Undiluted passion for the continent she calls home is what drives Thembi Siweya, initiator of a cognitive movement targeting the people of Africa and in particular its youth.
Africa Unmasked was born little over a year ago upon Siweya sharing her interest in the continent and the inspiration she derives from the elements of beauty that define it during conversations with others. Prompted to take her aspirations beyond just the initial thought of a blog for sharing her writing on African matters, Siweya continued to register a non-profit foundation. More than a year later a team of six individuals behind the growing concept constantly endeavours to create a platform for Africans, and specifically the youth, to engage on problems and provide solutions to those situations, Siweya indicates.
They otherwise engage in programmes of benefit to their immediate community in collaboration with other initiatives, such as the distribution of books of African authors to youngsters in an attempt to nurture future readers. They are scheduled to introduce the first of a series of provincial seminars for women across South Africa today (Thursday) to address fundamental challenges faced by them. Siweya predicts that the Limpopo chapter is due to be hosted in February next year. Also on the cards is a symposium for the youth of the South African Developing Community (SADC) countries to join in communal dialogue next year.
After all Siweya has managed to maintain an on-line presence through which she reaches out to the rest of the continent by writing opinion pieces that are also submitted to internet and printed publications in Malawi and Mozambique respectively. Feedback has thus far resulted in her getting invited onto talk shows and as guest writer for mainstream publications in South Africa.
She is quick to remark that it is not a political organisation at all, but a platform for sharing of views on how to develop the continent while still promoting constructive criticism and creating interest in Africa among its young people. Asked about the slogan “They call it Africa. We call it home” displayed in an image on the Africa Unmasked website, she refers to the continent having been regarded a dark place in the past. According to her its people have allowed others to tell their stories for a long time, but there is more hope in them doing things for themselves. Her Africa is a positive picture, she points out. Siweya reckons that Africans should take cognizance of their history, find harmony in living together and contribute to a better continent.
She explains that she discovered her love of Africa when having the opportunity to travel while serving on the national executive of the South African Students Organisation (Sasco) in 2006 and 2007. She had the opportunity to meet and engage with students from other countries and further started following the work of African writers, Siweya mentions.
She has played an active role in youth politics nationally and provincially for several years now and the recent election of the new executive of the African National Congress Youth League (Ancyl) included her as additional member. She mentions that being among the 40 youth from across South Africa is an honour. Siweya stresses that she would want to use her participation in youth league processes to engage the ruling party on issues affecting the youth, be a role model to other young women and conscientise them on their rights and participating in programmes teaching the youth that Africans are one. She looks forward to being part of the collective to advance the interests of the youth in general and serving them and the party with diligence.
Story: YOLANDE NEL
Photo: Thembi Siweya.