Despite growing up with various challenges, Activator Mokgadi Matlakala knew that if she wanted to achieve something in life, it would be up to her. Mokgadi, who joined ACTIVATE! in 2013, travelled a very dusty and difficult road that could have easily made her give up on life. She was raised by her grandparents after her mother went back to school, fell pregnant at 18-years old, which meant that she couldn’t attend varsity after passing matric.
Through these misfortunes, Mokgadi still found a reason to wake up every day and make something of her life.
The 26-year old from Botlokwa, south of Polokwane, was recently co-opted to be the National Chairperson of the Youth Development Forum within the Department of Home Affairs. The formation of the forum came after national parliament mandated all departments to establish platforms for user-friendly services towards youth.
Her journey with the Department of Home Affairs started as a front office clerk and, after hearing the need to establish youth desk at the Limpopo Department where she works, she quickly used the opportunity to pursue her ultimate passion.
“I realised the need to be involved in the establishment to represent young people across the province,” said Mokgadi, and further added that being a young person on the forum’s committee is an advantage because it helps in identifying challenges faced by fellow young people in the province. “We are the mouthpiece for young people of Limpopo province,” she said.
MATHOKS ARTS AND YOUTH DEVELOPMENT CENTRE
Mokgadi has always been passionate about youth development and has been heavily involved with local youth projects in Botlokwa. After realising that she could not further her post matric schooling, she kept active by getting involved in numerous local youth projects in Botlokwa.
As a poet and actress, she participated in a project in 2011 in which they took children off the street and kept them busy with activities that could cultivate their talents.
“The project was mainly to help local youngsters identify their talents through activities conducted at the centre,” said Mokgadi. “Not all of us are destined to be doctors and lawyers, so other talents may be relished and nurtured through these kinds of projects,” she added.
The most recognisable programme for young people in Botlokwa is ‘Botlokwa Career Day’, to which young people from Botlokwa and neighbouring villages are invited to be taught about the varieties of careers to be pursued. Mokgadi is the founding member of this career day, which is an annual event now in its fourth year. Due to work commitments, however, Mokgadi could not continue full time on the project, but still serves as an advisor for the organising committee of the career day.
In 2012, Mokgadi was also named Young community Builder of the Year at the Botlokwa Arts and Youth Award. “The award certified my capabilities within me of what I am and I have never looked back,” she said. She later became a member of the organising committee to give other young people the chance to showcase their community development capabilities.
In 2013, Mokgadi, along with a few energetic young people, formed another group called the Actioneers. The aim was similar to her previous projects – to keep young people away from street through activities at the centre. Activities rendered at the centre included Gumboots dance, Debate, Drama and Indigenous games.
Despite her busy schedule, Mokgadi always makes time for her family. She has recently been married traditionally to Gavin Mafa and has been blessed with two kids. “Family has always been a value close to my heart,” she stated, and further elaborated that maybe the love for her community hails from the ability to look out for the people closest to her.
Like many other neighbourhoods, Botlokwa faces challenges such as substance and alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy, but the biggest challenge according to Mokgadi is ignorance. “Young people at Botlokwa need to learn from mistakes. It may even be mistakes from other people, but they need to be observant and take lessons from those mistakes,” she added.
Back at the Home Affairs department, Mokgadi and her colleagues in the youth forum have managed to form a relationship with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). “We have not yet set out the kind of relationship we will have with NYDA, but we know it will be a fruitful one and will benefit Limpopo youth,” she said.
“On top of everything that I have done, joining ACTIVATE! in 2013 was a stepping stone,” she added. “I have learnt to be a good leader with good presentation skills and articulation and to accept my history, because history helps one to find a path to the future.”
Mokgadi has recently enrolled for a Public Relations course with the University of South Africa after failing to do so numerous times previously. She also aspires to be public relations officer at the home affairs department.
Her motto is “TOMORROW IS MINE AND I AM TAKING IT TODAY”, which is what she is clearly doing.