Strolling down the streets of Gobabis one, unfortunately, sees the bare effects alcohol and drug abuse imposes on youth and the community at large.
Since inception into the mayoral leadership at the Gobabis municipality, ours has been to deep dive into the root causes and figure out how we can meaningfully take on this communal pandemic among our people.
No one ever plans to become addicted. There are countless reasons why someone would try a substance or behaviour. This is the case with even very young children living on the street and the consistent availability of these substances places efforts at a great disadvantage.
Another key factor here is pressure from peers and elders alike. The office of the Gobabis mayor, together with partners, has embarked on an ambitious `Drug & Alcohol Abuse Awareness Campaign`, a campaign we believe will deal a great blow to substance abuse in Gobabis and Omaheke at large.
We don’t just want this to be a normal campaign where talks are held that proves the end, but a programme with continuous activities and initiatives to provide a holistic form of fighting this shared contagion.
To provide an experiential side, we teamed up with former drug addict and Cape Town gang member apostle Sydney Jaftha who brings a wealth of experience in the space of alcohol and drug abuse and how we can create meaningful social spaces to add to the fight against substance abuse.
It is important that we share some of our experiences in the field, as this plays a key part in the awareness campaign. We learnt from the experience of apostle Jaftha that children who grow up in environments where drugs and alcohol are present have a greater risk of developing a substance abuse disorder down the road.
If an environment is not conducive, friendly and safe but rather riddled with constant use of alcohol and drugs, one tends to see this as normal and at times, unconsciously justifies why one uses it.
These factors play a great deal in steering a person toward harmful substances. However, as a collective and with absolute selflessness, it is possible to work towards ending substance abuse.
The aim is to create a safe space for victims to come forth without fear of prejudice, being judged, or mocked. It is then an expectation that psychological assistance must immediately start.
During engagements, we have come across many community psychological support workers who stand ready to assist.
We further learn from engagements and interactions that the social impact of alcohol abuse is not isolated, and that impact begins in the home, extends into the community and often affects society as a whole.
Problems relating to alcohol and drugs may arise as a consequence of personal, family or social factors. Such problems not only have an adverse effect on the health and wellbeing of youth and learners but may also cause many school-related problems including deterioration in educational performance.
Given that there are multiple causes of alcohol- and drug-related problems, once youth become accustomed to abuse, it becomes very hard yet not impossible to rehabilitate them.
It is important to emphasise that this is where the role of community members and community interventions come in.
The mayor will seek to champion community interventions in adding value to the fight against alcohol and drug abuse. The knowledge and experience gained from the on-going awareness campaign have been important in identifying and developing effective prevention approaches.
Youth-focused prevention initiatives include educational and training programmes for young people in school settings, together with programmes that assist parents with ways to communicate and later monitor their children to establish and enforce family rules regarding substance use; and community-based programmes that combine these components with additional mass media and awareness campaigns.
We shall strive to achieve two important elements; a sense of belonging and community readiness. A sense of belonging is important as it includes victims in the decision. They must realise the importance of taking back their lives. With regards to community readiness, it concerns the extent to which a community can effectively respond to substance abuse problems.
While the elimination of substance abuse is a highly desirable goal, experience has shown the difficulty of achieving this.
However, we shall remain steadfast in our fight as ours is not short-term nor to score any popularity points but to facilitate a meaningful and outcome-based result in ending alcohol and drug abuse.
In conclusion, we have visited learners, prisons and radio stations. Online broadcasts, as well as one-on-one sessions were also conducted. Let us take charge of our lives and end the fight against alcohol and drug abuse.