Wednesday, 28 March 2012 20:59
Zimbabwean youth have fallen victim to a traditional leadership model found in most, if not in all political parties in Zimbabwe which follows the principles of traditional African culture that dictates youth obedience.
As a result, young people have little input in decision making processes as they are expected to comply without question. This leaves them disempowered and prone to exploitation. With a culture that provides very little communicative space for the development of young people, it is unfortunate that violence becomes a way of life.
According to the World Bank distance learning programme to youth, the basic work of government is to provide services, make laws, and enforce these laws. This work is generally carried out in three branches of the government: the executive (advices on policy decisions and executes government programmes) the legislative (make laws and represents citizens) and the judicial (enforces law).
However, the system has for a long time excluded the valuable participation of young people especially in issues that affect their lives. Young people are often the victims of tyranny and are widely disempowered and impoverished; particularly in Africa where the culturally embedded belief is that young people must only be seen and not heard.
Such strategies of exclusion by governance systems tend to justify the actions of perpetrators of violence who are mostly young people as they continue to be denied opportunity and space to express their views.
â€œThe problem is that there are no specific strategies that encourage engagement with young people. Young people have so many demands that include education, good jobs, food, and technology and so on as they grow. If they donâ€™t see a direction in their demands they become a bit scepticalâ€, said Darlington Muyambwa.
While participating in the 121st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and Related Meetings debate held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2009 titled "Youth participation in the democratic process", Member of Parliament for Kambuzuma, Willias Madzimure admitted that young people lacked better forums for debating issues that affected them.
â€œThat situation created polarization among young people, and instead of focussing on intellectual and political development those young people focussed on creating violence.â€
However, his counterpart, Mr. K.J. ZULU from Zambia, gave examples of how Zambia was creating an environment that gave young people a greater role in the development process.
â€œIn Zambia several measures were being taken to promote youth involvement in democratic processes: civic education had been introduced into the national curriculum in high schools in addition to the establishment of a National Youth Development Council, which monitored, coordinated and trained youth leaders, and mobilized the resources required for youth developmentâ€, he said.
A lesson or two can be learnt from the Zambian experience given the high number of young people in the country most of whom have just reached voting age of 18 but are not on the votersâ€™ roll , a great emphasis must be put on the education of this group of voters.
Prior to last yearâ€™s Zambian presidential, parliamentary and local government elections, youths from colleges, universities and political party youth wings, together with Zambian musicians came together to discuss how they, as over 50 percent of the eligible voters, can safeguard the long history of peace in Zambia.
The message of the youth â€˜Indabaâ€™ encouraged the youths to be brave and caring of their fellow Zambians and look to non-violent options of negotiating, mediating and even compromising rather than resorting to violence.
In addition, several civil society organizations embarked on creative ways of engaging young people to participate in democratic processes.
Zambiaâ€™s Anti-voter Apathy Project (AVAP), an organization created voter civic project centre which would among other things provide democracy information while operating at district and provincial level.
Also the organization disseminate information through radio programs that run on three radio stations and is also responsible mobilizing communities to also look at young people, seat for national voterâ€™s committees, mobilizing young people while advising them to vote.
Back home, Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe, a grouping of local Civil society organizations is on record urging youths not to wait for space to be given or created for them!
â€œIt is when young minds begin to come together and decide what sort of future they want to see in as far as Zimbabwe is concerned that action is generated. No one will hand it to the youth on a silver platter, it is the youth who can and must begin making the difference, one person at a timeâ€
This comes at a backdrop of a report produced by Zimbabwe Peace Project, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, stating that that only 21% of Zimbabweâ€™s youth attended the Constitutional Parliamentary outreach programmes.
Another concern raised by ZESN is loss of â€œactive interest in participating in national electionsâ€ with only 18% young people between the ages of 18-30 years of age appearing on the voters roll.
This presents challenges especially with the constitutional referendum taking place anytime this year. It means youths are likely not to contribute towards the crafting of the supreme law that has a bearing more on their future rather than their political leaders.
Today, most youth serving organizations have heeded the call to adopt non-violent means of protesting by encouraging wider youth participation in crucial processes.
Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT) has been working with a network of youth organizations to ensure the full participation of young people in sustainable development through advocacy and capacity building of youth organizations.
Working with a network of youth organizations spread across the country, YETT has successfully led national advocacy for the review of the National Youth Policy with the aim of improving the policy environment within which youth organizations are working. The government has since agreed to review the policy to the credit of YETTâ€™s advocacy.
Additionally, Youth Forum, Student Christian movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ) and Youth Agenda Trust are some of the organizations that have been supported by YETT through the SIDA Youth Fund to enhance the participation of young people in democratic processes.
Youth Forum is running a Youth Vote Campaign targeting one million youth to register and vote in the next election.Â Through the campaign Youth Forum is distributing IEC materials, formation of 25Â voters clubs and donating soccer kits in Masvingo City, Chiredzi, Zaka, Bikita and Zaka.
The group says it decided to launch the campaign after finding serious barriers to voter registration by young Zimbabweans. They said many youths in rural areas and mining zones have found it hard to register because they lack proof of residence
Meanwhile Youth agenda Trust have embarked on non-violent advocacy campaigns in elections targeting youth in tertiary institutions and rural communities of Kwekwe and Redcliff respectively. Through the commitment to non- violent participation campaign, a total of 327 young people mainly from tertiary colleges pledged to peaceful participation in elections by signing commitment cards.
Student Christian Movement Zimbabwe has been mobilizing, and working on creating a creating a platform for young people, particularly from the Christian community, to qualitatively and meaningfully participate in demoÂ¬cratic governance and decision makÂ¬ing processes throughout Zimbabwe.
On the other hand, the Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe, which is also spearheading a programme to assist youths with voter registration, indicates that that â€œgetting registered to vote (campaign) is not youth-friendlyâ€ owing to the RG Officeâ€™s tendencies of citing various excuses to bar youths from registering for polls.
Meanwhile, claiming space for young women is already difficult within a context of patriarchal attitudes and culture, where it is still considered improper for women to speak up and take positions of influence.
According to a recent report on the audit of the votersâ€™ roll by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), few women are registered to vote while the youths who feature so prominently in violent campaigns are almost absent from the votersâ€™ roll.
More males (52%) than females (48%) were registered as voters in 2010 while distribution by gender reveals more registered males (25%) than females (19%) in Harare province (25%), Bulawayo (17% vs 16%), and Matabeleland North (4% vs. 3%).
The ZESN report, was based on a sample of 102 wards out of the 1 958 used in the March 2008 harmonised elections. The sampled sections of the votersâ€™ roll indicate that few women and youths were registered as voters.
However, Institute of Young Women Development (IYWD) has been encouraging youn
g women to participate in the development and democratic processes of the country, including the ongoing constitution makÂ¬ing processes.
They have been involved in informing marginalÂ¬ized young women in rural, farming, mining and peri-urban communities in Mashonaland Central Province of ZimbaÂ¬bwe
Young people in Zimbabwe have a chance to become better organised and work towards a future where there are more involved in such political processes such as elections and the referendum which affords citizens a chance to decide what is important and shape their future.