Manenberg is a poor community of Cape Town where gangsters roam, drugs are readily available and unemployment is high.1 One can only imagine how tough it is to grow up in an environment where there is pressure to commit crime, join gangs or be exposed to drugs and prostitution. It is important that those who manage to break out from such a vicious cycle be acknowledged and supported. One way of doing this is for the media to try give a voice to people, especially children, who continuously try to beat the odds and tell their stories. This creates an opportunity for children to have role models and be role models themselves.
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) therefore commends and selects The New Age’s “Manenberg girl beats the odds” (12/07/2013. p.10) for a GLAD for its positive portrayal of 16-years-old-Cherlene Thomasso who has managed to beat the odds and not let her surroundings determine her path. The article illustrates how Cherlene who has selected by her school to represent South Africa at a youth assembly to be held at the UN headquarters in New York has managed to “stay on course and excel in mathematics and science at school” despite growing up in one of the most violent communities in South Africa.
The journalist, Vincent Cruywagen, gives the youngster a voice throughout the article. Cherlene is quoted as saying that “even though it is sometimes hard and difficult to stay focused, especially in her community, she believes that if one applies their mind they can achieve anything.”
It is important that children are provided with the opportunity to speak for themselves as such coverage challenges the stereotypical portrayal of children as helpless victims and as not having a voice.2
It is equally important that children and youth are given the opportunity to share stories about their achievements as these can serve as a motivation to their peers. Research has shown that peer relationships play an important role in the development of a child as much as their parents and teachers do.3 Further to this, it is crucial to give the girl child and women in general a voice in the media as they are often discriminated against from the earliest stages of their lives. Research has shown that females hardly make the news and when they do, they are usually trivialised.4
Cherlene’s story serves as an inspiration to the youth in her community and a testament of how a positive attitude and the right choices equal infinite possibilities. It also serves to emphasise that children are capable members of our societies. We wish to read more stories of this kind from The New Age.
By Lethabo Dibetso
1. See http://www.selfhelpmanenberg.co.za/community-background.html↩
2.The research report by MMA confirms that children are seldom heard on matters that concern them and are often shown as victims. To read more about the research visit: https://www.mediamonitoringafrica.org/images/uploads/Coverage_of_Childrens_Rights_in_Media.pdf↩
3. See http://www.aacap.org/App_Themes/AACAP/docs/facts_for_families/99_children_and_role_models.pdf↩
4.See GMMP report on Who Make The News http://whomakesthenews.org/images/reports_2010/global/gmmp_global_report_en.pdf↩