Architecture student, Ms Gugulethu Sithole, is passionate about community engagement and has embarked on a student-led conversation for change campaign to empower young Black women on campus.

Sithole of Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal, held her first student-led conversation at the Howard College campus student residence under the theme BLACK GIRL RISE SISTERS CONNECT. Using the topic #GOODENOUGH, a group of young African women gathered to speak out about depression and how it has affected their lives.

Sithole chose this topic as she believes depression is considered a taboo subject in Black communities and wanted to offer students an opportunity to be open and honest about their struggles in order to effect change.

‘The idea of student-led conversations came about through my curiosity and a feeling that this generation is losing young critical thinkers and problem solvers,’ said Sithole. ‘I want to see how much I can do to help, using all the skills I have to actually play a part in making someone’s life better instead of complaining about how awful life can be. Even if it is a small thing – such as talking someone out of depression.’

She believes that collaborative discussions empower collaborative learning, understanding and finding meaning. ‘Questions like “what’s my purpose in life?” become critical when students discuss them with one another in a low risk setting. These conversations also challenge the stigmas that settle on our minds about race, nationality and even religion when we all face similar problems,’ she said.

Sithole plans to have more student-led discussions on campus around topics affecting students and is hopeful that they help bring about change individually and in the communities students come from.

‘My future goal is to change 10 000 lives before I turn 21 this year and the dream is to host all these people at the Durban ICC.

‘Students can sign up as part of the 10 000 who want to change their lives for the better. Our handle on Instagram is: sa_gwetha,’ said Sithole.

Words and photograph: Melissa Mungroo