African Descent Youth Engagement Society Hosts Online Forum Due to Covid-19

The forum touched on COVID-19’s effects on Black youths, businesses, and mothers

The African Descent Youth Engagement event Speakers and Guests. (submitted)

The African Descent Youth Engagement Society held an online forum to discuss the “impact of COVID-19 on the youth of African descent in Vancouver” on July 17.

The virtual event was hosted by Rita Margaret Buwele, President of the African Descent Youth Engagement Society. It featured Leafletta founder Fatima Diriye, university students Mariyam Arafatiii and Samantha Musoki, poet Lilian Mayombo, and artist Godas Muhoza.

The event started with young speakers sharing how the pandemic affected them and their community and ended with statements from members of Parliament and City Hall like. Officials like Mobina Jaffer, Hedy Fry, councillor Trish Mandewo were in attendance.

Diriye, the first speaker at the event, spoke about how the pandemic has affected her as a small business owner. Her business Leafletta & Co. “focuses on natural and holistic skincare solutions.”

Diriye is also a director at the Leafletta Foundation, an organization that “gives back to communities back home in Eastern Africa where [they] source products.”

Diriye says the pandemic has affected Black owners of small businesses at a higher rate.

“As African descent youth, we are in uniquely different positions when it comes to the start of our journeys that a lot of our friends from different races [aren’t] necessarily [in],” she says.

She says youth are frustrated with a lack of “facilitation and mobilization” in the community and see the need to create business opportunities for themselves.

Musoki encouraged the community to come together to create new opportunities such as employment-related workshops, for youth of African descent. This subject is dear to her personally, as she moved to Canada at the age of 13 and didn’t have many pre-existing connections in the country.

Muhoza is also young and disproportionately affected by the pandemic as a musical artist who planned to release an album in the spring. Due to social distancing orders, she had to put her album on hold and hasn’t been able to book a studio session since.

Arafatiii talked about how the COVID-19 has affected young mothers.

“Finance is definitely a big stress [for] young mothers,” she said. “Others who are on maternity leave can get as little as $1,000 a month and they do not qualify for COVID benefits.”

Arafatiii did not qualify for any federal or provincial benefits.

“There is a lack of support and consideration for mothers and expecting mothers during these tough times,” she said. “As B.C. has begun to loosen restrictions, many mothers still cannot go or are unable to go back to work or find work, not to mention the fear of putting the health of ourselves as well as our children at risk.”

As the final speaker, Mayombo shared two of her poems which touch on the injustices Africans across the diaspora face.

Event host Buwele said she was touched by Mayombo’s poems.

“I’m just so proud. All you ladies have greatness in you and I want you to know that. You have what it takes to change this community,” she said. “We [can not] let COVID-19 defeat us.”

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