Sustainable Development Goals in South Africa

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17 Goals to Transform Our World

On September 25th 2015, countries adopted a set of goals to end povertyprotect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

For the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and people like me and you.

Do you want to get involved? You can start by learning and telling everyone about them.

Here’s  a list of actions that you can take in your everyday life to contribute to a sustainable future.

In the meantime, take a look at some of my recent experiences connected with some of these goals while volunteering in South Africa in the summer of 2017.


1 – no poverty

There is an obvious lack of facilities in the township and people live in poverty. It is difficult to understand how they can even make a living and why they can’t have a better standard of living with all the resources of the country. In spite of the challenges that these people have to face everyday, they seem happy and willing to strive to provide for their families. Another shocking thing was to see houses with big cars parked in the driveway. Next to these houses where the shacks. They may not live in extreme poverty, as in other places, but they’re not too far from it, unfortunately.


2 – zero hunger

In one of the centres where I volunteered, I helped in the kitchen filling the colourful plastic cups with some kind of juice, I cut apples in four pieces and then put it all together on the plates. I gathered and organised all the meals on the counters, tables and even the chairs that were available. Finally, I opened the hatch and distributed the meals to the children, who had been queuing outside for a while. If there were many children, like the first week at the winter camp, I had to make sure that the children who had finished brought their plates, cups and spoons to the washing area. Once washed, I brought everything back to the kitchen to start the process all over again. At the end, when all the children had been fed, some of them would also help clean the tables and sweep the floor.
Thanks to this project, any child from the township can have at least one hot meal and a piece of fruit every day.


3 – good health & well-being

Before I moved to Ireland, I used to coach basketball in my old school, so I was really looking forward to the sports activities. I played soccer or any other game they played and, after lunch, I taught basketball to a group of children who were very interested in the sport. I started showing them how to handle the ball and how to move with and without the ball. It was a great feeling when they’d approach me to ask if there would be a training session that afternoon. I mostly used games, though. I believe it’s the best way to keep them interested while learning new skills. At least they were doing some exercise and having fun with their friends!


4 – quality education

I’ve been an advocate for quality education almost all my adult life. In the last few years I’ve focused on “digital literacy” and how to include the older generations in the digital world. Therefore, I organised and ran a couple of courses in Kayamandi’s library to teach local people how to make the most of the technology they already had. I taught them basic computers, word processing and internet. They used their own phones to search and apply for jobs by email, with their own Cvs attached. It was humbling to think that a group of young people would walk all the way from their work places, more than 10km away, just to attend my class and learn! I also spent every morning at the crèche playing with the toddlers and teaching them some English and games.

6 – clean water & sanitation

Even though I was living in the township, I was staying in a house with electricity and running water. Most of Kayamandi was made up of “shacks” and people had to leave their homes to take a shower, go to the toilet or clean their clothes. There were a few of these facilities all around the township, but surely not enough to cover everyone’s needs in a proper way.

8 – decent work and economic growth

Most people living in the township head to town very early every morning to their jobs. The vast majority of them work long hours in factories, shops or restaurants for very little money, but they have no choice. The area vineyards scattered all over the valley around Stellenbosch where the township dwellers labour to make a wine they will never taste. There is a lack of opportunities for black people to change and better their lives. The economic growth of the country, with those top class motorways, big industrial and economic cities, natural resources and wealth, should be shared equally amongst all, irrespective of race.

10 – reduced inequalities

There is a clear distinction between the opportunities blacks, coloured people and whites have in South Africa. Worst of all, it’s precisely due to that, race. Theoretically, Apartheid was abolished 25 odd years ago, but I could see in every aspect of life that there’s still racial discrimination. Even coloured people don’t have the same opportunities as the whites, but seem to be a step higher on the ladder than black people. Living in a township and talking to some white and coloured people, I could see that race is still a very significant reason for the inequalities in the country.

11 – sustainable cities and communities

There is a good sense of community in the township. The problem, in my opinion, is the isolation people suffer. They can’t and don’t interact with people outside the township, which limits their views, perspective and understanding of their society and, therefore, their personal situation. Wherever you go, cities and towns seem to follow the same pattern. The city centre is where shops and other facilities and amenities are. Then you have three very distinctive areas: the white area, with big and luxurious houses, the coloured area, with small, simple brick houses, and then, usually hidden behind a hill or something like that, the township, full of shacks. Every human being has the right to a decent home.

15 – life on land

There is is a public entity comprised of Natural & National Parks in South Africa where inclusive conservation, as opposed to previous policies of exclusion, are central. They’ve created destinations for nature-based tourism in a manner that is not harmful to the environment. I could see and visit some of them in my spare time and they seem to be doing a great job based on three core pillars: conservation, responsible tourism & socio-economic development.

16 – peace, justice & strong institutions

There is a constant feeling in the air of people being afraid, even scared, of each other. I never felt unsafe anywhere, although I witnessed some critical situations. I didn’t see people living in peace, just getting by, but always careful or alert of what “the others” might do. I could also learn about the political system and the many cases of corruption among politicians. 

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