By Zamayirha Peter, Communications Manager, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers

Providing the youth with the necessary civic and leadership skills to engage government structures to drive meaningful change within their communities, was the subject of a recent workshop hosted by ACTIVATE! Change Drivers and the United Nations.

In partnership with ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) hosted the workshop, titled, ‘Right to Participate in Public Affairs’, and shared the United Nations Participation Guidelines for Activate’s youth network, called Activators. The United Nations is committed to promoting the engagement, participation and advocacy of youth to ensure their voice is amplified, which is why OHCHR has partnered with Activate, which has a network of 4,500 young community activators.

Training was presented with OHCHR and Activate to the group on 8 August 2022, in Johannesburg, Gauteng, to provide the youth leaders with practical skills to engage with authorities on issues that affect the youth. The content included:

  • Participation as a human right (advantages, linkages with other rights, international and national recognition).
  • The UN Guidelines on Participation: a practical tool to make participation real (the meaning of an enabling environment, participation before, during and after decision making, IT tools for participation, etc).
  • Youth participation in South Africa: discussion on good practices and practical challenges.

The development of young people in South Africa relies on the collaborative efforts of civil society groups, the government, communities; as well as the proactive effort of young people who are invested in being change drivers. The workshop was an opportunity to equip young people with policy information and resources to aid them in engaging with policymakers in their communities to further change, without resorting necessarily to violent protest action to get their views across to authorities.

Addressing the attendees were a set of speakers from the UN and government departments whose work is central to the development of youth; and the social development of young people.

The young people at the workshop were challenged by Activate Executive Director, Tebogo Suping, to own their narrative and position in society. She highlighted the value of an informed youth on policy matters that govern the nation. Suping further advised young people to be strategic in their use of their voice, reminding them that they have a responsibility to share their knowledge within their communities.

UNHRO Human Rights and Democracy Advisor, Hernan Vales, said, “This work is important for the UN considering that 50% of the population is young people; and without the voices of the global population in the form of ideas and creativity, we won’t be able to solve global issues such as climate change. From today’s training, I found that the Activators are really interested in engaging, but are frustrated at the limitations they have experienced from government and civil society groups. Authorities need to realise that the youth carry ideas and solutions to many issues, and they need to be given the space to share in the development of the state of their countries, and their global community.”



Dr Bernice Hlangala, Chief Director General, Youth Development for Department of Women Youth and Persons with Disabilities, agreed that it was critical to listen to the views of young people about youth participation and perceptions of government. “What I took from the training is the enthusiasm of the youth in the room. They carry a proactive nature and willingness to be actioners of change. They want to partake in government processes and decision-making. I did ask myself the extent of their knowledge of the structure of government; but it’s very encouraging and inspiring to witness young people who are willing to be a part of the change,” she said.

The youth leaders who were present from Activate’s network, added that they appreciated their voices being heard in this forum; and being equipped with greater knowledge on how to engage with government policy and structures within their communities.




Civic youth leader, Jabulani Thabethe, said the workshop encouraged him to keep pursuing his goals of assisting in development within his community and in a wider sphere. “I found the workshop very informative; it opened my eyes on how I can participate within the government systems. I spent a lot of time asking questions, because while I come as one, I represent many in my community.







Activate Youth Hub leader, Shoki Chuene, said it was time to strategically place youth in policy decision spaces. “There is a lot we do as young people from various organisations, but sometimes we miss it at the grassroots level. Now we know that our voices matter, we must participate to realise change, outside of protest action. I see that if I partake at policy level and insert contributions there – these last longer than the actions or rhetoric of protest action.”






Young people across the world contribute to the resilience of their communities, proposing innovative solutions and driving social progress. To ensure they are protected and enabled to do so, the United Nations has committed through the UN Youth Strategy, to facilitate action to address the needs, build the agency and advance the rights of young people. The Strategy has committed the UN to protect and promote the rights of young people and support their civic and political engagement.


About ACTIVATE! Change Drivers:

ACTIVATE! Changer Drivers is a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. Connecting youth who have the skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges and initiate innovative and creative solutions that can reshape our society.

Twitter: @ActivateZA   Instagram: Activate_za


Issued on behalf of ACTIVATE! Change Drivers by Catalyst Communications

Contact: Chace Brand 072 095 6718

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