By Elizabeth Ndhlovu-Dumbreni
Twenty-six year old Thompson Maseko from Bubi District, who has been with the SAfAIDS Asikhulume/ Ngatitaure/ Let’s Talk programme since its inception in Matabeleland North early last year, says he has since mastered the art of eloquent speaking, as well as engaging in dialogue that yields fruitful results. This comes in the wake of at least 42 children attaining birth certificates as a result of programme members’ intervention and participation.
Thompson Maseko presenting a paper at a meeting in Harare
Maseko says that although they were a group of 30 when the programme started, their number has now reduced to five, but this does not stop the remaining determined young people from engaging community leaders, council officials and other relevant authorities on issues affecting their community. He says the programme has shaped them to become engaged and active citizens in public social development and policy processes.
“Ward 15 has long been faced with an array of problems such as a high rate of school drop outs, children with no birth certificates, early marriage and poor water and sanitation. We engaged the village head, who called for a meeting last year, and we were able to air our grievances to the chief himself. We identified 61 children who had no birth certificates, and to date, 41 of them have since acquired the documents,” he said.
Maseko added that he and his four peers have been bold enough to encourage councillors, the local child protection committee, traditional leaders and school heads to act on the problems that need urgent attention in their district. The Town Council recently responded positively to the community’s call for clean water by initiating a solar powered borehole water pumping facility in ward 15.
Edward, the Bekezela Programmes Manager, has vowed to help this group of young people further achieve their goals by linking them with the junior council and says he prays that the social accountability programme will keep going on even after the Asikhulume project comes to an end.
Asikhulume is a programme seeking to build a community of young people and civil society organisations that use their voice to hold all administrative levels of public authorities to account through engagement, dialogue and participation in policy making processes.