The iSchool Press Team in partnership with The United States Mission to South Africa hosted the #GirlSafe Media Change Makers Expo on 30 November 2017. With over 130 young people gathered from across South Africa, the day was part of #GirlSafe campaign for 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.

The event was made possible through a grant to the iSchool Press Team and part of ongoing U.S. partnerships with South African government and local organizations. The project addresses the socio-economic challenges that make young women in South Africa vulnerable to contracting HIV. Funding is provided by the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Jessye Lapenn spoke to the expo delegates, “For more than a decade, the United States has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with South Africa to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Together we have achieved great things, and our commitment is as strong as ever.”

One of the key messages of the day was the right to tell your story. The programme opened with the play “A Short Cut to a Short Life “ performed by The National Children’s Theatre which depicted the risks to young girls in “blesser-blessee” relationships.

Michelle Lissoos, Director of iSchool Press team stressed that this expo aims to to bring together young activists and to give them the platform to be heard on such critical issues.

Youth Activists participated in a variety of panels led by well-known media personalities such as actor Patrick Shai, journalist Aspasia Karras, and performance artist Sethembile Msenzane. Mr Shai spoke openly of being a reformed perpetrator of GVB. The delegates participated in discussions around critical issues facing those living with domestic violence and the treatment of LGBTQ youth in townships. Shai encouraged youth to use all the platforms available to them to call out any abuse they witness.

The day concluded with the launch of five short films produced by youth – telling there own stories and wishes for a #GirlSafe South Africa.
Blossom Madikizela, a 25 year-old from She Conquers said, “The experience was amazing, especially because it shows us some of the strengths we don’t know we have. Also just having a platform where young people can share ideas and create stories is great. Thank you!”
“I’m so overwhelmed. Never did I think I would have a chance to be in this situation where I can raise my voice and show what I can do as an individual. Helping each other with what is happening in our lives has meant the world to me. I hope we can show other people what we learned here and share it with the world to me,” said 20 year-old DREAMS Ambassador Lebohang Kotolo.