By Perseverance Javangwe
Young people do not only possess the right to decide how the resources are allocated, but they also have valuable knowledge and critical perspectives that brings the governance processes.
The youth have a huge potential to contribute positively to the development of the nation. Youth participation in the budget processes is extremely important because budgets act as instruments for implementing the provisions in the international, regional and national conventions, leading to achieving the promotion of the welfare of children.
In a survey conducted by this publication, of the six Kwekwe City Council consultative budget meetings conducted, the number of youth who attended were less than 6% per each ward. In some wards the youth did not even attend. This is a worrisome figure considering the youth the youth bulge and implications of youth blind budgeting processes on the future not only of the young people but the country.
This reporter managed to speak with Kwekwe Ward Councilor, Melody Chingarande to discuss some of the issues pertaining the youth’s role in the budget process.
“The youth just feel that their voice is not heard. When they realize that their contributions and concerns are not implemented or taken seriously they feel betrayed, so they would rather not participate
“Some do not participate just because of ignorance. Some unemployed youths who are well educated are frustrated. They are now spending most of their time in the street corners either selling airtime, tomatoes, or electrical gadgets, just to try and make ends meet hence should not even waste a single minute attending to public hearings. Most of the youths are married hence should fend for their families under these economic constraints the country is facing,” said Chingarande.
The economic situation in the country has forced many youths to hustle rather than participating in critical governance processes. Concillor Chingarande feels there is need for advocacy and education so that the youth can start showing up for such meetings.
“There is need for enough advocacy, lobbying, educative forums in a non-political environment to engage the youth and alert them on how vital public hearings are, mostly in terms of laws, regulations, policies, service delivery issues, bills, legislation etc.
“This should start in secondary schools where there are more youths, also in churches and at all public gatherings if the environment is conducive. There is also need for organizing competition programs such as sports festivals, cultural festivals hence taking advantage of such gatherings and addressing such issues,” she said.
During a Social Economic Justice Activism Academy (SEJAA), organised by the Zimbabwe Coalition On Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) executive director Janet Zhou encouraged youths not to be used as political agents during elections, but to be engaged as citizens, who can bring about social and economic justice in the whole chain of governance processes.
“You are not just to be enticed to vote for a particular candidate, but actively participate in decision-making in between the elections because you will now know issues to talk about. You will know how to hold the duty bearer accountable on the day-to-day issues that affect you as an individual human being. The Constitution also gives you the right to act for justice on behalf of your community, on behalf of the next person,” she said, as quoted by a local paper.
The issue of youth participation in governance was first given global exposure in Agenda 21, the declaration following the Rio Summit of 1991. There is an increasing recognition across the globe of young people who not only have a right to determine how resources are used, but that they bring unique and valuable experiences and viewpoints to the debate.
Since the Rio Summit, a number of international conferences have drawn attention to the issue’s importance and it has been included in several prominent legal instruments, including the African Youth Charter, which obliges state parties to, “…facilitate the creation or strengthening of platforms for youth participation in decision-making at local, national, regional and continental levels of governance” (African Youth Charter, 2006).
In order to make a meaningful and effective youth participation in governance a reality, there is need to combine the efforts of local and national government, civil society and donors. Furthermore if the deep-rooted societal norms can be changed and then empower everyone including traditionally excluded groups such as women, youths and people living with disabilities then the country will smoothly move forward. The youth have the skills and knowledge to contribute to, challenge decisions and hold authorities to account.
It is important, however, to promote the concept of civic participation in the society from the grassroots level so that people build experience and knowledge of participatory governance and critical decision making from a young age