BY: Mpofu Sthandile.
The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), in partnership with the City of Cape Town, celebrated 17 young learners from Cape Town who graduated from the WESSA Young Reporters for the Environment Programme (YRE). Deputy Mayor and Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Environment, Alderman Eddie Andrews, addressed the youth at the recognition event which was held at the Magnet Theatre in Observatory this past Saturday, 15 April 2023.
The YRE programme is an international, youth-centred environmental journalism initiative that empowers youth to take a stand and act against local environmental and social issues through articles, photography, or videography. This project partnership between the City of Cape Town and WESSA, aims to empower and include the voices of Cape Town youth in environmental advocacy.
‘Our involvement with and support of the WESSA YRE Programme over the last 18 months demonstrates the City’s commitment to involving and empowering local youth in addressing complex environmental challenges and inclusively developing implementable solutions. It was very encouraging for me to meet learners who are keen to take ownership of the very real and complex issues facing the environment and our future by wanting to gain an understanding and to shed light on local issues affecting our environment,’ said Deputy Mayor and Mayoral Committee Member for Spatial Planning and Development, Alderman Eddie Andrews.
Learners from Sea Point High, Harold Cressy and Vista High School in Cape Town participated in the recognition event programme and attended a series of capacity building and learning sessions. These sessions took the learners through the process of identifying socio-ecological problems and injustices, based on their lived realities. They then workshopped locally relevant solutions to address these injustices. Providing youth with the tools to realise their own potential is at the heart of the WESSA YRE programme. As such, these sessions included honing skills and competency building around advocacy, ethical reporting, and constructive journalism.
This is a peer learning process whereby learners produced articles and short clips highlighting various social and environmental issues while devising action-centred approaches to tackling these challenges. The articles were entered to the WESSA YRE National Competition, and the national winners will be entered into the international YRE competition on 12 May 2023.
WESSA’s Head of Programmes and Projects, Cindy-Lee Cloete highlighted the significance of affording young people the platform to be part of the solution.
‘The WESSA YRE programme enables and gives young South Africans the space to collectively amplify their voices for their environment. This environment extends beyond just the biophysical but includes their everyday lived realities, and that connection where they are able to change their social and natural circumstances is what makes this programme so powerful and impactful. I have long realised the power of our youth, and through the WESSA YRE programme, I want to be part of a movement that centres social and environmental justice in the fight for a better future,’ Cloete said.
The young reporters and audience enjoyed a climate change play called Surge performed by the Magnet Theatre Youth Company interns. This programme forms part of the Magnet Theatre’s multi-layered education programmes that are aimed at filling the skills gap in the theatre industry and transforming the lives of young people. Similar to the City’s Urban Sustainability Interns programme, Young Reporters programme, the Surge production empowers and develops youth to become role models and leaders in their communities while offering a significant investment in unemployed and underprivileged youth.
WESSA and the City worked with these high schools over an 18-month period. During this time, the learners attended different sessions and workshops, and were mentored on putting projects together.
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