3 June 2013 June is celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, paying tribute to the school pupils and ordinary citizens who lost their lives during the Soweto uprisings of 16 June 1976 – 37 years ago. The main focus of the annual Youth Month is to inspire and empower South Africa’s young people to identify the role they can play in addressing the economic and social challenges facing not only the population in general, such as employment, HIV and Aids and economic freedom. In 1976 young people fought for their rights, for freedom and for democracy; today’s challenges are different, but no less important. The theme for Youth Month 2013 is “Working Together for Youth Development and a Drug Free South Africa”. Communities around the country will work with the government and police to raise awareness of the scourge of substance abuse, and organisations targeting young people will mobilise them to lead by example in their homes, schools and societies. Alcohol and substance abuse and illicit drug trafficking is a global phenomenon, and South Africa is no exception. This has serious implications for millions of South Africans because alcohol and substance abuse contributes to crime, gangsterism, domestic violence, family dysfunction and other social problems.‘Fighting for substance-free communities’ The community of Eldorado Park, in the south of Johannesburg, is in the national spotlight at the moment as it’s facing a situation of rampant substance abuse and all of the social ills mentioned above. According to the Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, the suburb is “symptomatic of issues facing many communities in the rest of the country”. She called on communities throughout the country to lead the fight for a substance-free South Africa within their respective areas. “During Youth Month, let us recommit ourselves to fighting the war against substance abuse and alcoholism in all areas of the country,” Sisulu said in a statement. President Jacob Zuma recently visited the area and heard harrowing stories from mothers telling of drug dealers who preyed on their children. At a media briefing in Pretoria, Sisulu announced that “significant progress in fighting the scourge of substance abuse” had been made by police, community leaders and other organisations in the beleaguered suburb. Over 100 arrests have been made, while 20 drug dens were closed down. A number of addicted children were found at the drug dens, and all have been taken to a place of safety. The provincial government and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, which serves the area, is in setting up a short-term intensive detoxification programme for children addicted to drugs. The programme will run for seven days. Results of the 2011 national census reveal that South Africa’s population is young – the average age is 25 and a third of the population – around 17-million – are younger than 15 years of age. Unemployment in this vulnerable age group is estimated at around 50%. During Youth Month, the first national imbizo focus week will take place from 10 to 17 June, and will focus on youth development, specifically on the fight against substance abuse. First published by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.