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Young people make up a third of South Africa’s population and are a key demographic for social, economic and political change. According to South Africa’s National Youth Policy, as well as its National Youth Commission Act (1996), the demographic of ‘youth’ is anybody between the ages of 14 and 35 years. As a category of analysis, this demographic is far from homogenous, yet young people are often perceived in the public imagination as an idle, unruly, and terrifying group of people who threaten the stability of the country.
It’s not surprising that many young people are distrustful of the government, because of a breakdown in service delivery, corruption at different levels of government, and the scarcity of opportunities for upward income and social mobility for young people in low-resource communities.
When the government is considered to be out of touch and untrustworthy, young people aren’t likely to respond favourably to state-sponsored information, even if it’s in the public interest and for the common good. Instead, they tend to rely on information from their peers and professionals or influencers their own age. However, too often, older people, or those far removed from the reality of young people, are the ones making decisions on their behalf.
So, what does this mean for civil society organisations trying to motivate healthcare-seeking behaviour, active citizenry and agency among the youth?
The #keready campaign was confronted with this question when it launched in February 2022 with the objective of encouraging youth participation in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations. Initially, #keready positioned itself as a ‘youth Covid-19 vaccination movement’ with its #keready2flex Challenge, but it has since evolved into a movement that seeks to enhance healthcare-seeking behaviour among young people.
#keready aimed to put young people in control of the message, creating incentives for their participation in vaccination programmes and public health activities, as well as offering unfiltered health information.
No jargon and no judgement – these are some of the #keready principles for communication and mobilisation. The creative minds running #keready are part of DGMT’s Demand Acceleration Task Team, who were tasked with driving public communication and awareness about the Covid-19 vaccine programme. These creatives worked with the National Department of Health, but they were determined to make sure that #keready was branded as an initiative for young people, by young people – not a government branded project. The initiative’s frank, unfiltered approach of providing health information from young doctors for young people, bolstered its credibility. The initiative’s use of ‘kasi’ lingo made the communication palatable and relatable to its target audience.
In this Best Bites podcast, we hear from Lebo Motshegoa, youth mobiliser and content lead for the Demand Acceleration Task Team about #keready’s strategy for driving positive behaviour change among young people. We also talk to Dr Saira Carim, a young doctor who is part of the #keready team.
Lebo Motshegoa is head of communications for #keready, a mobile health clinic drive for youth. #keready also gives health information that is unfiltered and uncensored, straight from the health professionals to the public via social media include a WhatsApp hotline. #keready is made up of young health professionals, communicators and young doctors who are able to connect to young people in a peer-to-peer approach. With Lebo’s involvement in the team, Keready is able to produce crafted messages that would resonate with an ever-evolving youth of SA. A graduate from AAA School of Advertising, Lebo’s illustrious career has seen him work for some of the country’s top ad agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Lowe Bull and Ogilvy, and a as radio copywriter for Yfm and of late RCCE consultant for World Health Organisation (WHO) during the Covid-19 pandemic. He is the author of the country’s first township lingo dictionary [S’camto] and the Township Talk Dictionary; which went on to earn Lebo his first Loerie Awards in 2003 and 2004.
Dr Saira Carim is a 29 year old doctor who grew up in Durban. She graduated from WITS with a Bachelor of Health Sciences (2014) and Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (2018). She completed internship training at Groote Schuur Hospital and completed her community service in Jozini, rural KZN. Interests: HIV management. Saira joined the #keready campaign upon its launch.