In partnership with the Department of Correctional Services, The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment is spearheading social change through the Breaking the Cycle of Crime initiative in South Africa. The project encourages young offenders to participate in a 240km cycle tour throughout the Western Cape with various stops at schools, youth centres and local communities. The aim is to educate the youth around the negative impact criminal activity can have on lives, including one’s own. Palesa Matuludi, Head of Development at The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment, shares more.
1. How has this initiative positively impacted young offenders?
It has created a platform for The President’s Award (TPA) participants from diverse backgrounds to do positively participate in shared activities. The 240km cycle tour is aimed at building resilience among young people, an attribute they need to lead successful lives amidst life’s challenges. So far, it has raised awareness among high-risk youth on the dangers of engaging in high risk behaviour, encouraged at-risk youth to enrol in the Award programme, created an opportunity for young offenders to interact with community members and make a meaningful contribution towards youth development, and prepared young offenders to be reintegrated back into communities.
2. What are the main takeaways?
The young offenders and the rest of the group were well received in various structures and communities without judgement. They interacted with approximately 100 young people that week and the respondent’s – ages ranged from 12 to 34 years old – all asserted that they enjoyed the crime prevention talk. On further surveying the 13 respondents, the outcomes were as follows:
- When asked whether they now viewed incarcerated youth differently after this interaction, 79% said yes.
- When asked whether they would be comfortable if some of those young offenders got released and were keen to come stay in their communities, 71% said they would not have a problem with it, 7% said they were indifferent (maybe) and 21% said they would not be comfortable.
- When asked whether they had been tempted before by those around them to commit crime, 71% said yes and 29% said no.
- When asked if they think these types of engagements must be replicated so other young people can be exposed to them, 93% said yes.
The President’s Award is one of South Africa’s leading youth achievement Awards, it is proudly The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award in South Africa. Globally, there are 1.3million young people who participate in the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels. Within those levels, young people are required to do community service, skills development and physical recreation. On the Gold level, there is an additional activity called the Residential Project. Upon completion,young people will receive a certificate which is internationally recognised by universities and employers alike. This improves their chances of accessing opportunities considering that South Africa has an unemployment rate of 38.5% among youth aged 15 to 35.
4. What sustainable change does Break the Cycle of Crime hope to achieve?
Due to the fact that crime prevention is not our core business, sustainable engagement with the same young people in communities is lacking. TPA is currently looking for partners in this space that can have sustained crime prevention initiatives in these communities beyond our cycle tour. Phase II of the project is geared towards entrepreneurship training offered to young offenders that are participating in the Award programme and are also involved in learning vocational skills such as carpentry, welding, textile, etc. Phase II is aimed at equipping young offenders with skills to start their own small enterprises upon release and create job opportunities for other young people in their communities. This initiative will contribute to reducing the reoffending rate.