Youth Empowerment, equipping the youth with skills that is necessary for full participation in everyday life. Improved self-esteem, motivation, social skills and academic performance is but a few of the outcomes of Youth Empowerment Programs. 


HipHop 2 TheTOP - Life skills for adolescents through the 5 elements of Hip Hop

Thabile lives in Tembisa, a township south east of Johannesburg. Tembisa is a Xhosa word for “promise” … But for Thabile, Tembisa holds no promise of a better life. Thabile is 16, living in a small corrugated iron shack, barely making ends meet. When both her parents passed away due to AIDS, Thabile inherited the responsibility of raising her 3 siblings. Two of them have no birth certificates, so Thabile cannot access social grants for them. Instead Thabile frequents the local shebeens on weekends where she earns money doing sexual favours for older men, referred to as blessers. They buy her drinks and give her drugs and money… Thabile knows this is not right and that what she is doing puts her at risk of disease, but the drugs and alcohol ease her pain. And the money feeds her brothers and sisters. Some days she considers dropping out of school to find a job… If only she had a way out.

Substance Abuse Increases HIV Risk

Children, especially girls who have to provide food and shelter and other necessities, often feel helpless and ultimately become vulnerable to drug abuse, alcohol, prostitution, and human trafficking, gender based violence and disease such as HIV and STI’s. Often associated with the risk of HIV are issues concerned with substance abuse, unprotected sex, and sexual behavior problems especially among adolescents. 32% of South African teenagers use drugs regularly and more than 60% use alcohol. Among teens alcohol and marijuana are the most readily available substances of abuse. In townships Nyaope, a mixture of antiretrovirals, rat poison, marijuana and heroin, among other things, is also popular among teenagers. For some children, using drugs initially stems from curiosity. For others it’s peer pressure, or emotional or economic deprivation. Absent parents, as is the case with child-headed households, poor parental role modelling, poverty and unemployment contribute. The majority of the children who abuse substances are exposed to daily traumas such as shootings in their community, physical and sexual abuse by close family or other community members and gang related violence. These children have often suffered neglect from an early age, feel lonely, misunderstood and unloved and uncared for. Some do it to take away the pain…hunger pains, emotional pain, physical pain… There are as many reasons as there are children.

A Positive Unifying Force

The International Standards on Drug Prevention regards education of youth on the “dangers of drugs” as an ineffective intervention, while life skills training through structured, interactive sessions are regarded as effective, and activities regarded as cool by teenagers can provide for settings conducive to learning and acquiring age-appropriate personal and social skills. Hip Hop and skate boarding are cool. The 5 elements of Hip Hop:

  • The MC – The Voice
  • The DJ – The Music
  • The Graffiti – The Art
  • The B-Girl and B-Boy – The Dance
  • The Knowledge – The Consciousness

Skateboarding has been used internationally as an appropriate setting to offer interactive life skills training. Hip Hop, combined with skateboarding allows for equal participation by girls and boys in these activities. More importantly The Consciousness, the acquisition of knowledge, based on the 6 Life Skills training modules:

  1. Be Yourself
  2. Be Empowered.
  3. Be Healthy.
  4. Be Financially Savvy
  5. Be Environmentally Friendly.
  6. Be an Active citizen

Modules 1 through 3 are compulsory, with a choice of an additional module from options 4 to 6.

Pilot in Gauteng, South Africa

First, we need to test the program to determine its effectiveness and iterate where necessary. A pilot project will take place in the Tshwane and Johannesburg Metro areas. 5 Impoverished areas have been chosen where schools will participate. University Students will measure outcomes of the YEP (Youth Empowerment Program) such as change in self-esteem, self-efficacy and social skills at various intervals starting with a baseline measurement. The APOM (Activity Participatory Outcomes Method) and the Rosenberg Self-esteem Scale will be used and supervised by Prof. Castelijn and her team at Wits University. The Tshwane and Johannesburg Metro Councils have indicated their support for this project and will provide space at community centers to construct skateboarding parks and conduct the sessions. After the pilot similar projects can be implemented in Zambia and Malawi – 2 countries in the region where drug use among teenagers are particularly high.

Youth Empowerment Program

We will implement a program to equip teenagers in impoverished urban and peri-urban areas with age-appropriate personal and social skills. These adolescents will be empowered to make positive life choices with regards to their sexual health, finances and the environment. The following groups will be involved:

  1. Teachers, parents and school children aged 12 to 19 will be involved in both needs assessment, project design and content development.
  2. 2 Groups of 20 adolescents per participating school will take part in the program over an 8-week period. Over a 12-month period, 1200 children will take part.
  3. Students from the Departments of Occupational Therapy at the Universities of the Witwatersrand and Pretoria be supported and mentored by Hivos through our Community of Practice(COP) on Youth Researchers. These university students will iterate the modules based on the community needs assessment and will present the life skills sessions over an 8-week period, under the leadership of Professor Daleen Castelijn of Wits University.
  4. Youth-led groups/CBOs and community volunteers will present the activities: skateboarding and activities related to the 5 elements of Hip Hop.

Technology involved: A Progressive Web App

Progressive Web Apps are useful to users from the very first visit in a browser tab, no install required. It loads quickly, even on unstable networks, sends relevant push notifications, has an icon on the home screen, and loads as a top-level, full screen experience. The App will be available to parents and teachers with important information and links to advice, support and counselling services. It will focus on improving parenting skills and help teachers break the ice to improve classroom discussions.


Directly: 1200 school children
Indirectly: 5000 more school children

Main Activities during Pilot

  1. Needs assessment, and Iteration of life skills modules recruit adolescents to participate
  2. Develop progressive web app
  3. Construction of 10m x 10m skateboarding parks.
  4. Presenting activities based on elements of Hip Hop
  5. Presenting Life Skills modules
  6. Assessment using APOM and Rosenberg Scales
  7. Evaluation
  8. Implement in Zambia and Malawi – two countries with high rates of drug abuse among schoolchildren.



Da Vinci Foundation

In partnership with Da Vinci Foundation and MobieG we keep adolescents Cyber Safe. Partnering with Community Policing Forums we educate children and youth against the dangers of - and how to deal with, cyber attacks, including cyber bullying, sexting, revenge porn, stalking and much more.


Youth Ambassadors

Supporting Youth Ambassadors in Limpopo Province to engage youth on ASRHR, keeping girls in School and nutrition for learners. 

In Matagari, Venda we support the Matangari Youth Ambassadors in their "School is Cool" project as well as their agriculture project to produce indigenous vegetables to supply school children with nutritious vegetables such as cleoma, amaranth and ground nuts. MYA will also grown non-GMO tomoatoes and Moringa trees from seeds.

Youth Empowerment Projects (YEPs)

Youth empowerment through action sports and life skill training. Our MAATLA Program in the Mopani District of Limpopo Province and is endorsed by the Limpopo Provincial Government's Department of Sport, Art and Culture. We also offer YEPs through visual art and life skill training and performing arts, including dance.