By Byron Mutingwende
There is low participation of youths in national development processes, a situation that calls for the establishment of programmes meant to educate young people on leadership and policy issues.
United States of America Secretary of State, John Kerry once said: “Elections are vitally important, but make no mistake: elections cannot be the only moment for citizens to shape their future. People must be able to engage with their government and with their fellow citizens in political discussion and debate not just on Election Day, but every day.”
In that regard, Lennin Simbarashe Mbidzo hailed youth training fellowships offered by The Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) where youths are given opportunities to travel to other countries to learn from their peers on business, leadership and other development skills meant to make youth active citizens in all facets of life.
A workshop recently organized by the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) and its partners revealed that young people were sidelined in developmental processes by policymakers and politicians.
“It seems politicians and policymakers find it difficult to engage the youths in community development initiatives. While the recent Constitutional Court ruling barring marriage to anyone before the age of 18 years was received with jubilation nationwide, there is need for policy makers to engage the youth in finding what affects us and our needs,” said Nyasha Dhlandhlara, the founding director of Youth Initiative for Community Development Trust (YICET).
Dhlandhlara said YICET, being based in Mutare, had an insurmountable task of continuously advocating against early child marriages since Manicaland has the largest number of white garment apostolic churches which practice early child marriage.
Assistant programme officer of Organising for Zimbabwe, Tariro Senderayi said there was need to harmonise the Constitution to the tradition and implored the youths to work hard on policy implementation and monitoring.
“That ruling on child marriage came when other girls had already been affected. Some minor girls have children and others are already pregnant. As Organising for Zimbabwe, we feel there is need of finding ways to assist such girls,” Senderayi said.
Joe Kaseka from Young Achievement Sports for Development bemoaned the fact that most policymakers were not approachable, thus limiting the room for engagement with the youths. He however, said the emergency of social media had somehow given a solution to bureaucracy that stood in the way of engagement among youths and policymakers.
In Makonde, Mashonaland West Province, the Centre for Youth Empowerment and Development (CYED), under the able leadership of Henry Muwungani has achieved a lot in building conscious youths ready to develop their localities and the country at large.
In 2012, CYED launched the Love Peace, Love Zimbabwe Campaign meant to promote unity among youths from different political parties. This resulted in the signing of the peace pact among the provincial chairpersons of the then main political parties – ZANU (PF) and the two MDC formations led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube.
The same campaign also advocated for youth participation in electoral processes by encouraging them to register to vote and cast their ballots on election days.
“The Meet Your Leader Campaign provided a platform for engagement among youths and leaders. Through the peace-building project, we managed to acquire a peace nutritional garden measuring 16 hectares in Ward 9 of Makonde Constituency.
“This served as a way of uniting people from different backgrounds and as a youth empowerment tool meant to reduce unemployment. We also drilled a borehole and fenced the garden,” Muwungani said.
Discussion forums among community leaders and the youths are creating room for youths to participate in community development issues.
Under the Youth Engage project, 37 youths, including a youthful headman from Kenzamba, were trained in a business management course.
Member of Parliament for Makonde, Kindness Paradza said the CYED projects had borne fruits of development in the constituency.
“We have seen increased youth participation in various activities. Youths are now found in community developmental structures. Political differences are now manageable since there is now high level of political tolerance. As authorities, we are taking action on issues raised by the youths. In January 2016, we opened a new school in Kenzamba as a way of responding to the needs of our communities,” Paradza said.