Monique Hansen is a journalist from a small community in Cape Town, South Africa, called Atlantis. During her younger years, she felt that she was sheltered from the outside world. This feeling encouraged her curiosity about the world around her. In 2012, she took this curiosity and entered the local radio station in her neighborhood. As a shy but aspiring journalist, she hoped to become a leader in her community. By joining the Children’s Radio Foundation, Hansen did just that, working as a young reporter. During her seven years at the station, she honed her skills in interviewing, reporting, presenting, editing, and public speaking.

Hansen is currently an undergraduate journalism student at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Hansen believes that ever since she started in radio, storytelling was her destiny. In 2013, her poster design and audio clips were awarded the Global Unilever Best Hand-washing competition, a foundation that raises awareness about the importance of hand-washing with soap to prevent disease.

In 2015, Hansen joined the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy foundation’s Youth@Work program. The program aimed to give unemployed young people a chance to figure out where they want to see themselves in the future. The foundation gave Hansen strong leadership and communication skills, and prepared her as a youth mentor. In 2018, she was awarded the Children’s Radio Foundation award for best mentor of the year and is currently in her second year of facilitating a group of eight young reporters. Hansen works for two community newspapers in her residential area, as a writer, reporter, editor, and photographer. She is also training to become a videographer at the local newspaper and a newsreader at the local radio station.


The Bubble of Atlantis

by Monique Hansen

The community of Atlantis is 45km outside of Cape Town, South Africa, but we still mark ourselves as part of the city. We have a scheduled bus service that takes us in and out of Cape Town, which takes about an hour. Some people know about Atlantis and then there is the majority that only knows Atlantis, the fantasy city under the ocean.

The day I first entered Cape Town on a regular basis, I understood that different backgrounds and lifestyles exist. I felt more open and started to understand what the world looks like outside of my bubble. I am one of the lucky ones to have these opportunities; some young people, as old as 25, have never even been to the nature reserves which exist all around Atlantis and the surrounding areas.

Isn't that weird?

The Lost City of Atlantis–so many flavours, so much talent, so many personalities, so much potential, but only recognized for crime. The youngest gangster I heard about is 10 years old. He is part of the gang called The Horribles. The Horribles are rivals of The Terribles, another youth gang.

Young people fall into the trap that a gang will help them live a better life. One taste of that lifestyle...and they are hooked. Gangs and violence affect young people like this: drop out of school and one’s education goes out the door, which means finding a job in the future is out of the question. Not having a job means no money and there is no choice but to join a gang, where one can make more money than in a regular job.  Whether it is killing someone, robbing people or committing a variety of criminal acst for money, youth see gang membership as survival at the end of the day. There is no way of getting out; getting out means...sacrificing your life.

What happened to the children and their childhood?

I live in a community so accustomed to its bubble that people are afraid to burst it to start changing the community. Adults in the community are too afraid to speak out and do something to change our circumstances. Ironically, when we young people stand up and speak out about our situations and the issues in the community, adults do not listen. Adults usually say to young people, "You are irresponsible, you are inexperienced, and have no wisdom to what is going on in the world." What do we hear when we are told this? They have become so comfortable in their bubble that they do not want to see change. Atlantis has a handful of activists and community workers trying to change something but a whole community that is too afraid to even attempt to join the movement.

I want to hear more children from Atlantis say "I want to become more than just a gangster".

Many in the community are not exposed to the outside world beyond Atlantis even though it neighbors Cape Town. Young people join gangs partly because they have little opportunity to come in contact with different backgrounds, cultures, personalities (basically, other humans). Our young people grow up with negative role models, who consist of their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, and close family friends; they are surrounded by different kinds of gangs every day, whether it is at school, at their friend's house and worst of all, at the place they call home. The lack of knowledge is seen as the main reason for violence. They do not see the bigger picture of their own potential. We live in a bubble of no ambition, no dreams, no goals, and no motivation.