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.
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