Youth engagement, how serious are we?

By Pretty Chavango
We have heard stories of how young people have the advantage of power in numbers, how we are the leaders of tomorrow and how youths should be involved in decision making on policies and issues that effect their future. It is however critical to also question how willing and conversant young people are or are not when it comes to issues of engagement.
A snap survey amongst young people from different walks of life will tell you that most have never exercised their constitutional right to vote but still expect to have a voice and effect change.
An interview with a young man aged 25 residing in Harare North showed that although he had been living in the area almost all his life he had no idea who his councillor or Member of Parliament was. You then wonder whether it’s a case of poor resident engagement on the part of local leaders or that some young people are genuinely not interested in issues of who oversees their service delivery as they classify it ‘political’.
Young people of today have been exposed to a life where every form of leadership seems contentional such that there is much need to demystify the purpose of the political body. Politicians are there to serve you and whilst many believe that they have no direct say on how their affairs are being handled for fear of being political, know this – there is nothing wrong with engaging with politics or liaising with your Member of Parliament!
Parliamentary proceedings in the country are open to the public for free provided you have a national identification card. This is an opportunity for young people to sit in and listen to policy issues being discussed but you rarely see youths utilising this opportunity.
A 2014 report by the United Nations on Youth Participation in National Parliaments reveals that, “Political participation by young people has emerged in recent years as a crucial new focus of efforts to enhance democracy worldwide. This attention apparently springs from two trends that appear, at first glance, to exist in tension with one another. The first concerns worries about “political apathy” among young people, measured largely in terms of low voter turnout…”
Zimbabwe is a youthful country and if young people take it upon themselves to be actively participant in critical dialogues, handling themselves with dignity and being fully conversant with current affairs we will move forward.
We need to contribute meaningfully to developmental issues then, with time, we will be taken more seriously and our voices will be impossible to ignore.

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