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National project to build youth resilience

The mental wellbeing and resilience of the youth is at the forefront of a national initiative to build capacity and create a network of youth leaders to respond to the needs of young people in their communities. Despite much progress in addressing some of the most pressing socio-economic challenges facing the country as we celebrate Youth Month, South Africa’s youth continue to grapple with a number of issues, including poverty, unemployment and disease.

The National Youth Resilience Initiative (NYRI) Ambassador Network is a voluntary, unpaid capacity-building opportunity for self-motivated, enthusiastic community youth champions between 18-35 years old. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative between the Government Department of Women, Youth Persons with Disabilities; the National Youth Development Agency, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers; WESSA (Wildlife Environmental Society of SA); and the German Development Corporation (GIZ).

The initiative was conceptualised in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We all recognise that the pandemic has increased the vulnerability of young people to various factors such as unemployment and access to opportunities; and mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

As a response, a number of national actors came together to collectively explore lasting solutions to
these challenges facing the youth. With this in mind, the NYRI was established to promote the psychological wellbeing and resilience of young people in the country. Activate is a core implementor.

The scope of work for the NYRI, defined by the multi-stakeholder working group is centred in a six-pathway intervention strategy to build resilience among the youth. Activate and WESSA are responsible for establishing and capacitating a network of youth leaders across South Africa that are better able to understand the needs of the youth; and elevate youth agendas in their own communities. We need to ensure that young people are able to respond to issues facing us as a country, primarily issues created by COVID-19, currently.

To date, Activate and WESSA have coordinated workshops with a pointed focus on leadership; community development; problem identification and analysis; and community, stakeholder, and power mapping; among other key concepts.

We are hoping to equip young people to run effective projects in their own communities to activate the youth agenda and promote the psycho-social wellbeing and resilience of young people – and have a positive effect in influencing other young people. Moreover, the NYRI Ambassador Network is about creating a connection point among these young leaders, in order for them to be able to draw inspiration from each other and run effective youth projects in their own communities.

The initiative further seeks to create an enabling environment for members of the network to work collaboratively in thinking about new ways in responding to the challenges facing the country today.During the lockdowns when Covid hit us in 2020, many of our own Activate Change Drivers youth network volunteered to ensure people were getting food parcels and their needs were met.

They were at the forefront of working with Government and other stakeholders. Through that process of being involved in providing support for communities, we recognised the youth could play a meaningful role in responding to this pandemic. The NYRI Ambassador Network represents an important platform to strengthen the capacity of youth leaders to be more effective in what they are already doing.

By Rammolotsi Sothoane, Project Coordinator, NYRI Ambassador Network, and youth activist at
ACTIVATE! Change Drivers

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