The Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu in partnership with USAID launched a social and behavioural change programme for children called ChommY on the 7th of March at Birchwood Hotel.ChommY is a colloquial term for “friend” which promotes the building of positive friendships among 10 – 14-year old’s and to encourage the young boys and girls to motivate one another to avoid being involved in risky behaviours.
The programme aims to provide knowledge, develop skills and empower young people to make more informed choices to reduce HIV infections, substance abuse and to prevent teenage pregnancies. According to a 2018 HIV Prevalence Report by Statistics South Africa, HIV prevalence among the youth aged 15 – 24 declined over time from 6.7% in 2002 to 5.5% in 2018. Despite this decline, HIV infections amongst the youth remain relatively high to date.
The Minister encouraged the children to start claiming back their childhood. “The first step, is going back to basics,” said Zulu. The program included indigenous games such as diketo, morabaraba, umgusha and hopscotch. Each of the games represented one of the values that the ChommY programme aims to instil in the young children’s lives.
The programme was launched against the backdrop of the Department’s YOLO Programme which was launched in 2015 to educate young people between the ages of 15 and 24 about HIV/Aids, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy and being agents of social change.
Upon assessment of the YOLO programme, one of the findings was the distinct omission of children aged between 10 and 14, while reports showed that some of them were already involved in risky sexual and social behaviour. Furthermore, the children were guided on personal planning and the importance of support from parents and communities to enable young people to make informed decisions.