On August 12, the International Youth Day is celebrated every year. The 2012 theme was “Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth”. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon says ‘to unleash the power of young people, we need to partner with them.”. This is very true. Young people have enormous capacities to be change agents. They can initiate projects and work on them. When they are duly guided, they can implement sustainable programs that can benefit every fibre of society.
Mr Uche Udungwor, President, Youth Development and Empowerment Foundation (YODEF), an NGO in Nigeria said in an interview in Lagos on August 12th that “If the society can put in place necessary structures that would aid the development of youths in the country, it would help in advancing their cause,”. He added:
“The youth is an integral part of the society and they look up to and take cue from the elders. They are very dynamic and vulnerable and if they are not guided they will tilt towards the negative”
In today’s world, young people are key leaders in governance, sports, politics, IT and social media. The Arab spring is a clear representation of the capacity of young people to lead change. Egypt and Tunisia are two striking examples of nations that experienced youth-led revolutions that toppled suppressive governments. On one hand, young people have enormous potentials to effect changes. However, increase in youth population without commensurate job creation can make young people vulnerable for armed conflicts. This is reason a partnership with young people is important at this crucial time in history.
The challenges of young people today are similar. They include unemployment and underemployment and marginalization from decision making processes. In the speech to commemorate the 2012 International Youth day, Ban Ki Moon said:
“Today’s generation of youth the largest the world has ever known, and the vast majority of whom live in developing countries has unprecedented potential to advance the well-being of the entire human family. Yet too many young people, including those who are highly educated, suffer from low-wage, dead-end work and record levels of unemployment”.
It is therefore expedient for governments, development partners, private sector and civil society organizations to step up to address these challenges. They can partner with young people by supporting youth development programs and organizations. More jobs must be created. Opportunities in education, rural development and agriculture must be accessible to young people.
In the same vein, young people need to look inwards and identify inherent talents and skills. They can build them to marketable standard. Any need in the community is an opportunity to create solutions. This can be made a social venture or a business enterprise. Every young person should be keenly interested in building useful skills that will prepare them for and make them highly relevant in the work place. If the education in the walls of a school is insufficient, it is incumbent on us to seek avenues to learn more and be better equipped for the future.
This is based on the culture of shared responsibility. It takes the collective efforts of all, to make the world a better place.