On December 17, 1999, The UN general Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of ministers responsible for youth calling for August 12 to be declared International Youth Day. The day is celebrated to bring the youth issues to the attention of the international community and celebrate the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society. The day gives a chance to celebrate and mainstream young people’s voices, actions and their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement.
It is a wake-up call for Uganda as a country, it is the perfect time we believe that young people are social actors with skills and capacities to bring about constructive resolutions to their own problems.
Too often, though, there is a failure or even a refusal to recognize the benefits of youth participation in the legitimacy of young people’s contributions to programmes, policies and decision-making. Much of government policy has a direct or indirect impact on young people, yet it is developed and delivered largely in ignorance of how it will affect their day-to-day lives or their present and future well-being.
Although efforts like youth fund, emyooga, OWC and others have been directed towards empowering youths to take a more participatory role in resolving youth issues of this country in the past, lately, youths have appeared be standing on the sidelines, with no power whatsoever to decide which direction the country must take. Policies and governance strategies regarding the youths are formulated by people foreign to their realistic needs. They cannot compete in higher political positions because of increasingly growth of commercialized politics, the youth cannot compete for jobs because employers need experience and others.
This leaves us in frustration because we are actually made to believe that there’s nothing we can do.
This is a problem that needs to be quickly addressed if any meaningful efforts to build a better country are to be put in place. The government must make sure to encourage its youth to do better in every field, give them the wind beneath their wings to fly high instead of bringing them down by tying chains to their wings and offer them a chance to prove themselves worthy and that must be offered equally to all.
The reading culture should be an eye opener to the youth. Let’s not sleep and watch our country decline instead of flourishing. We as young people need to rise and claim our rightful place in social, economic and political spaces of Uganda. The overwhelming demand for youth participation in any developing country mainly lies in their ability and agility to execute top notch ideas. The world today is now a connected global village, bringing people closer together, thanks to young people like Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Let’s learn from young innovative people making a difference like Petrice Jones, Vannesa Nakate the founders of Rise up movement aimed to address climate through recycling.
Borrow a leaf from developed countries like the United States, there is an increase in number of college degree holders below age of 35, who are moving into farming, according to US Department of Agriculture. This shows that young people in US are actively participating in making their country great by entering and excelling in spaces that used to be deemed a niche of the old. With exposure to global trends and innovative skillsets being discovered on a day-to-day basis, youths are at the core of making the global economy function through using the power they possess of dictating what happens next.
We need to realize the theme of International Youth Day, the government should invest in clean energy, green jobs not oil activities that will distort the fertile soils, worsen climate change thus affecting food systems and human health. The youth should be driven in the direction of the country’s backbone economy which is agriculture.
The government must play a supportive role and create an environment conducive for empowerment and prosperity of the Ugandan youths.
Today, as government starts making efforts to bring to life fallen industries, youths must take a leading role to guarantee a prosperous Uganda in future.
An article by Brighton Aryampa.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Solutions Initiative.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Monitor.
Brighton Aryampa, Uganda, is a lawyer and Chief Executive Officer of Youth for Green Communities (YGC).