The Youth Councils initiative is a project that was developed by the National youth Development Trust after the realisation that young people’s voices were marginalised due to the lack of representation at decision making bodies. The objective of this project was to form youth councils in all areas of Zimbabwe so as to bridge the gap existing between the elected leaders and young people. These local youth councils serve to represent the views of young people at a local level by giving them the opportunity to discuss relevant issues, engage with decision-makers and contribute to improving the lives of young people within their communities.
Additionally, the initiative which has so far been established in Bulawayo, Lupane and Nkayi serves as a mentoring platform for young aspiring leaders. These young people carry out similar roles and functions as the elected councillors at a micro level. This has helped build confidence in young people who have taken up their ambitions at a macro level. Though policy position papers resulting from youth council debates and consultations with other young people, the Bulawayo, Nkayi and Lupane youth councils have effectively represented the young people’s views to decision makers and in some instances have even influenced policy changes.
Sean Ncube (26) of ward 22 in Bulawayo participated in the race to become a youth councillor under the National Youth Development Trust’s Youth council initiative in 2010. It was the first time the organisation had embarked on such a project. He was successfully elected by his peers in ward 22 and was subsequently chosen by fellow youth councillors to become the Bulawayo Youth Council chairperson. This meant that he would be a leader in his ward and oversee all the youth councillors in Bulawayo. 3 years later, Ncube has joined the group of elected city councillors seeing to the needs of Bulawayo residents. He is now part of the decision makers and continues to carry forward young people’s aspirations.Having succeeded during the 2013 harmonised election the Nkulumane based youth, credits his success to the mentoring he received at NYDT when he was still a youth councilor.
“My involvement in the Youth Councils Initiative under the Bulawayo Youth Council contributed in grooming me to take up a leadership role in my ward,” he said. “It was a stepping stone for my political career and towards developing my community. This is a continuation of the work i did whilst I was at NYDT, this is the opportunity for youthful views to be incorporated in solving Bulawayo’s perrennial problems.”
The youth council initiative is a project that stresses on gender equality. Young women have also taken up leadership roles despite their low participation levels in the past. Selinah Dube (33) of Ward 15 in Bulawayo was a youth councillor for her ward in 2012. Having made formidable strides in spearheading young women’s issues at a local level, she decided it was time to have her voice heard as an elected leader. She took part in the political party primary elections but failed to garner the required number of votes to secure her a place to represent her party in the harmonised elections.
“This is not the end of my quest to represent young women at decision making level. The leadership trainings we obtained from NYDT taught us the importance of perseverance,” said Dube. “I want to urge young women who are part of the youth council initiative to take it as a serious learning curve as it moulds us for our tomorrow.”
The Lupane and Nkayi youth councils have also recorded great successes. Five young people have been chosen to be part of the village development commitees and ward development committees. These committees are the driving force of all development projects in their respective villages or wards. Cosmas Ncube, Herrington Dube and Qiniso Mpofu of Nkayi and Bhekizitha Nxumalo and Pardington Tshuma of Lupane have all been elected to be part of these committees. Qiniso Mpofu is the only female that was elected; a sign that partriachy is still prevalent in rural communities, where young women are confined to the private sphere. However, he election also represents strides made by the local youth councils initiative towards building the confidence of young women.
The resounding success of the youth councils initiative is evident in the young people who were part of this project. It is the hope of the NYDT that these youth councils shall be established throughout Zimbabwe and shall continue to ensure that the youth voice is heard at all decision making levels.