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‘Young People’s Voices Matter In Local Governance’

Epworth Local Board Chairperson, Anna Sande

Zimbabwe is a country with a young population, with about 67 per cent of its 14.6 million people being under the age of 25.
However, this demographic dividend has not translated into meaningful participation of young people in the political and economic spheres of the country.

Young people face many challenges that hinder their involvement in local governance, such as unemployment, poverty, lack of education, limited civic space, partisan politics, corruption and violence.

These challenges have led to apathy, frustration and disillusionment among many youths, who feel excluded and marginalized from the decision-making processes that affect their lives and futures.

However, young people have a vital role to play in local governance, which is the level of government closest to the people and most responsive to their needs and aspirations. 

Local governance encompasses various actors and stakeholders, such as local governments, traditional leaders, civil society organizations, community-based groups, private sector entities and citizens themselves.

The benefits of youth participation in local governance are manifold. For young people themselves, participation can enhance their skills, knowledge, confidence and self-esteem.

It can also provide them with opportunities for social interaction, networking and empowerment.

For local governments and communities, youth participation can improve the quality and relevance of local policies and services. It can also foster social cohesion, trust and legitimacy. For the country as a whole, youth participation can promote democracy, development and peace.

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To encourage youth participation in these issues, WELEAD Trust and the Institute for Young Women Development IYWD launched a three-year campaign to set the agenda of What Youth Want in Zimbabwe with the support of Diakonia and the Swedish Embassy in Zimbabwe.

Kudakwashe Munemo, the knowledge management and advocacy coordinator of IYWD, said the campaign was inspired by their successful “What Women Want” campaign.

“The initiative aims to build a consensus on a youth-led and owned agenda by facilitating a process of collective visioning by youths from diverse backgrounds, strengthening grassroots movements, and promoting active and effective participation of young people in governance,” Munemo said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a consultative meeting in Harare, Karen Manzira, We Lead Trust’s Information and Advocacy Officer said they are hopeful that more youths will be encouraged to be involved in local governance processes.

”When we started the meeting, young people were of the view that they are not prioritized in local governance issues hence there is no need for them to participate but through the sessions we had with duty bearers who were articulating the issues of social contracts and the paths that young people can take, we saw there was a shift in their mindset.

“They have vowed to participate and let their needs be heard. We are trying to give hope to young people and make them aware that their views are equally important,” she said.

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Epworth Local Board Chairperson, Anna Sande weighed in and said that young people do not feel that the local governance system is accommodative enough of their views and concerns.

“But one thing that I assured them is that we are at a point of reform, we want to ensure that we give enough space to young people to be included in local governance processes because they are the major stakeholders in terms of the demography in our country,” she said

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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