The Trialogue Business in Society Conference is a highly anticipated South African corporate responsibility event. As the premier annual conference, it provides a platform for essential developments and collaborations between corporates and non-profit organisations, focusing on the ‘S’ in ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance).
This year, the conference is being held under the ‘inclusive and purposeful business’ theme. It will be a hybrid event, with in-person sessions in Johannesburg and online sessions for those unable to attend in person. The aim is to enhance knowledge and collaborations to help businesses perform more sustainably in society.
Our very own Jackie spoke at a recent event discussing Vodacom’s Change The World programme. We are excited to share with you some of the insights she provided on this important initiative.
One of the most important things to mention about the programme is that it is evidence-based, resulting from a collaboration between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Institute of Life Course Health Research at Stellenbosch University. The programme focuses on system strengthening by identifying what is vital within the education space, such as teachers, who are often burnt out and traumatised. The initiative extends its work to engage with teachers’ well-being and mental health, strengthening the system and making change sustainable.
The Change The World programme aims to create enabling spaces for high school learners to find tangible pathways out of poverty and violence. It covers various topics, including establishing a vision for the future, developing positive self-identity, mental health awareness, healthy coping mechanisms, conflict resolution, problem-solving, interpersonal violence, and gender-based violence prevention. The programme has two primary outcomes: decreased rates of gender-based violence and bullying and strengthened referral pathways within the school system.
Jackie also discussed the issue of childhood exposure to violence and trauma and how it affects teenagers in the townships. Unlike the global north, where children are often exposed to acute, single events, teenagers in the townships have been exposed to multiple, continuous trauma. By the time they reach adolescence, many have given up and are in survival mode, living for today with no real vision for a future. The Change The World programme addresses this issue by engaging learners in imagining a different future, where they overcome the real barriers to success and have found a pathway out of poverty.
She emphasised the importance of having psychosocial support workers who have walked this journey and are role models for learners. They provide learners with the skills and tools they need on this journey and present an alternative narrative, challenging violence as the only way to resolve conflict. The Change The World programme is underpinned by cognitive behaviour theory that encourages learners to look at factors within or outside their control. The programme works with learners to unpack ‘risk’ and ‘protective’ factors regarding events they may be exposed to, such as shebeens.
Lastly, she touched on some areas where we need to do better. Firstly, we must stop working in silos and see the school as a system. Secondly, we need more corporate funding to help NPOs working in the GBV space to recover from COVID. Many are closing down, and flagship NPOs such as SHAWCO, where Jackie is the Executive Director, need more funding. Lastly, we must include boys and men in these programmes and focus on girls and women. Toxic masculinity is toxic to all, and engaging in conversations with both boys and girls, women and men, is essential in eradicating GBV.
The Change The World programme is an important initiative that addresses various issues regarding gender-based violence and bullying in schools. It focuses on system strengthening, mental health awareness, and enabling spaces for high school learners to find tangible pathways out of poverty and violence. However, we need to do better as a society by collectively addressing these issues to make a significant and lasting change.