By Vusumuzi Sifile
During his tenure as 32nd President of the United States of America, Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”. These words were spoken many years ago, decades ago, but they are true today as Zambia recently commemorated Youth Day. More needs to be done to build the country’s youth for the future, to equip them to become better citizens interested in creating a better future Zambia.
It is a fact that the youth constitute a significant fraction of the country’s population. It is also a fact that the youth of Zambia have great potential to contribute to and drive the country’s development. It is also an undisputable fact that in most cases, youths are sidelined, pushed to the margins of development processes.
According to the Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) for 2013 to 2014, “half of the Zambian population is under age 15”. A 2016 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says there are 4.8 million young people aged between 15 and 35, representing 36.7% of Zambia’s population. The figures from ZDHS and UNFPA clearly show that Zambia’s population is predominantly young. Despite being in the majority, the contribution of young people in national development is very low.
Supporting youth participation in Zambia’s development is not just the responsibility of government. It is a collective responsibility. Civil society, the private sector, political parties, communities, families, the media, and of course the youth themselves, all have a role to play in building the youth for the future. Many stakeholders have made efforts to support youth participation in different aspects of Zambia’s development, but youth participation levels remain low.
This non-participation of youths in development processes is due to various factors, such as:
These challenges do not mean the situation is hopeless. There are a number of organisations that are working to build youth for the future. One such organisation is Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf). As a communication for development organisation, PSAf uses various platforms to mobilise youths, and amplify their voices on diverse development issues. PSAf also works with community radio stations to work with youths as volunteers and as employees, giving them a springboard to discover their potential contribution to development. The organisation has also created and runs social media platforms for youths to drive debate on issues of women empowerment, constitutionalism, decent work, good governance, sexual and reproductive health, among others.
Like Roosevelt back then in 1940, we all have a responsibility to build Zambian youths for the future.
Vusumuzi Sifile is PSAf Regional Manager for Communication and Knowledge Management. For feedback, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.