Motshane, Eswatini — As the world experiences climate change, deepened social and economic inequalities, and political and humanitarian crises, young people often face circumstances in which they lack safe spaces.
But with the rise of social media and other forms of online communication, they are able to explore new opportunities for engagement and use innovations to create both virtual and physical spaces. UNFPA in Eswatini seeks to build on this momentum.
This is why we asked young people the question:
Q: What does a "safe space" mean for you in fulfilling your potential?
"A safe space is where I can do anything without fear of what other people think of me"
"A safe space for me is a place where I feel comfortable and don't feel judged, and I can do anything without fear of what other people think of me," says Nokuhle Dlamini, a peer educator and brand ambassador for TuneMe, UNFPA's innovative sexual and reproductive health and rights mobile site for adolescents and young people.
"TuneMe can be considered a safe space because we young people are afraid to talk about a lot of things in front of our parents, as we fear being judged and being labelled promiscuous. Yet TuneMe provides us a platform to ask and discuss issues and challenges we are faced with, in the comfort of our homes, and anonymously."
"TuneMe is a safe platform when it comes to discussing sexual and reproductive health and rights information, without any stigma," she says. "My advice would be for young people to adopt to this new and vibrant platform at www.sw.tuneme.org, to access correct information. You don't even have to leave your couch!"
Engaging and empowering youth in Eswatini
The Kingdom of Eswatini has about 800,000 Emaswati under 35 years old, of whom more than 350,000 are between the ages of 15 and 34 years.
This year, International Youth Day aimed to promote youth engagement and empowerment by exploring the role of safe spaces in contributing to freedom of expression, mutual respect and constructive dialogue.
Young people need safe spaces where they can come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision-making processes and express themselves freely.
Safe spaces may be physical or virtual, and provide opportunities for sport and leisure time activities, while deconstructing barriers of judgment, hate speech, harassment and or violence.
TuneMe is a digital safe space that provides young Emaswati with easy access to information on sexual and reproductive health, and HIV and GBV prevention and response. The platform gives young people access to accurate information and aims to trigger the adoption of protective measures and a healthy lifestyle. TuneMe was launched in Eswatini in July 2017. To date, the mobisite has more than 24,000 registered users and had more than 65,000 page views. With just a click on their mobile phones, young people are now able to engage virtually in activities and discussions related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision-making processes and express themselves freely. TuneMe Eswatini provides a digital safe space to discuss issues with assurance of self-respect and self-worth.