Unpacking the Complexities of NGO Participation among the Youth of Makhanda, South Africa
Keywords:Youth, Participation, Inequality, Makhanda, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
The primary feature of NGO development intervention is the role that organisations play in extending access to services and opportunities to marginalised populations. Participation, however, as an ideal and central organising principle in these efforts, comes with a host of complexities that requires careful navigation of the cross-cutting contexts within which organisations exist and function. This paper discusses the intricacies of NGO participation within the context of youth-centred initiatives carried out in Makhanda in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. In particular, the paper outlines the dynamics and trends of NGO participation among school-going and out-of-school youth living in a context of acute inequity and socio-economic exclusion. Data collected from young people, parents, teachers and community members in the Makhanda-east township of Joza, indicate that access to NGO services and consistent participation therein are differentiated and unequal in ways that sustain existing inequities in prospects and opportunity. A network of pre-existing features at an institutional, community, family and individual level sustains unequal access to non-state support that replicates dominant trends of inequity among the youth in this context. Consequently, this bears heavily on the choice and likelihood of who—among the youth in Joza—participates in NGOs; and more significantly, why, and why not? In an age where “popular participation” is heralded as the hope for a more egalitarian society, this paper proposes more careful consideration of the fact that NGO intervention exists within a dense and multi-layered network of inequities that, if not met with equally unbridled mediation, will persist and find refuge within a sector that seeks to confront the existing orders of inequity and exclusion.
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