The Rise of Student Empowerment: The 16 June Movement

The 16th of June commemorates the day of the Soweto Student uprising and has been established as “Youth Day” by all South Africans. The day not only commemorates an event that rebelled against the Apartheid regime, but is a symbol of the sheer power and magnitude that the youth can have when united in solidarity. Post-liberation South Africa has begun walking the path to rectify the injustice that was enforced upon us. However, through the attempted reparations, it is important to remember the unity and passion that lead us to change.

This is one of the many things that the 16 June Movement aims to achieve. The movement is divided into two wings; the Civic Organisations Wing and the Anti-Violence Against Women Wing. The movement is led by University of Cape Town student, Devlin Sooful.  I’ve interviewed Sooful to get a deeper understanding on the movement.

Q: What are the Core Concepts of the movement?

Sooful: “I’d say there’s about three. The first one is honesty and integrity, which I feel is missing from many student groups at the moment. There’s a lot of ‘saying the right thing’ but there’s very little people willing to put in the work." Concept two is '“People’s Power”.’ “We have ‘peoples power’ in terms of our ability to express our disagreement in the form of protests – but that’s not actual people’s power”. It’s a case of empowering those on the ground level.

“Working with the community” is the movements third core concept. This concept highlights that it is important to expand outreach beyond just student affairs, to have genuine community uplift.

“It’s also worth mentioning that we’ve created an entire subcommittee that’s dedicated towards addressing issues regarding Violence Against Womxn (sic)  because it has become such a crisis in our country – it is run by womxn and has a partnering subcommittee that deals with empowerment through civic structures.”

Q: When did you start the movement?

Sooful: “It was actually an idea I had in high school. I felt that we had essentially been programmed that we couldn’t really make much of a difference because we were just in high school or because we’re ‘just students’ whereas history has shown that in fact if we weren’t bound by such ideas, students can be leaders and do incredible things.”

Q: How are you planning to make a change at UCT?

Sooful: “Well, there’s two things; firstly, we’re planning on doing a collaboration with UCT survivors.”

This is an initiative that supports survivors of abuse and sexual violence and creates a space for conversation surrounding the issues and aftermath of sexual violence. The collaboration aims on creating physical safe spaces and support groups for survivors to meet with counselors, this simultaneously creates solidarity and uplift amongst survivors whilst helping them work through their trauma.

“Another initiative is a type of ‘on-call’ system,” promoting on-campus safety by organising groups of students gathering in order to create an aura of security. “There’s never going to be as much campus security as there are students..”

With the high crime rates and targeting of students, “this will also create consciousness amongst students by getting them active in something that’ll make a difference.”

Q: What does the movement plan to achieve by the end of next year?

Sooful: “By the end of next year, I’m hoping for our initiatives to be set up and thriving quite well and that we’ll be at a point where the 16 June movement is quite well known.”

Q: How can students get involved?

Sooful: “Main things we need right now are resources (not necessarily just physical items, but in the form of assistance). “The more people involved offering their assistance will help really launch our initiatives.”

If you’d like to find out more about the movement, like their Facebook page for updates, or contact Devlin Sooful at [email protected].

This movement shows promise in creating order and passion amongst students within our UCT Community.