The World Economic Forum for Africa officially opens Wednesday in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s being held amid a global economic crisis and an ongoing food crisis in many countries.
Among those attending are young people being honored for their work to improve local communities. This year, the Young Global Leaders, as they’re called, are focusing on HIV/AIDS.
About 40 Young Global Leaders, or YGLs, visited the Khayelitsha Township about 30 kilometers from Cape Town. Dennis Karpes is one of them.
“I became a YGL in the year 2008 and that all has to do with the project that I started seven years ago, which is dance4life. And they picked me out to be one of their YGLs within that community. And that’s an honor,” he says.
Khayelitsha no stranger to AIDS
The township of about two million people has been hard hit by HIV/AIDS over the years. Butprogress is being made to improve the lives and health of the residents.
The visit to the township was sponsored by YouthAIDS and dance4life, whose slogan is “Start Dancing, Stop AIDS.”
“If you look at the country South Africa, it unfortunately has the worst figures on HIV/AIDS all around the globe. One out of three or four persons has got the virus and it’s really a silent tragedy. A really serious pandemic,” he says.
Teens are the future
There’s a dance4life program in Khayelitsha Township and members performed for the Young Global Leaders.
“We believe if you look at a world problem like HIV/AIDS that the solution is in the youth, especially when it comes town to teenagers. And dance4life specifically targets teenagers. We believe a big part of the solution comes from the teenagers,” he says.
Karpes says teenagers are more open to change than adults.
“If you focus on the adults, it’s much more difficult to create social change,” he says.
Besides teaching dance, dance4life educates teens about the pandemic.
“After giving all the information, we tell those youngsters that they can be really the solution. And we inspire them by saying, please do something for the cause,” he says.
Last year, just before December’s World AIDS Day, about 50,000 teenagers in 19 countries danced at the same time. The cities were linked by satellite.
“So all those kids were able to see each other and hear each other while they were celebrating life and celebrating their achievements,” he says.
Karpes says the goal is to think global, but act local.
While dance4life led a drumming and dancing session in Khayelitsha Township, YouthAIDS set up mobile HIV counseling and testing tents.
The World Economic Forum says such programs shape a more positive future.