Ambassador urges youth to make voices heard

Lonwabo Gade

A Beacon Valley teen advocating for children and young people, said youngsters are not part of decision-making on issues concerning them in their communities.

Lonwabo Gade, 16, from Beacon Valley, was elected in August last year as one of the Western Cape Child Parliamentarians.

Last month he travelled to Polokwane for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament, representing the Western Cape.

He is now encouraging other young people to make themselves available to stand for the position of the next child ambassador for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Parliament as a new leader needs to be elected from the Western Cape. The child ambassador advocates for children and young people’s rights, Lonwabo explained.

Child ambassadors have to ensure that the declarations they discussed and agreed on are implemented by all, including government. Child Parliamentarians also work under the office of the premier.

One of Lonwabo’s first issues was tackling gender-based violence. “I’ve presented a speech in Parliament last year. As a Grade 10 pupil, that was a very memorable and honourable achievement. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience as I learnt a lot about the various issues South African children face every day,” Lonwabo said.

Lonwabo and other pupils who have been elected as child ambassadors from other provinces have discussed how children can participate in governance. They reiterated the slogan “Nothing about us without us”.

“This speaks to all the community meetings where there is not one child representative – children should be instrumental in also making decisions in the community,” he said.

In March, the Western Cape Child Parliamentarians visited George for a roadshow. They connected with the youth there, the Junior City Council, and met the Mayor of George, Melvin Naik.

“I loved seeing the amazing community centres that people have put their time and effort into, especially Inkcubeko. They had classrooms for children to study and learn as well as fun yet educational holiday programmes. The municipality responded and implemented our recommendations,” Lonwabo said.

On Saturday June 1, they were in Johannesburg launching the first South African Children’s Manifesto, at the Women’s Jail (now a museum) in the Constitution Hill complex. The theme for the manifesto was “Amplifying Children’s Voices for a Safe and Nurturing South Africa’”. Lonwabo said the manifesto addressed many issues such as violence and the lack of sanitary pads for young girls.

“Being a Child Parliamentarian has taught me how to be more sensitive, we do not know everyone’s situation. I have also grown as a person, these past eight months. I’ve developed new friendships and bonds with the other Child Parliamentarians,” he said.

Adam van Wyk, the chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum’s (CPF) Beacon Valley sub-forum, said he did not know about Lonwabo’s leadership position but he is encouraged to attend the community meetings they have.

Mr Van Wyk said the sub-forum’s code of conduct and constitution don’t allow children to be part of it though and “their age may limit them to join our sub-forum”.

They are, however, welcome to join the community meetings held by the various sub-forum sectors, he said.

Lynn Phillips, secretary of Mitchell’s Plain CPF, said young people need to organise themselves. She said the CPF has a youth desk and sector crime forums are to establish youth groups soon.

Ms Phillips said the CPF has activities for youth such as taking the youth to Killarney to learn about driving safety and they also have environmental hikes. For more information, email the CPF at cpf.mitchellsplain@gmail.com