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Rescue us from social ills​

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Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development Councillor Nonceba Molwele has urged Johannesburg youth to help their respective communities find solutions to social challenges such as teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and the worrying rate of HIV-Aids infection.

MMC Molwele was speaking at the Youth Health Workshop on HIV-Aids, Substance Abuse and Teenage Pregnancy at the Orlando East Communal Hall in Region D, Soweto, at the weekend.

The workshop, part of the City’s Youth Month programme to mark the 39th anniversary of the June 16 1976 uprising, was addressed by experts and activists in various health and social development fields.

They included Dr Oscar Radebe, who spoke on the benefits of medical male circumcision and the role of teenage fathers; gender activist Wendy Phaluwa of the People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA); youth activist Yvonne Gala of loveLife; motivational speaker and actress Nomzamo Mbatha, who implored the youth to follow their dreams; and Mandla Mbatha of the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (SANCA), who encouraged addicts to seek help.

More than 500 youths attended Friday’s gathering, held under the theme: “Health in the Hands of the People.” Top officials from the City’s Health Department also attended. I thank my team, NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and our partners for initiating this conversation with young people. We cannot do anything for you without you,” MMC Molwele told the youth.

“Programmes like this help us to engage with you so we can plan properly. As we celebrate the youth of 1976, today’s youth have different challenges, which we should tackle together,” MMC Molwele said.

“Be our partners, be part of the solutions. The city is deploying resources to save our youths from drugs, alcoholism and teen pregnancies. Help us rescue the youth from these demons. We need future leaders from among you. If you have a problem with drugs or alcoholism, volunteer to go to rehab. The ball is now in your court. Help us save the nation,” she exclaimed.

Mary Daka, the City’s Deputy Director of Public Health, said the purpose of the annual workshop was to “dialogue with out-of-school youth” on the challenges they faced, such as HIV-Aids infections, which now stand at 17% in Gauteng alone. She said teenage boys were being drawn into the conversation to tackle underage pregnancies.

“We have to capacitate the youth to help us find solutions to these problems,” Daka said. “[Designer drug] nyaope is destroying so many lives. Unemployment is contributing to this scourge. The youth have nothing to do other than engage in dangerous activities,” she said.

Thandeka Radebe, who works at loveLife’s Mofolo South Clinic in Soweto, said 13-year-old pregnant girls visited the clinic for check-ups and counselling daily.

“Most of them are ignorant of what protection is available. I see 13-16-year-olds coming for check-ups alone. I think sex education in schools should start early. It should be done by teen moms and dads, their peers who have gone through the same experience. Messages are too late, kids don’t listen,” she said.

Matshidiso Mawela, a healthcare promoter, said nyaope was destroying lives.

“Something has to be done to save the youth from nyaope,” Mawela said.

She also said teenage boys were reluctant to use condoms, insisting it was a girl’s responsibility to use contraception.