When children in Manenberg were asked if they had lost anyone they knew because of the violence in the area, out of 100, more than half the room raised their hands at the recent launch of the Department of Social Development’s (DSD) social and behavioural change programme, ChommY.
Social Development deputy minister, Dr Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, in partnership with the US Agency for International Development, launched ChommY at Silverstream Primary School in Manenberg at the weekend, with 100 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 14.
Manenberg is a community on the Cape Flats that has been plagued by gang-related violent crimes and drug abuse.
ChommY is a youth social and behavioural change programme. The department said that ChommY, a colloquial term for “friend”, seeks to build positive friendships among children, and encourages young boys and girls to motivate one another to minimise risky behaviour and social ills, including bullying.
Exploring social ills that affect Manenberg children during the dialogue, 13-year-old Zainab Williams (not her real name) recalled a chilling incident where she witnessed a woman being fatally wounded during a drive-by shooting.
“I saw this lady die in front of me. I wish the violence could stop," Williams said.
When asked if they had lost anyone they knew due to violence in the area, more than half the children raised their hands, with most saying they have lost an uncle, close friend, mother or grandfather.
Themed “Invest in my Future … Protect me Today”, ChommY also aims to generate knowledge, develop skills and empower young people to make informed choices and contribute to reducing the high prevalence of HIV infection, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy.
“We brought this programme here so you can have a day to be children, and to remind you that your dreams are valid, do not let your circumstances define your future,” said Bogopane-Zulu.
Vanessa Andriaase, founder of Mothers4Justice, thanked the deputy minister for visiting Manenberg again. She added: “We really feel our community is forgotten and such programmes do not reach our children. Programmes such as ChommY have the potential to change the narrative for the boys and girls sitting in this hall.”