By Aneeqa Abrahams

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The older generation often finds humour in the anxieties possessed by Gen Z and millennials as if our intergenerational trauma does not stem from the failures of boomers. We may be afraid to send our orders back in fear of ruining someone’s day but we’ll chokeslam a racist and milibop on a cop car to hear you say her/they’re/his name.

The spaces and positionalities young people take up in politics is often overlooked and missing from the conversation however, this is of no indication that we are not interested in politics or the shaping of the political climate in our respective countries. As a growing failing feminist of the contemporary I never imagined taking up space in politics or voicing my concerns around gender equity and rights to my body as something I would do because these kinds of conversations were never my concern nor did anyone want to hear my opinions. I remember having so many opinions as a brown girl in an Islamic household ruled by patriarchal dictums despite the peace found in the religion. I had to find a space for my voice and as so effortlessly put in feminist rhetoric’s THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL. These ideologies allowed for the cultivation of my interests in politics, especially among millennials and Gen Z.

By the time I enrolled into my undergraduate program I had already been a feminist at heart I just never had the language to express it so once I found it I drank that kool aid like my life dependent on it which it did. I then realised that there had been a space for my voice and opinions as the theorization about how young people occupying political spheres had expanded my standpoint. We now considered who has political footing and power to make social change by viewing the lived experiences of young people in a different light and recognising them as active beings who have voice instead of ‘future becomings’ who will eventually have voice. Young people around the global are more likely to use alternative modes to obtain and engage with political content and authorities (social media platforms, protests, and rallies) while being more critical about the political parties they vote for if they decide to vote.

While the legacy of young resistance in post-apartheid South Africa is amplified by the theorization above and continues to be the background for the marginalised voices of in our country. On the 16 June 1976 thousands of young black students took to the streets of Soweto to march against the governmental order which aimed to include Afrikaans as a compulsory medium of communication in black township schools which only further problematised the bantu education act (Act No. 47 of 1953) that was enforced on to young South Africans of colour. The objective was to fade out local and indigenous languages that were already prohibited in these schools while increasing the frequency and commonality of the language(s) of the oppressor. Protesting injustice is not new for individuals of South Africa we have lived in resistance for as long as we can remember and this notion is handed to each generation like a tattered piece of clothing that we will continue to hold dear. Despite achieving freedom and democracy in 1994 South Africans are still facing the ramification of white supremacy. We are raised on the stories of Hector Pieterson and the teachings of Steve Biko while simultaneously taking in the positionalities of the oppressed all around the world. Why are you surprised by our resistance? Its all you ever teach in history class, the resistance of others without delving too deep into ours because we have ‘reconciled’ and live in the notions of the rainbow nation by enduring white washing.

We are always told that revolution is achieved through peaceful negotiations with those in power to show them we are not a threat to their privilege. But as history has clearly shown us those in power are threaten by our opposition.

The march in 1976 was intentionally done in a peaceful manner with the aim to draw attention to the injustice placed onto young people of colour however, the protest was interrupted by the police who killed hundreds of young South Africans. The use of extreme police force in 1976 shows parallels to the current acts of police brutality and the use of extreme force to disperse protestors in the US right now in response to the Black Lives Matter movement as well as recent protests in our very own backyard.

The call to free to combat inequalities and oppression during that time forever changed our socio-political landscape. This was nothing short from revolutionary but the uprising of youth, the fight against injustice and providing an inclusive space for all South African’s didn’t stop in 1976. The student led protests that have occurred across South Africa had shaken the nation while highlighting the snail pace of democracy and the need for immediate change. In 2015 students in almost every higher institution in South Africa protest the proposed increase of tuition fees across the country. Despite the current government attempt to calm protests by subsidising the increased amount the stark realisation had already set in for far too many South Africans that this increase will likely prevent many students from entering higher institutions. The protest gained its momentum under the #FeesMustFall banner and continued to gain traction and drew attention to other hidden issues such as the call for free education that was promised since 1994, the decolonialisation of higher education and institutions, the need for diverse academics and changes to the curriculum holistically.

In the following year, numerous student led protests took place across the country, both tertiary and high school students collective band together to protest the rising rates of gender-based violence and sexual violence in South Africa. These protests were done to draw attention to the safety of young South African womxn at institution of higher education and demanded that the Minister of Higher Education at the time take action. These protests were held on 2016 and in 2020 our current rates of gender-based violence are so high that it is regarded as a national crisis and South African statistics have reported that femicide in South Africa is 5 times higher than the global average. It was also reported by the South African Police Force in 2016 that a womxn is murdered every four hours while the updated statistic recorded in 2017/18 indicates that a womxn is murdered every three hours in South Africa.

Social media has become a platform for Gen Z and millennials to share collective notions of struggle and oppression in a matter of minutes. Our ability to unify on a scale like this has never been done before as it creates a collective sense of empowerment and voice. It also alludes to the intersectionality of aspects of injustice and oppression that may have been hidden and lost by the static produced by the system. The horrifying statistics and realities of South African womxn took up space on timelines and for you pages as it continues to anger the nation and gained momentum on various social media platforms with hasgtags such as #AMINEXT, #ALLMENARETRASH, #ITSTARTSWITHME and #ENOUGHISENOUGH among others. Another protest was held during womxn’s month and a pandemic to draw attention to the unsafe and harmful context South African womxn live in.

We are dying at rapid rates and yet we still teach boys to be boys and girls to be quiet so that they can become casket ready.

Despite the ill effective methods and lack of action from our government the fight to stop femicide and reduce the rates of gender-based violence lingers as ripple effects of the current pandemic have exposed the lack of consideration for and patriarchal views that continue to be placed on female bodies which are maintained and endorsed by our conservative nature and ineffective laws and policies.

University students are not the only ones addressing forms of oppression and violence in South Africa, former and current high school students from former Model C (middle – upper class) schools across the country have highlighted the different ways their high school(s) continue to hide and dismiss the use of racism and prejudice against students of colour by detailing their experiences of institutionalised racisms in light of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“They say its not about race. But we moving …”

A Paak, Lockdown.

Instead of organising mass protests and rallies they have used various social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to deliver their message and give voice to their lived experiences. Students are demanding high schools to take action in terms of their hair policy and the decolonisation of the school syllabus.

While international research has shown that young people are exposed to societal power relations in terms of politics including but not limited to culture, education, climate change and geo-economic developments, transnational conflict, emancipation of the subject and inclusive policies. It has been shown that young people in the contemporary world do not believe nor do they trust that their governments are doing enough and/or progressing change at an effective pace instead they have become more instrumental in organising and fighting inequalities, injustice and oppression in every shape and form, for example young people like Greta Thunberg (17), Jamie Morgolin (17), Mari Copery (12), Isra Hirsi (16) and many others have advocated for inclusive policies, people of colour in spaces, recognition of marginalised identities, the rights of indigenous communities, and climate change. Young people have also taken an active stance in issues such as housing costs, mental health, support services, education, human right issues, LGBTQIA+ rights, refugees and asylum seeker rights and gender equality – these are only some of the issues these young revolutionaries aims to change and make more progressive, inclusive and effective.

Politics is a complex field to navigate and for those who were often thought to be lacking in understanding or too young to grasp its complexities are changing the political landscape for future generations. We can no longer sit back and watch the world burn simply because its not always our problem its not even our fault but it’s the world we live in and its our job to make it the world we want to live in. See the understanding that we are all part of a collective is the reason why Gen Z and millennials are so upset we never asked for the ‘sins of fathers’ or to wake up to find that Yamen is dying and global leaders expect us to do nothing? We will no longer be remembered as the generation who complains too much but we the generation who took to the streets moved by the war cries of our fallen. As the future our a dying planet we will continue to dismantle the regime of oppression in every manner in which it comes through decolonising world and changing the ideals of masculinities in order to end femicide and gender-based violence while drawing attention to world hunger, genocide in China and slave trades among the famous in 350 characters or 60 second tiktoks. We have familiarized ourselves with the language liberation and aim for elevation because we are paying attention to systems of oppression and speaking out against them.

We are ready for a new agenda. Thank you, Next.

Use coupon code NOJUSTICE at checkout to get 15% off in all our products, you will be supporting the writer by using it.

Reference list

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Why are South African students protesting? (2016). BBC News. Retrieved from

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Watch: Cape schools pray and protest over GBV, femicide attacks in SA. (2019). Cape Argus. Retrieved from

Mogoatlhe, L. (2019). South Africa’s Fight Against Gender-Based Violence Expands to Universities. Global citizen. Retrieve from

Central, C. (2019). South Africa’s shocking gender-based violence statistics. Alberton record. Retrieved from

Wilkinson, K. (2019). 5 facts about femicide in South Africa. News 24. Retrieved from

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South African History Online. (2013). The June 16 Soweto Youth Uprising. Retrieved from

Jennings-Edquist, G. (2019). Young people care deeply about politics (even if they can’t get excited about the election). ABC Life. Retrieved from

Burton, N. (2019). Meet the young activists of color who are leading the charge against climate disaster. Vox. Retrieved from

Pauliina, K. & Jouni, H. (2013). Editorial: Children and Young People’s Politics in Everyday Life. Space and Polity, 17(1), 1-16.

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