For many years, efforts have been made to achieve and sustain peace, security, and better livelihoods for the youth in Africa and across the world. In this blog, Jessica Nakasamu, a 20-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Zambia, shares her key takeaways from the first of a virtual seminar series for young people hosted by The Commonwealth Secretariat. The seminars respond to the issues young people face across the Commonwealth, not least, the need to be at the heart of shaping the policies and institutions that directly affect their lives.
Time and again efforts to uplift young people are reinforced while new ones are introduced. This may seem impossible, but it is achievable provided we deal with the issues young people face. However, pointing out problems only highlights the negative. Instead, we should look at solutions, strategic plans, suggestions, and goals that can help us take charge of our future.
In my mother tongue, Bemba (which is spoken in Zambia) there is a common saying “Imiti ikula, empanga”. This means ‘today’s children are tomorrow’s future leaders’. In short, we as young people should take charge of our future. But how can we do this?
Take charge politically
Globally, the challenge of young people taking charge is often seen as a political challenge revolving around the acquisition of power and the use of it. For most countries, politics is a source of conflict, tension, and repression rather than an opportunity for the free expression of political will.
Most states don’t give opportunities to young people and if they do, it is never in key positions of governance. There are many instances where young people are not given the opportunities despite a provision for their participation being available in law. This usually stores up trouble for the future as young people may, in turn, form or join rebel movements.
To deal with this problem, there must be transparency, accountability, and respect for the rule of law. Young people cannot take charge without the help of leaders.
Take charge of your health
Sexual and reproductive health and rights are necessary to achieve sustainable development. But all too often, young people, especially girls and women like me, may lack the information and access to services they need to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), unintended pregnancy, and other life-altering risks. Knowledge acquired from training and platforms such as those created by the Commonwealth can help us share our knowledge with other girls and young women so that they can take ownership of their lives.
Take charge of your personal life
Taking charge means taking personal responsibility. As young people, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. We must complain less and do more. We must know and be our authentic selves. It means refusing to be used as tools of violence and rather becoming ambassadors of change by investing in education and learning.
Take charge of opportunities
Taking charge means placing importance on one’s life. It means showing our influence, credibility, capabilities, and talent. The youth can create sustainable livelihoods by using their gifts to create initiatives with commercial value. Every skill is important and taking charge means unleashing hidden potential. Taking charge can mean running your own small business, and providing employment to other young people.
Take charge in the community
Taking charge also means helping the needy, less privileged, orphans, and the vulnerable, and putting an end to societal issues. It means being active members of our community through community engagement, volunteering, mentorship of other young people, and social advocacy.
In a nutshell, we cannot take charge of our future without inclusive development, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Only healthy, informed, and supported youth are able to effect positive change in their communities and countries. As young people, taking charge means being available, being part of the solution, and being change-makers.
COVID-19 led to the postponement of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and the Commonwealth Youth Forum (CYF) meant to take place in Kigali, Rwanda in June 2020. The Commonwealth Secretariat has rolled out a series of virtual sessions to enable young people to remain engaged with the consultation and discussions around this year’s CHOGM theme “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming” and other relevant topics. The sessions are also aimed at enhancing intercultural communication between young people across the Commonwealth and providing them with a platform where they can exchange ideas, innovate, and identify the most vital challenges and opportunities facing young people today. The virtual series kicked off on 15 July, 2020.
In case you missed it: Watch the first session of the Taking Charge of the Future series here.
Photo credit: Caribbean Region Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting – Youth Leaders’ Forum/ The Commonwealth Asset Library
About me: I am a shopkeeper living and working in Masaiti, a rural area in Zambia. I care about others like I care about myself. I love being loyal and compassionate and trustworthy. I put my mind and efforts in my writing as it is the easiest medium to communicate with the underprivileged through my poems, songs, articles and novels.
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