Should we participate for the sake of participation or should it be because we have something very key to say? Are the issues we are raising any different from what the older generation is raising? Do we need to be involved if what we are raising similar to what is being raised by them?
The recent clamor for youth participation can almost be compared to the fight for women involvement in influencing development during the 19th century. Young people are coming out in large numbers with demands of being engaged, being consulted and most of all being granted opportunities to influence the decision making process. We are aggressively calling on our leaders to listen to our views on the various aspects of development.
Does this mean we do not trust our leaders, our parents and our community elders to curve out a good future for us, or that we do not think they are in a position to speak on our issues on our behalf?
Among the arguments we are putting forward to justify our need for involvement is that we come bearing fresh ideas. We have an honest desire to see change since we are at an age where idealism means so much for us. Our lifestyles also dispose us to creativity and we are therefore very likely to provide innovative approaches to tackling old problems. Such thinking would probably be countered by the argument that experience is much more important and that we have not been through enough to discern what really matters in development. That as youth we are just forcing to be included when in real sense all the knowledge we have has been impacted on us by them, the older generation, through mentorship as well as in school. Experience they say is the best teacher and that although the new broom might sweep better, the old broom knows all the corners; and that youth is no guarantee for innovation.
Do fresh ideas and innovativeness trump experience?
We also say that the mere fact that we are huge in numbers give us enough leverage to champion for space in the negotiating table. Africa for instance is experiencing a youth bulge and according to UNFPA 43% of the world’s population is below 25. As much as this might be true, you realize that development is no democracy; development is about results, effectiveness and efficiency. I personally think using our numbers is not a basis for reasonable argument; I feel like this might set precedence for abuse of minority.
But most of all we are fond of arguing based on the premise that since we are young, the future automatically belongs to us and therefore we should be involved in planning for it. Well as much as their might be some truth in this statement, we will still need to offer credible reasons as to what value we are going to offer and that we actually understand issues. This argument also totally shows our lack of trust in our elders.
You will agree that some of the issues we raise to justify our need for participation are not very credible. Personally, I feel the whole need for us youth to be engaged and to be allowed to express our own issues is purely because we are growing up at a time that has not been experienced by anyone before. Our elders have no idea how it is to be young in this day and age. We know so much about the present social challenges that our leaders and policy makers might have no idea about; this puts us at a position where we are able to easily offer solutions. I am also advocating for arguments based on critical points and tested knowledge that are actually aimed at improving the present day challenges.
Finally, there is an issue that has been of concern to me for a while now; why are youth not very vocal when it comes to issues of security. Why are we so numb on the Syrian issues, the recent Iran nuclear discussions, the North Koreas threats, the Central African intervention mechanisms, involvement in the UN Security Council, and other similar situations?