Reflections on webinar on Youth Led Development: Giving Young People the Power and Voice
As part of its series of youth focused webinars with the aim of contextualizing social impact entrepreneurship, Africa Philanthropy Network (APN) hosted the “Consultative Youth Webinar on the role of African Philanthropy in creating enabling environment for youth led development” on May 6th, 2021. Speakers of the webinar were Positive Youth Development Activist and pharmacy student at the University of Zambia Florence Mulenga; Chimwemwe Kaonga, the Programs Director at Concerned Youth Organization in Malawi; and Reynald Maeda the Executive Director of the United Nations Association in Tanzania.
As expected from the diverse expertise from the speakers featured, the discussion yielded a number of descriptions for youth led development and African philanthropy. The definitions range from young people working for development of other young people, without ignoring what is happening outside youth group to all initiatives of development that have been initiated by youth.
The webinar revealed to me that ultimately young people need power and a voice for the prosperity of the Youth led development. I categorize these powers into three groups.
Power to be. Young people need power to be active citizens of the community, who use creativity and innovation as a way of bringing development to their communities. In order to activate this power, there is a need to encourage young people to think outside the box, establishing innovation challenges and investing into using different research ideas conducted or developed by young people.
Florence Mulenga “To create environment for young people in Universities and schools to be able to shine and flourish”.
Power to act. There is a need of being proactive and responsive towards addressing and solving different challenges in the community. In order to be able to act in a meaningful way, young people deserve to be provided with the enabling environment that will facilitate them to act accordingly. With the enabling environment and the power to act, youth-led development will be of great importance not only to youth and communities, but also to the national per capital income and this will reduce unemployment rate.
Chimwemwe Kaonga “Young people need to believe in themselves”
Power to relate. There needs to be trust vested on young people so as to instill confidence in them and self-esteem, which will in turn enable to relate with different people such as their parents, fellow men and women youth, teachers, elders in the community, businesses and their markets; as well as government authorities and their financiers; will ensure the sustainability of goods and services offered by youth are driving community development. Relating with government officials means accessing and enjoying the enabling environment established for youth such as funds for youth initiatives. Being able to relate to and be trusted by business partners and other stakeholders means more support, connection and visibility of the youth in contribution to development.
Reynald Maeda “Believing in young people’s capability and ability to do and act by placing trust to young people”
Moreover, from the discussion I understood that power only is not enough for the prosperity of youth led development. This means that young people also need a voice to be able to advocate for their entitlements, speak to the authorities and be heard. Young people need to voice out their ideas and concerns. Young people need platforms to convey messages to the responsible authorities. The aim is to make sure their voices are heard and actions are taken. For example, youth can air out their ideas and concern on a relevant policy. Availability of a Youth Development Policy as stipulated by the Youth chapter and Sustainable development Goals, shows the Government’s commitment and practice towards ensuring good living conditions and opportunities for the young population of any country. The Policy call for the need to address challenges faced by youth and to provide mitigation measures for solving the challenges faced. This Youth Development Policy set the priorities for working youth.
Chimwemwe Kaonga “Youth chapter and Sustainable development Goals can be used as a framework to start with”
Young people also need to be able to represent other young people’s voices and perspectives at the national, regional and continental level. There are so many cross-regional discussions on youth taking place in Africa, of which young people knows nothing about. In order to encourage active participation, youth should be involved in all matters concerning them. As there is a saying going by “there is nothing for youth without youth”
Youth led development will not prosper if giving young people the power and voice they deserve will not the intentional or be taken seriously. There are so many challenges that young people face like unemployment, lack of participation in decision making, exhausting bureaucracy towards accessing development funds. This is coupled by that lack of capital and market linkages up for startups. These cannot be viewed as the challenges of the youth; rather should be considered as the African countries’ responsibilities as a whole. Not viewing these challenges as such, will mean and lead to a potential of misrepresentation from a core group of the youth population and consequently failure to fully leverage the benefits of having an active and productive youth demography.