/ 26 April 2005

Oh, the youth of today…

What’s the big difference between the youth of 1976 and the youth today? Some say the 1976 youth were disciplined and fought for truth while today’s youth are indulged and into nothing more than labels. But everyone will agree that a major difference is that the youth of today have more choices.

Gugu Nxumalo, chief director of special programmes in the Department of Education (DoE), believes there are ‘too many” choices out there. ‘When I was young, the only choice I had was whether I was beaten with a belt or a stick!” joked Nxumalo.

She was speaking at a weekend workshop, held last month in Gauteng, as part of an initiative between Unicef, the DoE and the Teacher to raise awareness in learners and educators alike about issues surrounding gender. About 180 learners made the choice to spend time grappling with some of life’s big questions — including teenage pregnancy, violence against women, and gender and the media.

Introducing the workshop, Nxumalo spoke about making informed choices. ‘Girls Education Movement (Gem) is about young people taking responsibility for and making responsible choices,” she said, warning that ‘With choices, there are consequences”.

Dressed mostly in jeans — from low-priced Mr Price to the over-priced Levis — and t-shirts, the youngsters took the issues to heart and passionately debated the causes of inequality between the sexes. An exciting event was the opportunity to interview people who many youngsters believe promote sexism: those working in the media. One of the questions asked of the journalists present — who had to face some tough questions — was what the media is doing to promote equality between the sexes. Of course, the visiting journalists had a thing or two to say — including asking the learners themselves what they are doing to change perceptions and representations of girls and boys.

The learners’ reply was a matter of walking the talk: each of the nine groups put together a newsletter from scratch, surely one of the highlights of the weekend. Shucks. I wish I had been born a few years later than I was!

Robin Lee


Grade 9,

Breidbach School,

Eastern Cape

‘I hope to see a day when we all stop stereotyping each other and start acknowledging each other’s strengths and building each other.

‘Men have to motivate women to do things they were not allowed to do in the past, but women have a larger role to play in their own empowerment. They should stand up and make things

happen for themselves.”

Rhoda Phokwane (13)

Grade 8,

Ramagohu Combined School, Mpumalanga

‘It’s easy to be discriminated against if you don’t have self-confidence. You must believe in yourself first and only then will other people start believing in you. If you know where you are heading and believe that you can get there, no one will be able to make you do things that will stop you from reaching your dreams.

‘Teenage pregnancy is a problem: it can prevent a girl from realising her dreams and one of its causes is low self-esteem.

‘I believe abstinence is the best way. Sex is not love. More importantly, sex is for people who are ready for responsibility.”

Rethabile Zilila


Grade 10,

Kagisho School,

the Free State

‘Women give birth to boys, raise them, teach them everything they need to know until they are old enough to take care of themselves. When they become men, women, as their wives, look after them, cook for them and make sure they are ready to face the world. Even uneducated and unemployed women have a very important role and people need to give them the respect and acknowledgement that they deserve.

‘The people who need to realise the importance of women the most are women themselves.”

Nkosi Seroto (17)

Grade 10,

Kagisho School,

the Free State

‘South Africa is on the right track. The Constitution grants equal treatment and status to everyone. The only thing that’s missing is for some people to realise that people are the same — regardless of whether they have breasts or not.

‘But men will always be men and there are certain things women just can’t do, like approach a man for a relationship. That’s a man’s job. And if women want to rule this country, they first need to learn from men.”

Muriel Moche (18)

Grade 12,

Thufaneng High,

North West

‘The proposed government bill to reduce the age of consent for sex from 16 to 13 is

disgusting. Sex is one of the obstacles to the advancement of women. Older men take

advantage of young girls, especially girls from poor families, by buying them clothes and food in exchange for sex. If this bill is passed, then more and more young girls will be used for sex.

‘Some women do things that sacrifice the struggle for gender equality out of desperation for money. An example is women who pose naked to sell products. This has to stop.”

Marie Bezuidenhout (17)

Grade 11,

Ligbron Hoërskool, Mpumalanga

‘What a man can do, I can do 10 times better. All I need is to be given the chance to prove myself. There are certain things that girls still aren’t allowed to do, for example, certain sports, like rugby, are dominated by men.

‘People who cannot take proper care of their children should rather have an abortion than bring children into the world and then abuse and neglect them.”