Khuti Mbedzi encourages young people to fight for a brighter future this Youth Month

The NYDA CFO outlines ways to empower young people – and how they can determine their own destiny.

A young person herself, National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) CFO Khuthi Mbedzi is passionate about issues affecting the youth. This passion is rooted in her own experiences of growing up in Limpopo. “Had it not been for people who were invested in young people, those who actually came to our high school back in 2009 for career day and told us about the wide range of available opportunities, I wouldn’t even have known that there was a thing called chartered accountancy,” she says.

“This strongly impacted my life. While I had no idea what was involved in becoming an accountant, in hindsight, this shows me that you only know what you know.” For example, if young people only know and hear negativity and don’t know about opportunities and positive possibilities, this is likely to affect their attitude and life and could even result in mental health issues, she adds.

In fact, addressing mental health issues is so important to Khuthi that she is also a qualified life coach. “It’s important to understand the human mind and be able to empathise with others,” she says. “The best leaders are those who are able to remove themselves from any title and put themselves into other people’s shoes – that’s the only way we’ll be able to add real value.”

“Young people are even not coping to the point of committing suicide. They end up getting to a point of mental instability or where life is just getting too challenging. Where is the hope?” she asks. “When you hear about the unemployment statistics, the number of young people who are teenage parents, the number of those who are unable to get access to tertiary institutions for different reasons, you ask yourself when the solution will start. When you travel around the country and see how people are living in the underdeveloped areas, it makes you feel that surely there’s more that we as a people can do.

“I don’t think the answer is linked to one person, one organisation or the government," she continues. "It requires that every single person give back in their communities. Every day, I have two or three young people DMing me on social media and I speak to them and just encourage them. I believe everything starts with being hopeful. It’s hope that says that maybe things will get better.”

Whether that hope is in the form of getting that job, making a better life for your future or existing children, in your faith in God or simply in the thought that you can talk to someone who will listen, all you need to know is that your situation will change, she says: “Change is inevitable, it’s the only thing that’s guaranteed."

Khuthi believes that there’s a reason why each young person that contacts her comes into her life. “I take it as a social responsibility, as a calling from God for service to say I need to avail myself to any young person who comes across my path, whether it be through helping them financially, with interview skills or with mental health issues or encouragement.”

Khuthi is grateful that being part of the NYDA allows her a bigger scope to create an impact on the youth. “I’m hoping that this role will afford me the chance to help more people. I might not be able to help everyone, but it’s bigger than what I currently do in my personal capacity.”

She encourages everyone to give back in whichever way they can, especially when it comes to youth empowerment. Regardless of your level of privilege she stresses the need to always remember where you or the older generations of your family came from. “It comes from a place of saying, I might be where I am, but I didn’t get myself here. You will always be in a position where you need someone, so remember you are all the someone that someone else needs. Be an opportunity creator: people who give more receive more.”

Things should be easier for the next generation, she continues. “We as a people need to work on changing the climate of our world so that it’s better for our kids, so they’re not coming in 10 or 20 years and still crying about the same things. It’s about the generational accumulation of growth and making it easier and passing on a better baton that doesn’t have the same weight.”

She encourages youth to remember that there is something bigger than us, whatever that may mean to them. “When an individual was created, everything they needed for their entire lives was already within them. Those things just need to materialise as you go through your life; you just need to tap into it.”

She encourages the youth to seek out information about what interests them, focus on their strengths, avoid isolating themselves and surround themselves with positive people. If they live in an environment where there is no positivity at all, they need to consider what they can do with their hands, and ask themselves what they’re good at. Actively fight for what you want, says Khuti.

“We speak of Youth Month and how the youth of 1976 fought for the freedom we now enjoy. Yet, even today no one is standing and just giving, you have to fight. Don’t wait for something miraculously to happen. Find people who are doing what you want to do, keep knocking and eventually someone will answer.”

Don’t think you’re too good for anything, she adds. “There are people who started as cleaners and raised enough money to go to varsity. You just need to start. Don’t be entitled: start small. We all did. Whatever opportunity you get, do it excellently – that is how you break out and make it.”

One thing is for sure, she adds. South Africa has a wealth of possibilities, and our youth are its treasure. Her message to the youth?

“You are the present and future.”