent myself I strongly believe that young people must always challenge and stretch themselves, must always be creative, and never be afraid of coming out with new ideas and approaches.
This competition has challenged young artists to imagine their future, including if or when they might choose to become parents. Remember, when people are able to plan their families, they can also plan their lives. They can plan to beat poverty. They can plan to be healthier mothers and children. They can plan to gain equality for women. Like their peers throughout the world, the South African youth face numerous challenges. Chief among these is HIV and AIDS, unemployment, poverty, negative reproductive health outcomes, and the growing and equally worrying phenomenon of substance abuse. We are well aware of these challenges and government and society needs to collectively find strategies to combat them.
With this in mind, the Department of Social Development in collaboration with the Department of Health, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and non-governmental organisation (NGOs) have worked tirelessly to provide reproductive health knowledge and skills in order to promote healthy lifestyles. In addition, efforts have been made to strengthen the capacity of health care providers to provide adolescent-friendly services.
As you all know, adolescence is a period of critical transitions; physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially. This is often compounded by peer pressure. Like all South Africans, young people are also significantly affected by crime, poverty, lack of formal education and lack of formal employment. In addition, other social issues such as gender based violence; drug abuse and teenage pregnancy complicate the lives of many young people.
To successfully navigate the turbulent waters and crosswinds of these transitions depends to a large extent; by the support young people receive from their families, communities and society at large. The immediate problems that young people face are stupendous, but not insurmountable. Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts on the part of government and civil society to construct a world with opportunity and future for everyone.
The best way to prepare young people for the future is to involve them in analysing the issues that confront us, and by inviting them to participate in elaborating appropriate solutions. It is common knowledge that young people become empowered by their participation in the institutions and decisions that affect their lives, which in turn can lead to real positive change in the community.
This competition is in line with our department’s mission to encourage the growth of individuals who are competent and innovative with high moral values in order to meet our national and international needs and challenges. I am certain that this competition will continue to expose participants to a holistic experience including teaching them the significance of education and being technologically skilled in a world dominated by technology.
The benefits of education are well known: education is the key to improve livelihood, health care, nutrition and exercise of civil rights. Education that includes and engages young people in discussions about sexuality, reproductive health, relationships and gender issues, can promote healthier behaviour, foster a demand for services and promote gender equity. Schools are safe spaces where young people can forge identities, clarify values and develop critical thinking skills.
Equal treatment of boys and girls should be emphasised in the classroom, as such experiences will empower girls to stay in school and give them a model of gender equity in action. Boys need support in the construction of positive masculine models, with an emphasis on conflict resolution and respect for the rights of women and girls, including their reproductive rights. Parents and teachers, the mainstream view of much of today’s youth is that of being victims of society rather than a being a possible positive influence on society as a whole.
However, the history of our country has taught us about the strength that youth has and the prominent positive role that youth groups and youth organisations can play in society. Through Masupatsela Youth Pioneer programme and other government wide interventions, we seek to shift the viewpoint from youth as being problems to empowering them to enact positive social change.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have all witnessed that given the opportunity, young people’s energy, ideas and aspirations are boundless. As a department, we commit ourselves to support initiatives that encourage the participation of young people in a wide variety of activities designed to build on and utilise their skills, knowledge and enthusiasm. Participation in such initiatives not only bolsters their self confidence but helps to prepare them to exercise their rights as responsible citizens.
Before I confer the prizes, I like to remind all the participants that the results of the competition are sub-sequential. What is more important is the learning process and the learning outcomes that you gain through this competition. From it you can analyse and improve to perform better in the next competition. I am confident that upholding these attributes will be the key to success in your life.
My heartfelt gratitude goes to the parents and school teachers who have supported and prepared the young people to participate in this competition. I would like to thank a number of people who have ensured the success of today’s event. Many thanks to all young people who participated in this year’s competition, once again a tough decision had to be made in selecting the overall winners and each year, the standard just gets higher and higher.
In this regard, I would like to express my gratitude to the adjudication panel that presided over a tedious yet meticulous process of selecting the best performers in all the categories. Congratulations to the finalists who, with great imagination and flair. Particular thanks to the United Nations Population Fund for their continued support of this competition. Your support and commitment is a key factor in ensuring the success of this competition and the work of my Department in the population and development field. I am confident that this competition will help instil and spur interest amongst young people in the country on population and development issues.
Finally, it is now my greatest privilege to confer the prizes to the winners of this exciting competition. I hope their actions will inspire other young people to surpass the achievements we recognise today. Honourable MEC and UNFPA representative, please join me on the stage to do the honour of presenting the prizes.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Social Development
3 December 2009
Source: Department of Social Development (http://www.dsd.gov.za/)
Issued by: Department of Social Development
3 Dec 2009
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