Love Life interview with Mr Silas Kekana, Gauteng North Regional Manager from loveLife
Can you tell us more about your position at Love Life?
I am Silas Kekana the regional manager for Love life Gauteng North and my responsibilities are to make sure that young people live positive lifestyles and are HIV free.
What is Love Life?
Love life is South Africa’s largest HIV prevention programme for young people; we target the age group from 12 to 19 years. We have programmes that are implemented in schools that aim to change young people’s behaviour from high risk behaviour to no risk at all.
Please tell us about your youth projects?
Love life has sexual health and life skills, sports, arts and culture programmes. Which are implemented at about 8000 schools, also in government clinics, community based organisations and love life youth centres across the country. We run our programmes in 900 sites across South Africa. Love life also runs the love life games programme were love life ground breakers and Mpintshis which we call the peer motivators and community mobilises facilitate love life sexual health and life skills programmes at sport events organised by sports federations and sports counsels across South Africa.
Aside from the programmes we run, Love life also publishes a youth magazine that we call UNCUT which comes out every two months. We also run a daily drama series called ‘Foxy Chix ‘on community radio stations across the country aimed at empowering young women against HIV.
What do you mean by leadership development?
By youth leadership development we mean developing young people to become ground breakers and mpintshis so they can implement Love life programmes. And through implementing that the ground breakers and mpintshis are young leaders in their communities responsible for leading other young people to live a positive lifestyle and stay HIV free. So before a young person becomes a ground breaker they first have to become mpintshi, were they run love life programmes under the guidance of a ground breaker, and then once they have been an mpintshi for a year then they can apply to become a ground breaker. Each ground breaker mentors a team of about five mpintshis.
What kinds of inside skills and experiences do young people need to become leaders and how do you facilitate that process?
The skills that young people are actually acquiring through this development are event management and presentation skills. They learn how to organise events and also how to facilitate and make presentation, because in most cases this are their core functions as ground breakers. At Love life we have a Core one training which takes place during January and February were Love life groundbreakers and mpintshi under go this Core one training to get an understanding of Love life’s objective and all its programmes.
What are some of the challenges that you face in reaching the youth you are targeting?
In school Love life ground breakers and mpintshis implement programmes as part of life skill classes, sometime the is not enough time in the class for life skill teachers to provide information from department of education syllabus and the ground breakers to also provide information from the Love life programmes another challenge is that some young people struggle to get to Love life Y centres, youth centres that are offering Love life programmes as well as computer classes, as they are far from their home. Some parents don’t want their children to engage in programmes because they say we encourage them to have sex. However that is not the case, our programmes encourage youth to engage in healthy lifestyle and stay HIV free.
Do you have a target number of the youth you want to reach by the end of year?
We are targeting 1.5 million. In a year we target to reach an 80% of the population that are in an area for example in Gauteng if we have about 200 000 we want to reach 80% of those people.
What are the goals of your relationship with the youth?
Through implementing our programmes amongst the youth our goal is to address the individual social and structural factors that put them at risk of HIV. Included in the individual factors that drive the high risk behaviour among the youth are low self-esteem and feeling of self hopelessness about the future. If young people have low self-esteem they are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour because they don’t value themselves and this increases the risk of contracting HIV.
And if young people feel hopeless about their future, when they believe that they have little chance of pursuing a tertiary education or finding a job they are also more likely to engage risky behaviours. They believe they have don’t have much to look out for in life.
Tell us more about the Love life style project?
We have three main programmes that we are running for the Love life style project. We have the body Ys programme, the Loving life programme and Making my move programme and these programmes are actually intended to make sure that young people change their behaviour and live a positive healthy lifestyle.
Do you feel that the youth is aware of the challenges affecting them?
Yes many young people are aware of the challenges facing them and Love life encourages them to face and make move to rise up against their challenges.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that the youth is facing today?
HIV and AIDS, unemployment and poverty are some of the biggest challenges facing young people today.
Then how can we overcome those challenges?
Through the skills and information that Love life provides through its programmes, we are assisting the youth to overcome these challenges. Recently we have launched the NAKANJANI campaign, which is intended to inspire the youth to take charge of their destinies no matter how tuff the circumstances may be.
What would your advice be to young people?
They should be faithful to themselves, if they are faithful to themselves the are acts that can contribute to that. One action can be defined as to delaying their sexual encounter and to get into sex when they are mentally and physically ready to do so. The second advice is that when people are sexually active they should protect themselves by using a condom. Thirdly they must go for testing because if the know their status they will be able to live a healthy positive lifestyles and the last one is to stay away from high risk behaviours such as drugs and alcohol.
How can young people get in touch with Love life?
The can contact the Love life call centre on 0800 121 900 to find the closer Love life centre near them or if they don’t have access to land lines they can make a please call me to 083 323 1023 where an available counsellor will call them back.