Rural Health Crisis: Youth Day highlights the urgent need for improvement

Youth Day in South Africa highlights the significant impact young people have on shaping the country’s future. This day is aimed at remembering the past, acknowledging the present challenges faced by young people, and looking towards a brighter future.

Youth Day is commemorated on June 16th each year, honouring the courage and activism of young people during the 1976 Soweto Uprising. Youth Day is an important date in history that remembers the young people who bravely fought against the harsh apartheid governance. The youth today should come together and speak out once more, this time to address the discrepancies in access to healthcare that still exist in rural areas.

When it comes to accessing healthcare, rural areas encounter special difficulties. Rural communities face obstacles to healthcare access due to a lack of resources, understaffed facilities, and extensive travel distances for medical services. These disparities have detrimental effects on the livelihoods and general well-being of those who reside in rural areas,including youth.

Challenges faced by rural youth

As this day is celebrated, it is important that the country acknowledges the challenges rural youth face on a daily basis interms of their health and wellbeing.

It is impossible to ignore the difficulties rural youth have getting access to healthcare. Their struggles need to be addressed, and their voices should be heard. On this day, and moving forward, it is crucial that the country considers the challenges faced by rural youth. Rural youth face limited basic health services, lack of employment opportunities, lack of quality education and they often experience technological gaps.

Changing policy to solve the healthcare issues encountered by rural communities is one of the main goals of RHAP’s advocacy efforts. RHAP truly believes that everyone should have access to high-quality healthcare services, regardless of where they live.

As a person who equips young people with knowledge and tools of advocacy, Community Liaison Officer at RHAP, Zimbini Madikiza, says that young people do not respond well to advocacy initiatives not developed with them at the start.

“If you are developing tools with them and not for them it must be something that speaks to their struggles and them having participated in the development of these knowledge tools. This is so that they can own it and as a strategic document to guide their struggles.”

She further says that while the development of advocacy tools typically places a strong emphasis on empowering youth, it is essential to approach the development of these tools with a strong focus on unity and enablement. By putting young people’s challenges first, we move beyond the use of only knowledge tools and take part in a wider range of political action.

“Young people are eager to be part of solution-based conversations. They need to be acknowledged and be given a sit on the table especially rural youth.”

Youth in health advocacy  

Being a young person working with the Rural Health Advocacy Project and to be a part of a movement that gives young people the power to change the world, Communications Assistant, Palesa Chidi says it is an incredibly proud achievement. RHAP is able to change the perception of rural health in South Africa and pave a way for a more equal society.

“There is an element of freedom in being a youth where one can agitate in asking the hard questions. This is coupled withthe passion in being a change-agent and upsetting the establishment in reforming a system that disproportionately ignores rural. RHAP has created a space for me in which one has a keen ear to listen and have moments of thoughtful reflection in progress towards change. Understanding that progressive realisation of healthcare is not an event – but one of pushing against the inertia of apathy daily. An attitude I hope to bring with me well into the decades to come,” explained TBAC’s Project Officer, Sihle Mahonga.

Research Assistant at RHAP, Celene Coleman describes RHAP as a vibrant environment with a creative, diligent and welcoming culture. “Being a part of this team in my early career has empowered me to grow in my field, as I am encouraged to learn various skills. I have learnt that there is no end to learning. It is essential to adapt oneself to the forever-changing environment,” she said.

As we remember the difficulties of the past on this Youth Day, we look towards a future where every young person has equal chances to live a healthy life. RHAP wants to empower a new generation of change-makers through advocacy work to keep fighting for the rights of the underprivileged and ensure no person is left behind.