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Izwi Labantwana, Die Kinderstem, Voice of the Children is the official newsletter of the southern African organisation the Children’s Movement, which had been produced between 1986 and 2017. The newsletter released issues annually in the early 90s, increasing up to five issues per annum in the later years. The production team largely consisted of child […]
Izwi Labantwana/Die Kinderstem/Voice of the Children
A Children’s Movement for Change: Izwi Labantwana/Die Kinderstem/ Voice of the Children
Izwi Labantwana, Die Kinderstem, Voice of the Children is the official newsletter of the national organisation the Children’s Movement, which had been produced between 1986 and 2017. The newsletter released issues annually in the early 90s, increasing up to five issues per annum in the later years. The production team largely consisted of child and youth members, who curated and wrote most of the pieces, which are conveyed in three languages interchangeably, i.e., Xhosa, Afrikaans, and largely English.
The newsletter offers an insightful contribution towards a better understanding of what the perspective of young South Africans might look like within the social activist arena. The Children’s Movement is unique in its approach in addressing the challenges faced in the home and community life of the children through focusing on self-organisation. The members formulate their own group structure and itinerary with materials, trainings, programmes, and advice provided by the movement. The groups engage in fun, educational activities and discuss the socio-economic issues, at times conducting surveys to pinpoint what is happening around them. A strong emphasis is placed on acknowledging and implementing possible interventions for change.
The newsletter reflects an array of these events and gatherings, with personal narratives of the children’s experiences in virtually every issue. The movement’s emphasis on realizing the agency of children, driven by the core belief that children have the potential to create change, contradicts traditional notions of children’s passive role within social spheres. Through Izwi Labantwana we see children taking responsibility for their own needs and that of other children. In the images of children cutting the nails of their peers and attending to vegetable gardens at the health centres, set up mostly in empty classrooms at local schools. To capturing their voices on podiums at the movement’s national conferences, where representatives share the challenges and inspirations they perceive in life.
The literary production is largely curated and edited by child members of the movement. It draws special attention to the inclusion of artistic creativity, many editions are filled with poetry sent in from children’s groups all around South Africa, mostly in the Western Cape. In addition to many instances of song, dance and celebration in the newsletter, there are many how-to moments. Articles with easy instructions, on how to make boardgames, ty-dyes, but more importantly how to substitute things like toothpaste with everyday items.
The newsletter was initially produced for print, with an archive available in large colour format. The letters were distributed among the groups where resources were readily available, and upon request where it had to be sourced. Some time around 2009 the editions were released online on the movement’s official website, where the full collection of the newsletter is available and freely downloadable. In the change, an extension was made where the editions became richer with text and content of the editorial teams. What is not left behind is the opinion of the children, with flowing inserts of their experiences being part of Children’s Movement of South Africa.
The movement began in the 1980s formed from children’s groups on the Cape Flats led by anti-apartheid organisers. The organisation chooses to focus its work within impoverished or isolated areas, those most affected by the economic inequalities of apartheid. A few years later, in 1985 the movement created the Children’s Resource Centre to assist in providing trainings and distributing materials to those in need. Since then, over 100 children’s groups, with over 5000 members have been involved in the organisation’s health, environment, culture, media, youth, and values programmes. In between there has been feeding schemes, skills training, cv workshops, and the like. The movement has received various levels of funding over the decades with capital fluctuations changing dynamics, decentralizing, but never extinguishing the spirit of those on the ground.
Mishca Peters is an Honours graduate in History from the University of the Western Cape. Her study focus has mainly been around critical ‘post’ colonial thought. She has been involved in similarly minded projects such as The Interim and Pathways to Free Education. A large part of her life has been committed to local animal […]