Youth Democracy and Governance “Youth Reversely Inspiring Zimbabwean Leadership”

Youth Democracy and Governance
“Youth Reversely Inspiring Zimbabwean Leadership”

Governance denotes a system of values, policies and institutions by which a society manages its economic, political and social affairs through interaction within and among the state, civil society and private sector.
Governance has emerged as a new paradigm denoting something more than government, and replacing the traditional meaning of the term government which concerned itself more with the laws, rules and regulations enforced by the state apparatus and instruments.
It is very important that I make this distinction early on because this should inform my deliberations in this paper on Youth Democracy and Governance. What this means then is that we have to consider how youth relate with governance structures at all levels and in all realms; these include state structures and processes and non-state structures such as:
• Civil Society
• Corporate Sector
• Religious Organizations
• Etc.
More and more African states are making the transition from autocratic states to democratic states where the democratic space is being widened to allow as broad a range of stakeholders to participate in the public decision making process. This transition is by no means easy or smooth. Youth are however potentially the most adaptable to change, African youth have a great stake in finding means to contribute effectively to this change process and to build the tools, actions and understandings to reshape Africa and indeed put in on a path of sustainable growth and development. It is for this reason that this paper is titled: “Youth Reversely Inspiring Zimbabwean Leadership.” Young people are getting increasingly informed and becoming a lot more critical about the challenges confronting their communities, many have demonstrated unmistakable clarity on current issues and expressed strong feelings about the way African governments are approaching and handling these issues. Youth are equally not too set in their ways and are thus ready to embrace change and be at the vanguard of the rebirth of African Democracy. They can be the ones to show the rest of the continent that indeed it doesn’t have to be Business as usual and that we can create open democratic societies.
Basic Notions of Good Governance
There are a few basic principles that reflect the emerging global consensus of what should and could constitute good governance. The extent to which these apply to youth can help us audit our governance systems and their responsiveness to youth.
• Participation: what is the degree and nature of involvement and ownership of youth as affected stakeholders in the public decision-making, implementation and control process from local level feeding to the national spectra?
• Fairness: to what degree are rules applied equally to everyone in society regardless of status? How do these rules apply to young African Women.? Are they accommodating to disabled youth? For example, if the legal age for marriage for Zimbabwean girls is sixteen years, but on the other hand a person under the age of eighteen can not get legal assistance without a guardian above the age of eighteen’s signature and above all that girl can not make political decisions for their child until they are eighteen.
• Transparency: to what degree are decisions made by public officials clear and open to scrutiny by youth? For instance how much transparency do we have in schools? How many young people are conversant with the National Youth Policy Document and the National Constitution?
• Decency: the degree to which the formation and stewardship of rules are undertaken without humiliation to the people and upholding of human rights.
• Accountability: to what extent do youth feel that public officials serving them, both elected and appointed, are responsible for their actions and responsive to the needs of youth?
• Efficiency: the degree to which rules facilitate speedy and timely decision-making.

Pathways for Youth Participation
In order for young people to truly experience social justice, we must create societies in which young people are full citizens, empowered to meaningfully and effectively contribute ideas and make decisions, societies where every time decisions are made affecting young people or their communities, youth are there ready to contribute and take part in the decision making process.
It is strange that even where the issues to be discussed directly affect youth, many times there are no young people at the table. One need only look at most education boards across the country to fully grasp the extent to which youth are marginalized even when they are directly affected.
If the situation is this bad in the so called “youth issues”, then how bad is it on wider issues like the economy, the environment, religion, issues which affect the community as a whole and yet we must target getting youth involved at all these levels.
As we discuss youth and governance I would like us to look at participation beyond representation. Whereas it is true that we should discuss ways of ensuring that young people are represented in governance structures we should also discuss ways of ensuring that many more youth are involved and participate in governance processes.
There are many ways and many levels at which youth can get to participate and be involved in the governance process.
• First and foremost young people need to get involved the socializing dimension of the governance process. This is the stage at which people get familiar with public issues. As compared to other segments of society young people are sometimes at a disadvantage in that they may not have as much access to information on the issues of the day and especially on the public policy making decision. For instance in Zimbabwe, how many of you have been called to input into the budgetary process. Most young people get to know of these processes when they are finished .This means then that they cannot participate; we must therefore develop mechanisms to get this information to youth. We need to sensitize youth on the governance process right from the local levels to the national and even up to the sub regional and continental governance processes.
• Secondly, we must address how youth can subsequently successfully articulate those issues. We therefore need to examine the way rules are constituted to channel participation in public affairs and with specific reference to youth. There is need to reshape the rules to enhance the input of young people in the making of public policy. For instance if the rules governing the formulation of the education policy strictly demand the participation of young people then these policies are likely to be better designed and more responsive to student and youths needs at large .
A key issue to address is “How are youth organized to be able to articulate their issues?” Most other sectors of society are usually well organized to be able to articulate their issues, the women’s movement, the workers movement, the corporate sector are good examples, they have all been able to successfully lobby and articulate their issues. These groups are however slightly less amorphous than youth, there is still no clear definition of who constitutes youth and maybe this has made it more difficult for this group to successfully mobilize itself. The issue of youth being amorphous does not only relate to age but even to perception for instance in Zimbabwe to say, there is a dichotomy between the youth movement and the student movement where by the student movement is not perceived to be part of the youth movement. There is therefore need to see how youth can organize themselves and articulate their issues successfully. This may be where such bodies as Local Youth Councils, Junior/Children’s Parliaments, Youth Parliaments or National Youth Councils may be of particular importance. Such bodies should of course be backed up by structures that can articulate issues at the local level. Party Youth Wings should also ensure that their parties take into consideration youth issues.
• Thirdly we must address how these ideas and interests articulated by youth are aggregated into specific policy proposals. Strategies to be used here should then target the policy-making organs at whatever level it may be. The policy making organ could be parliament, the district water board or a community burial initiative(uzibuthe); the issue we have to deal with is how to get youth involved in the particular policy making process.
One obvious way is to get more youth representation on these organs for instance by having more youth in parliament or on the board of key parastatals. These may in the short term entail getting a certain number of positions reserved for youth, for instance in Uganda where they have a youth MP for each region but in the long run we should seek to empower youth to successfully contest for elective offices.
We should also work to getting policy makers and policy-making organs at all levels more accessible to youth. For instance if the AU and NEPAD have Youth Desks manned by youth and which will be charged with ensuring that young people are consulted and their interests are taken into consideration in regional policy making there are mechanisms to make AU commissioners and other such officials accessible to youth then youth can get to influence the policy making process.
Other practical ways are to have youth attached to these policy making organs, most African Parliaments are ineffective as many MPs cannot contribute effectively due to lack of adequate research resources yet there are many students in our universities who can effectively research for parliamentarians thereby improving law making and getting introduced to the policy making process. This would also give them a chance to indirectly get involved with the policy making process.
• Fourthly we must address how youth can get to influence, participate in and monitor policy implementation. There are various organs that are responsible for the implementation and monitoring of policy formulation. It is important that youth be represented and consulted by these organs. For instance in we have District Aids Action Committees these are charged with crafting and implementation of Aid related activities, there must be youth representation on these bodies. Youth must be involved in such processes as the crafting of the National Youth Policy and other policy formulation foras from the lowest level like the District and wards. I am remorseful that in our dear Zimbabwe youth have only been used as political condoms, perpetrators of political violence, and objects of hate on behalf of their political principals who only intoxicate them with hazardous beer that darkens their future. Youths have been labeled retrogressive as they are seen as products of protest who do not contribute to policy formulation but protest against them when formed unlike in Rwanda and Kenya where they have been involved at the highest level maybe because they are capable of getting guns and fight for their space.
As Zimbabwe is trying to re-examine its governance practices and develop better and stronger democratic practices let us remember that the value of the lesson is that citizen and government shall be able to use the lessons to reflect inward and develop the psyche and structures necessary for better governance. In order to reap the benefits of this process, youth have to be part of the lesson learnt by undergoing the process. Youth shall then be able to reflect and commit to developing alternative ways of doing politics, business and relating it to the social realm. The lessons we learn are not incremental to the country if youth are not part of the process.


2 responses to this post.

  1. What is needed in Zimbabwe is a broader and revised education syllabus in which aspects of current governance structures and the role of members of parliament are included so as to enlighten the youth who are the future of Zimbabwe. How can the youth be seen to take an active role in decion making and vieng for political leadership if they have no idea what it entails? It is upto the goernment in particular the ministryof education to improve the education system because students have minute access to such information yet they are leadres of tomorrow.The fate of Zimbabwe’s future political leadreshpi lies in the hands of our own leadres.


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