Media as empowerment for youth in Mitchells Plain

In September 2015, the “Urban Violence, Safety and Governance” CityLab at the African Centre for Cities (ACC) conducted a two-week media training programme with 10 out-of-school and unemployed young people from Tafelsig in Mitchell’s Plain.

The majority of the youth who participated in the programme hail from Freedom Park, previously an informal settlement in Tafelsig that underwent an upgrading process in 2009 during which residents received formal houses. The film and media training programme formed part of a research project which studies the impact of informal settlement upgrading on the nature and extent of violence.

The aim was to provide the young people with the space and tools to share their stories and experiences of violence and to reflect on how the physical improvement of their environment has impacted on their lives and safety.

Self-discovery, self-expression and empowerment through multi-media

The training programme entitled “Each One, Teach One- Media as Empowerment” engaged the youth in a process of self-discovery, self-expression and empowerment through multi-media.

It was conceived and facilitated by Kurt Orderson and Nadine Cloete, two local film-makers, and was a joint venture between them, the ACC’s CityLab as well as the Tafelsig People’s Association (TPA) and Youth for Change, two community-based organisations in Tafelsig.

The group received training in different aspects of film-making e.g. how to develop a story, pre-production, production and camera training. The film training was complemented by classroom instruction and interaction with local artists like Grant Jurius, Blaq Pearl, Emile Jansen from Heal the Hood, well-known photographer Omar Badsha and actress Denise Newman.

Field trips were undertaken to the Castle of Good Hope, the Slave Lodge and a visit to an art gallery in the central city to view a photo exhibition curated by an art collective called the Burning Museum. For most of the participants this was their first experience of traveling outside of Mitchell’s Plain to explore other parts of the city.

Connecting with their heritage, summiting Table Mountain for the first time and meeting well-known local artists, many of whom have had to overcome similar struggles, were inspirational and empowering experiences for the group.  This process culminated in the production of two short films.

Personal awareness & connecting with their heritage

This was followed up with a four day “Personal Awareness and Leadership” workshop which gave them an opportunity to debrief and reflect on the film-making process and all the other activities that they participated in.

A 20-year-old female participant talks about her experience of moving around Cape Town several times and finally finding a home in Freedom Park, she reflects on how the settlement has changed since upgrading and what her participation in this youth programme means to her:

“We used to walk in storms to attend the housing meetings, but we kept on moving, believing. Till we got the house.  My mom and dad squatted there in the hokkies (shacks) while someone had to stay with us in the house we rented.”…

“The first few months was alright, but then the merchants began to smuggle drugs and people started ‘smokkeling alcohol’ and not even to mention the gangsters fighting each other…The Americans in our territory and the Hustlers in Lost City started shooting each other dead. Teenage pregnancies became higher. Till now it hasn’t stopped, so I decided that’s not how I see my life, I had to do something.”

“We learnt more about other groups and most important, about ourselves. We learnt about ourselves in different ways especially self-confidence, believe, trust in ourselves.

“For me it meant everything. I was a one sided person that hardly spoke about what happened to me, about what I want in life, for instance, my dream. And I learnt, more about myself, for example, self-confidence, trust in myself, believe in myself.”

“I want to be a leader; improve what is happening in my community and to get youth to join me so that they can stop focusing on bad things like drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancies and gangsterism.”

“To let go of the past and focus on the future.”

A young male participant reflects on his participation:

“This programme made me realize that you can change your life, and that there is more to life than smoking dagga, and hanging out with friends.

“If it was not for this process I would be a gangster smoking dagga and tik, because I was amongst other young people who smoke dagga and tik, and drink wine. I am now at home with my family, and back on track. I want to go back to school and take my sister out of this area where there is a lot of poverty”.

New hope for the future

This process has instilled new hope in the youth for their future and that of their community. Those who have not completed their schooling have decided to go back to school. They have also committed themselves to the activities of the “Youth for Change” organisation and are developing a proposal for a programme of work. They plan to utilise this to seek funding in order to implement a number of youth-focused activities in Tafelsig.


Article first published by Safer Spaces, an interactive platform run by and for community safety and violence prevention practitioners in South Africa to connect, share knowledge and learn from each other.

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