HUMANA Youth in Action (HYIA) Arts & Culture Program, a partnership project among Humana Spain, Humana People toPeople in South Africa, Gauteng Organization for Arts & Culture Centres(GOMACC) and the University of Girona Spain’s “UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policies and Cooperation” funded by the European Union, has exceeded the initial target set last year to empower 2000 less fortunate young South Africans through arts and culture.
The announcement came at the ‘Youth in Culture Festival and Seminar’ in Krugersdorp, Gauteng– where 2,000 youths are gathered along with an international seminar on Culture and Development, to display their talents and newly acquired skills, and where actors in the field of culture and development can share ideas applicable in South Africa and other developing nations.
Youth in urban and rural South Africa live in harsh circumstances where they are exposed to .lack of opportunities, abuse and crime, high unemployment, and sometimes forced to live on the streets or burdened with the responsibility to head households.
“If you look at the society in South Africa, there is a big difference between rich and poor. Most of the young people growing up in these poor communities don’t get the opportunities that other young people do,” argues Niels Matthiessen, Country Director for Humana People to People in South Africa.
The Humana Youth in Action program is a direct response to the strained situation of poor young people between the ages of 15 and 35 years, reaching over 2000 youth in 15 townships in the West Rand, and 5 townships in Durban, South Africa. The program is aimed at improving artistic and life skills that will contribute positively to their communities’ socio-economic development through drama, music, poetry, sculpture, dance and drawing.
“We recruit youth from the communities into the HYIA youth clubs and there has been an overwhelming response. They can then choose any type of activity they want to do - whether it is music, singing, drama or dance - the decision is entirely up to them based on their interests,” explains Sizwe Mbele, a Humana Youth in Action Project Leader.”They meet weekly to train and every month they have made performances for other youths bringing messages that address the situation of youth in society today.”
With the financial support of the EU and partnership with University of Girona in Spain as UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policies, the Humana Youth in Action program has gained traction from a network of South African and European arts and culture stakeholders.
“It’s an opportunity for the University of Girona to participate in an international youth empowerment project through arts and culture in South Africa with Humana People to People and GOMACC. The project has allowed us to contribute in capabilities building of young people through a cultural perspective of development,” says Gemma Carbo, Project Coordinator and UNESCO Chair at the University of Girona.
Humana People to People works closely with the Gauteng Organisation of Community Arts and Culture Centres (GOMACC), who has trained 18 Youth Coordinators and Club Leaders as community arts practitioners to facilitate youth club activities.
Since the launch of the program in June 2012, Councilor David Latsie from Mogale City in Gauteng, South Africa, has noted a decrease in youth crimes in the communities where HYIA clubs operate. This evaluation by a local government official indicates that the programis not only a means toimprove access to cultural activities for youth in poor communities; it also stimulates young people’s self-esteem whilst encouraging them to make positive life decisions and become role models in their communities.