Group picture with 18 teenagers in red t-shirts.

overcoming speechlessness, bringing generations

What to do when the gap and conflicts between the younger and older generations seem insurmountable? What if young people do not see a future for themselves because of poverty, unemployment and violence? The South African organisation Justice and Women (JAW) is confronted with these questions on a daily basis. They have launched a pilot project with young people to provide them with basic training in dance, singing and acting - and to promote dialogue between the generations.
Gabriela Wichser, Programme Coordinator South Africa

The small town of Melmoth is located in a remote rural region of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), where people's lives are marked by great poverty and violence. The few fertile, flat and easily accessible land is still owned by a few sugar cane and timber producing families more than twenty years after the end of apartheid. The majority of the population lives on the steep and less fertile slopes of the rugged valleys. Economic opportunities are scarce here, more than a third of the residents are unemployed. Young people generally have a very bad reputation here. They are all considered petty criminals.

Professional teaching
The new partner organisation Justice and Women (JAW) is committed to this difficult environment. With the support of terre des hommesschweiz, it has been running a pilot project since this spring in the communities of Yanguye and Mjomelwane, which gives young people aged between 12 and 20 years basic training in dance, theatre or singing. Professional dance teachers, drama teachers and singing teachers from the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg teach 75 students from the high schools in these communities on two Saturdays a month. The young people are actively familiarized with project planning and implementation. This year they will also organise two public events at their schools and implement their own small projects.

Commitment, discipline and perseverance
What sounds like a casual leisure activity for adolescents is quite a challenge: the young people should experience joie de vivre through dance, singing and acting. But the teachers also demand commitment, discipline and perseverance from the young people. They are to take part in competitions in Pietermaritzburg within a year. The reason for this is not just ambition: by taking part in the competition, they will have the chance to exchange ideas with young people from other parts of South Africa with a different cultural background. By being able to compete and keep up with privileged young people from elite schools, their self-confidence is strengthened.

Questions are considered disrespectful
With this project, JAW is also making an important contribution to improving the relationship between the generations, which is very conflict-laden. Almost half of the children and young people here grow up without a father or mother. However, the generation of grandmothers, who take care of them, is often overburdened with the upbringing. Grandmothers are shaped by a traditional value system in which, for example, death is not discussed. Asking questions is considered disrespectful. Young people who are unable to mourn their parents in an appropriate manner feel misunderstood and often react rebelliously. In puberty, the tensions then increase further.

Conflict-ridden relationships
In South Africa, the older generation is not able to talk about physical changes and sexuality for cultural reasons. Grandmothers, in the European understanding, use blatant means to monitor their grandchildren: they subject them to virginity tests and constantly monitor their contact with the outside world. These measures only have a minimal effect in preventing teenage pregnancies, as their high figures show. However, they increase the tensions that lead to conflicts between the generations.

Dialogue promotes understanding
With its dance, theatre and singing project, JAW promotes the dialogue between the generations by specifically involving the parents and guardians. Grandmothers and parents meet regularly as a group with a JAW project worker. Together they discuss strategies to communicate more successfully with their children, grandchildren and grandchildren. In this way JAW supports the change in values, strengthens the understanding between the generations and opens up new perspectives for young people, which in the long term forms the basis for a peaceful and constructive coexistence of all in the Melmoth region.

Nach oben scrollen