Tikobane Conservation Club fights teen pregnancies and drug abuse in Dete Menstrual Hygiene awareness campaign in Dete

Maita Zizhou,[email protected]

TIKOBANE Conservation Club is on drive to help teenagers in the small town of Dete overcome drug use and teen pregnancies.

The creation of the Tikobane Club has brought positive changes in Dete, which has been plagued by drug abuse, alcohol abuse and teen pregnancies for years.

Through the club, teenagers have found a safe and supportive environment for empowerment and transformation.

The club’s activities, such as book club outings, menstrual hygiene awareness campaigns, conservation outreach programmes, exposure trips to the surrounding Hwange national Park and camping, have helped to build a sense of community and belonging, allowing teenagers to find support among their peers.

Exposure trip at Gwango Lodge

The club has also provided a platform for teenagers to express their ideas and opinions, as well as receive guidance and mentoring. These activities have been instrumental in helping to create a positive environment for teenagers to grow and thrive in Dete.

Tikobane Club was established in 2001 originally to teach children about wildlife conservation, the importance and value of conserving nature and the vast opportunities that come with wildlife. The name ‘Tikobane’ is a Nambya term which translates to ‘let’s share’. The club has managed to steer teenagers from unruly behaviours by creating a sense of belonging among peers who share the same interests thus giving them a purpose and a community to be a part of. By engaging in meaningful activities centred on environmental conservation, these young individuals have found a sense of identity and purpose beyond the temptations and struggles they previously faced. The club has also helped to create opportunities to engage with the community, as well as gaining valuable experience in problem-solving and team building. The young people have achieved a sense of self-worth, and are now empowered to make a better future for themselves. Drug use and other risky behaviours have been diverted from their attention by this newfound belonging.

The club has so far managed to secure a library aptly named Tikobane Library Club. Mr Ndlelende Ncube the founder of the club has hailed the community library as the greatest achievement of the club. He said the presence of a safe space such as a library in the community is important for teens as they can go there and feel free to interact not only with the books and internet offered but with their age mates and share thoughts and opinions which further develops them as adults.

Club members at a Boys Book camp

“The Club is also in the process of establishing a training centre for youths which, hopefully by 2024 will be functional. I have high hopes of introducing the Tikobane clubs to the areas surrounding Dete, places such as Chezhou, Cross Dete, Mambanje and others as they all have high teen pregnancies which is a shame,” said Mr Ncube.

He said the presence of positive role models is one of the main factors contributing to the conservation club’s success. Tikobane Club, Mr Ncube said, mainly focuses on secondary school students and primary school pupils, giving equal opportunity and access to academic materials to boys and girls in Dete.

“The club is led by dedicated mentors and volunteers who actively guide and support teenagers in entrepreneurship skills, gender equality and girl empowerment. Confidence is a guiding principle for club members. They also have role models in the community such as health personnel who provide guidance on making positive choices, ultimately helping teenagers navigate away from drug use and teen pregnancies,” he said.

By having mentors who genuinely care for their well-being, he pointed out, teenagers are inspired to make better decisions for themselves.

Mr Ncube said the conservation club serves as an educational platform, offering workshops, seminars, and discussions on topics related to nature and wildlife conservation, girl and boy empowerment, drug use, teen pregnancies, and their consequences.

“Through these educational initiatives, teenagers gain a deeper understanding of life thus equipping them with knowledge and awareness. Teenagers who participate in the club are empowered to make informed decisions and resist the pressures they may face in Dete,” he said.

The vision and mission of the club is for the teens of Dete to work and be actively participants in the tourism economy surrounding them as Dete is right in Hwange National Park, added Mr Ncube.

“Engaging in conservation activities provides teenagers with opportunities to develop new skills and explore potential career paths in various tourism sectors such as tour guides, chefs, anti-poaching teams and wildlife conservationists. Tikobane Club offers hands-on experiences such as camp outings to the lodges and camps around Dete where they learn about habitat restoration, and wildlife conservation projects. Teenagers gain valuable skills in teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving.”

 Mr Ncube said it is essential for the club members to have first-hand experience going to camps such as the Ivory Lodge and Miombo so as to not only boost their self-esteem but also enhance their prospects for a brighter future in venturing into careers they have seen and experienced, thus reducing the likelihood of falling into negative behaviours such as drug use and teen pregnancies.

Tikobane Club has been well received by parents in Dete as it promotes academic excellence among their children. Dete has also welcomed the positive attitudes and behaviour of club members. Speaking to a club member Ms Nina Naledi Nyathi (17), she said she has learnt to be confident in herself and believes she can achieve all her dreams if she puts in the effort, and she has also learnt to not let the pressures of bad friends get to her as most of her former classmates now have children.

The club does not have an official safe space but uses the homes of mentors to welcome the teens. However, Mr Ncube is grateful for the support the club has received in Dete and outside of Dete. Organisations such as Global Sojourns Giving Circle (GSGC) have played an important role in providing funds for the club.

The establishment of Tikobane conservation club in a small town has proven to be a powerful force in combating idleness in teenagers and unruly behaviours, by providing a safe place to hang out and meet their peers, have a sense of belonging, positive role models, exposure to educational opportunities, and skill development. Dete football matches where alcohol is present have seen a reduction in teen attendance. It is evident that the impact of the Tikobane conservation club in Dete goes beyond environmental conservation—it has given both teenagers and parents hope, support, and a brighter future.

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