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African Youth Voices on International Youth Day

August 12 has been declared as International Youth Day by the United Nations since December 1999. A unique theme is created annually to assist in focusing awareness on issues affecting youth around the world. The youth play a critical role because they are powerful agents in bringing change in their communities towards sustainable development. Events to celebrate the day are being organized all over the world.

This year’s International youth Day is about achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the selected theme is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production,” with a special focus on the Sustainable Development goal number 12.

In relation to the International Youth Day, SAIH has asked four youths what the International Youth day and this year’s themes means for youth in their country. How does the nexus between the theme of this year and the reality of what young people are going through in your country influence your view of International Youth day?

Bheki Dlamini (33), Swaziland

“In Swaziland, over 60 percent of the population live in poverty, and the situation has become worse due to drought, which has resulted to an increase of poverty Young people in Swaziland face many challenges, such as high unemployment and risk of HIV/AIDS. The cuts in public funding for tertiary education goes against this year’s theme of the International Youth Day. Education is only available for those who can afford it, those who are economically marginalized are systematically being denied access to education. Young people in Swaziland and all over the world should reclaim their space and chant a progressive way forward that guarantees, social justice, equality and freedom.”

Ibrahim Bahat, Uganda

“The international Youth Day is a day worth celebrating, it’s a day for us the youth. The International Youth Day in Uganda is quite vibrant in the cities, but less in rural areas. This years celebration comes at a time when the youth in Uganda are highly unemployed due to lack of proper educational qualifications and deep rooted corruption. The progressing youth are more likely to be found in the prominent regimes of power and as a result they are easily absorbed into the cycle of corruption. Corruption is a serious impediment to development and leads to serious poverty. However, the Ugandan youth can overcome this effectively with first, closing the information gap for instance through use of social media, by encouraging youth activism through local radios and forming community clubs."

Sait Matty Jaw (30), Gambia

"Like many other African countries, the Gambian youth constitute more than 60% of the population, yet they are the poorest as they face high unemployment and other structural issues that continue to hamper their growth and development. I think this year’s theme is very timely as it is important to address issues of unemployment, which is a leading contributing factor for illegal migration to Europe across the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea for many West African Youth. Also, in setting a roadmap to end poverty, good governance must be in the centre, as still in many countries like Gambia young people are being treated as beneficiaries and not active players in the socio-economic progress of their countris. Hence, such a roadmap must be youth centered and youth driven. Young women must also be given the space to proactive contribute their quota. Addressing poverty should be a collective endeavor between sexes and I hope from this year, we will come further in order to break the barriers of gender inequality."

Patience Malunga (28), Zimbabwe

"Even though the International Youth Day is an important day for youth all across the globe, for the Zimbabwean youth it is a day of gloom. This year’s theme, which targets to eradicate poverty is contrary to what the situation is on the ground in Zimbabwe. Graduates are roaming the streets with no hope of getting a job and the unemployment rate has reached almost 80%. There has been a rise on internet activism where unemployed graduates in Zimbabwe are demanding employment opportunities from the government. The disgruntled young people have created a social media hashtag #thisgown. Some of these youths have managed to come up with a creative stance to show their anger by playing football in the streets while wearing their graduation gowns. We hope for a better Zimbabwe and that this year’s theme on eradicating poverty can be the beacon of hope for many young Zimbabweans."

Read more about the International Youth Day.

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