Social entrepreneur, youth activist and now pioneer, Meghan Daniels, has been recognised with a social enterprise award from UnLtd South Africa. Daniels is the first UnLtd South Africa award winner to receive a grant through the pipeline programme thanks to a generous cash injection from a foreign investor.
Daniels started her social enterprise, Ilizwi, when she was just 17 years old. Ilizwi (meaning voice) empowers youth from under resourced communities by encouraging self expression through youth media and photography workshops. Through these mediums, Ilizwi photographers are able to better understand themselves, others, their community and the world we live in today. Since launching the first workshop in June 2011, Daniels has taught over 30 teenagers (age 16-18) working with 3 different schools in Khayelitsha Township. She has been overwhelmed by all the support for the project,
“I’m tingling with excitement and my desire to expand Ilizwi grows everyday! I also feel humbled. Humbled by peoples’ support and belief in this project and the students’ we work with. I am inspired by the Ilizwi photographers: they embark on a journey of self discovery where they arrive at their own ‘true’ questions and realize that they have the potential to bring about meaningful change by voicing themselves through photography. It’s phenomenal to see youth who are rejecting teenage apathy and becoming active citizens who, through their images, creatively inspire civic engagement. To them a camera is more than a tangible object, instead, it is their weapon of change.”
Daniels encourages her students to use photography to visually and conceptually explore community dialogue and authentic township narratives in the hopes of shattering misconceptions, shifting mindsets and perceptions through imagery. The Ilizwi photographers raise awareness around many themes: social issues they face daily in their community, including drug abuse, domestic violence and child neglect, whilst not forgetting to tell stories of the beauty, hope and potential that exists in townships. Iliziwi is empowering township youths who lack the opportunities and resources to express themselves, find their voice and use their newfound confidence to bring about positive change.
Ilizwi also provides photography services to generate a sustainable revenue stream for the organization and equips students with marketable skills to enable them to earn an income and become independent professionals and entrepreneurs. At the end of each workshop an exhibition is held to celebrate the students’ visual narratives. Their images, that ignite discussion and conversation, can be purchased at these events. Daniels’ work has invoked esteem from the South African and international community including in-kind support from Nikon, Fuji Image Centre, enke: Make Your Mark, TakingItGlobal, Adobe Youth Voices and the V&A Waterfront.
UnLtd South Africa was immediately impressed by Daniels’ ambition, professionalism and social purpose. She was formally inducted into the UnLtd South Africa pipeline in May, 2012. The pipeline programme allows people who are in the early stages of starting a social enterprise to gain non-financial support including coaching and mentoring, access to networks and a fundraising campaign spearheaded by UnLtd South Africa. The funding for Daniels was clinched in just under two months since being inducted into the programme.
Daniels plans to use the grant to formally set up Ilizwi as an NPO and ensure its sustainability by working on income generation. Thinking ahead, her dream is to create a full scale art academy for township youths.
UnLtd South Africa is a nonprofit organisation that finds, funds and support social entrepreneurs, using a model developed in the UK that has spread to India and Thailand. UnLtd South Africa seeks to help early stage social entrepreneurs on their journey by providing financial grants, mentorship, training and networking opportunities.
Image 1: Meghan Daniels works with students in Khayelitsha Township.