Overview of loveLife
Since its launch in 1999, loveLife has been obsessed with improving the lives of young people – first through the prevention of HIV infection and now including holistic youth development. ’.
In its 18 years of existence, the organisation has touched the lives of millions of youngsters – last year alone the organisation’s programmes reached 1.8 million people in communities in all nine provinces in South Africa.
With over 60% of the country’s population being made up of young people, we believe that if we address the issues facing the youth in a fundamental way we can unleash and unlock tremendous potential that lies within in them.
We have an amazing, credible platform to speak to the hearts and minds of young people – to power a future through the energies of young people. There is a bright future for this country, and it is in the hands of the youth who should, whatever the circumstances, never sacrifice their potential on the bedrock of personal or historic disadvantage.
So loveLife has the potential to really change the experience of the youth in this country –we believe that each young person is born with the potential to succeed, to be anything that they want to be provided they have the support and encouragement to do so. But social ills including unemployment, gender-based violence, substance and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, and HIV infection, among others, continue to place young people at risk. To address through the use of its innovative programmatic approaches, loveLife continues with its strategic objectives of:
- Reducing HIV infection among young people;
- Reducing teen pregnancy;
- Keeping young girls in school; and
- Improving employment opportunities for young people.
To achieve these goals, loveLife has to fundamentally change its way of doing business– the world has changed around us and the base of support that in the past was a given, is no longer guaranteed.
loveLife is significantly reliant on government for its funding, but government itself is under significant budgetary constraints. A key project for the organisation is changing this weighting from a 90 odd percent reliance on government to more of a balance between the private and government sectors.
The fact that we touch and access 1.5 million young people around the country is a huge opportunity, and we have to see how we can use that platform to generate revenue but without over commercialising the organisation.
loveLife has a visibility challenge as most people still remember the loveLife as one focused on preventing HIV infection through aspirational billboards and the abstinence, be faithful and condomise messaging. It’s not that HIV is no longer a threat. Rather, people know about it but, because of personal circumstances or community issues, find themselves at greater risk of HIV infection and at a heightened risk of engaging in substance abuse, having an unplanned pregnancy, falling victim to gender-based violence, suicide and crime
At Grade 7 there are about 1.7 million young people in schools nationally but by the time they get to Grade 12 that number is about 600000 – that’s two thirds lost along the way. Post Grade 12 into universities it’s another 100 000 that make it.
South Africa’s unemployment rate has been ranked worst in the world in the latest IMD Global Competitiveness Report. For the first quarter of 2016, Stats SA revealed that unemployment was up at 26.7%. And according to the World Economic Forum Global Risk 2014 report, South Africa has the third highest unemployment rate in the world between the ages of 15 and 24 and it estimates that more than 50% of this age group is unemployed.
So you have a large number of young people who are unskilled, semi-skilled or who have no ability to be productive and have no sense of future: That is a big calamity for the country.
A repositioned loveLife has an important role to play in preventing this calamity. Historically loveLife had a strong emphasis on HIV given the prevalence of infection among young people a decade ago. Then, the organisation adopted, among others, a preventative strategy, encouraging ABC – Abstinence, Being faithful and Condom usage. And while the organisation still aims to reduce the risk of HIV infection among the youth, over the past three years it has evolved to address the broader challenges facing young people through holistic youth leadership development.
Young people are naturally optimistic, energetic and passionate and through holistic development we try to provide a platform of expression for these attributes.
Through our myriad of programmes we help young people develop a strong sense of self-awareness, which instils confidence in understanding what their strengths are, that they have a right to be here and that they have a contribution to make.
We aim to build resilience so that while they are aware of the challenges and obstacles on the path of success, they recognise that there are also opportunities to develop and challenge the boundaries in the way. We also try to create a sense of equality.
Because of this country’s history, there is a sense of subjugation, which, in the past, was a function of race but now is also a function of class, so we want to create the sense that “despite my environment and challenges, the constitution considers me equal in this country”. We also aim to create a sense of safety because we know incidents of crime and gender-based violence among young people is pervasive. And we engender a sense of connectedness – connected to themselves, to the world, to opportunities and to their talents and abilities.
But how do we do this?