Healing open wounds- towards social justice

By: Aphelele Mtwecu

ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, in collaboration with the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) hosted an insightful dialogue on Social Cohesion at Isivivana Centre- Khayelitsha on June 15 2019.

The event unpacked issues that thwart social cohesion among youth and possible solutions to solve them. Demystifying social cohesion, we had a panelist of four. Mzwanele Banjathwa from Corruption Watch, Bongolwethu Sonti from Tore’s Foundation, Jessica Breaky a researcher and Sofia Khan,a PhD student from UCT.

Khan and Breaky gave us the working definition that,” A cohesive society is one that creates a sense of belonging towards its citizens and trust in its government and its policies.

In a room filled with young people, the challenges and possibilities of social cohesion were expressed. One thing that everyone agreed on is that “Trust can’t be established without honesty, we need to translate policies into implementation”.

The Government process in policy drafting, consultation, and implementation remain an issue to youth because the panel believes: the government limits the representation of youth on socio-economic policies. There is a failure to consult young people about issues faced by them, and there is a lack of monitoring and evaluation processes around the implementation of those policies that are implemented.

Social Cohesion is rooted in the ideals of diversity, inclusiveness, access and values. But for many young people, it becomes a utopian society because of the constant injustices from unemployment, poverty and inequality. Activator, Nqaba Mosuli said that “We must close racial exclusion in order to achieve social cohesion”.This sentiment also speaks to how we might   want to invest time in resolving marginalization, the land question, equality and equity, gender based violence and many other socio-economic issues first.

Acknowledging that these are on-going demands,young people deemed it important to champion for social cohesion.Dialogues of this nature should continue as they do not only educate,they also equip people with the necessary tools to spear-head such conversations in their own communities.Guest speaker,Nonkosi Tyholwane suggested that we should familiarise ourselves with our history in order to understand the roots of disintegration, and how historical systems have impacted social cohesion. Understanding that social inequality is encompassed by racial inequality, all races need to come to the table to address issues of transformation and it should not solely be the duty of a segment of society. Dialogues need to be hosted in different areas, to broaden the base of the information shared in these sessions.

The experiences we shared in the break-away sessions on how marginalisation has affected us,is reflective of people that were given a difficult generational will. Sisipho Saunders believes that although we have difficult struggles, perhaps we should intersect these problems and use that mechanism as a possible solution.

Activator, Wiseman Mpepo, reflects on the event as much needed and hopes for more  sessions like this. He believes that  they bring young people together. Mpepo says that the issue of social cohesion is multi-layered and needs to be broken down properly.

Though many challenges were identified, the 84 young people that were gathered at Isivivana center in Khayelitsha agree that social cohesion is necessary if South Africa is going to grow.

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