“Gender inequality is still prevalent in South Africa, which is why I think organisations like Cape West Girls Guides who advocate female empowerment, play a big role in bringing about the change needed for women in South Africa.”
These are the words of Zainab Toyer, an ambassador of the Salesian Institute Youth Projects. Having grown up in a challenging environment where her father was an abusive alcohol addict and her mother the breadwinner, Ms Toyer, battled through her teenage years.
The young mind of a high school pupil at the time was filled with negativity, self-doubt and anger but, desperate to improve her circumstances, she ran away from home in the middle of Grade 10.
“This brave and scary decision led me to wander to different family homes, and as a result, I ended up at my uncle’s place where I have been staying for the past five years. My decision to leave home defined the course that my life took,” she said.
Uncertain of her next step after matriculating, Ms Toyer found herself at the door of the Salesian Institute Youth Projects which works to improve the lives of South Africa’s vulnerable children and youth at risk.
The institute provides the youth with skills they need to stay out of danger and helps to find them jobs through their programmes.
“I’ve learnt so many things at the institution such as communication, integrity and determination but there was one particular lesson that stood out for me and that would be not letting our circumstances define us,” Ms Toyer said.
Ms Toyer is currently doing an internship at Cape West Girl Guides, a non-government organisation that advocates female empowerment. She also assists at a local library that runs a literacy programme for disadvantaged children.
“It has truly been rewarding in every possible way,” she said. “Each day I learn something new. Recently we organised an event to raise funds for Operation Smile, an initiative that helps perform cleft palate surgeries.
“There was such a huge support system and everyone was determined, I was just grateful to be a part of it,” said Ms Toyer.
Inspired by Malala Youzafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot following her indignation against the Taliban fundamentalists who sought to silence women and children’s rights, Ms Toyer said Malala strongly advocates for the empowerment of women, especially in the education realm.
“Malala bears testament to the notion that through perseverance and great courage, one is able to overcome many obstacles even if political, social and religious disparities are a barrier,” she said.
On the work that the institute is doing, Ms Toyer said she hoped that the institution continued to grow so that their services could be made available to more youth in need.
She encouraged students currently enrolled to make the most of the opportunity to upskill themselves and to believe in themselves and achieve success in every task they undertake.
Ms Toyer has been accepted to study Education at the University of the Western Cape next year.
The institute is in need of funds to sustain the programmes offerings and appealing to the members of the public at large to contribute.
For more information, visit www.salesianyouth.org