As children and youth go through our programmes, there are always those who stand out. They are the ones with confidence. Young people who have ideas and are not afraid to speak out. Those who are always willing to help, and those that others admire and look up to. In short, they have leadership qualities.
These specially selected young people are enrolled in our Leadership programme, where they are encouraged, trained and mentored. They learn life and leadership skills, how to work as a team, problem solving, communication, events management, negotiation and report writing. Some will go on to join our Young Reporters (radio) programme. Others will head up our Onjengami Clans.
In isiZulu ‘onjengami’ means “(who is) like me”. We originally used it as a way of reassuring HIV positive children, who felt they were ‘different’ from everyone else. Because of the stigma of HIV and AIDS, many of those infected don’t disclose their status. Children were amazed to hear that there were others who were just like them. It was a powerful tool against the feelings of isolation they felt.
Over the years, Sinomlando has expanded the concept of Onjengami to include groups of young people who share similar interests and challenges. These groups – or ‘clans’ as they are more commonly referred to in traditional African culture – extend beyond family. Members of the clan are not related by blood, but they support and encourage one another, and enjoy a strong feeling of ‘belonging’.
In partnership with the Children’s Radio Foundation in Cape Town and Umgungundlovu FM, a community radio station in Pietermaritzburg, a group from the Peer Leaders programme creates and broadcasts Umgungu Flashpoint – a 15 minute slot every Saturday morning from 9:45 – 10:00.
Radio is the ideal medium to create a public platform for discussion around issues of interest to young people. And the ideal people to lead these discussions are young people themselves. So far, we have 25 peer leaders who have been trained as young reporters. They have learned how to use radio reporting, storytelling and message-driven broadcasts to spark dialogues and explore issues in a way that makes sense to them.
The programme offers an opportunity for young people to discuss human rights, child protection issues and other topics affecting their health, well-being and development. Among the topics covered are relationships, sexuality, teenage pregnancy, HIV transmission and prevention. This project is in line with Sinomlando’s strategy to encourage youth to take leadership in issues that affect them.
In October 2018 Umgungu Flashpoint won the health category at the 5th Annual Youth Radio Awards in Cape Town. We are so proud of our young reporters and the impact their work is having on their peers in the community.