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Youth for development
ActionAid Denmark supports young people as a particularly vulnerable and high-priority group, who at the same time hold the potential for the future. We back young people and contribute to the strengthening of their rights and influence through information, awareness-raising and advocacy.
When young people have no influence
In the middle of 2007, MS’s partner organisation “HimRights” arranged a "mock parliament" in Nepal’s southern lowlands – a role play type of parliament with young participants selected to represent the entire population from "high" to "low" castes, including disabled, Muslims and various ethnic groups, as well as an equal number of women and men. They discussed with great enthusiasm, and a young female "low-caste" Dalit was elected as prime minister. They also sent a 33-point manifesto to the real parliament, demanding a Ministry of Youth, respect for young people, better education in the province, and the right to vote from the age of 16.
Kutambanuka – we want to be heard!
"Kutambanuka" – "We want to be heard ", says an expression in the Shona language in Zimbabwe. In the poor townships of the capital Harare, the organisation Youth Ahead is fighting for young people’s opportunities to express themselves in this crisis-ridden country, informing them about their rights, and helping them to get an education and find employment.
“We live in a society where young people have no status. Most of them experience a day-to-day life characterised by poverty, violence, crime, unemployment and lack of educational opportunities. Many are orphans and left on their own, since both parents have died from AIDS or migrated to neighbouring countries to look for work. This makes it extremely hard for young people to keep faith in themselves and in the future. Young Zimbabweans need a safe haven where they can be themselves and express themselves,” explains Simba Chikomo from Youth Ahead.
In April 2008, a similar youth parliament was held in Tanga, Tanzania, convened by MS’s partner organisation Tanga Youth Development Association – in this case as part of a more permanent setup with 24 Tanga communities sending two representatives each and with sessions every six months in the town council hall. All this is aimed at empowering young people, focusing on young people’s problems and ensuring that they are taken seriously.
A vulnerable group – with the potential of the future
Both these initiatives spring from the reality that young people – and women in particular – are one of the most exposed and vulnerable groups. They are without resources, have problems getting education and employment, and are worst hit by crisis, poverty and corruption. In many places, they are up against patriarchal traditions, where young people are not taken seriously, and where the right to speak is reserved for elderly men.
Nevertheless, in the demographic statistics, young people make up a huge part of the population. In many developing countries, over half the population is under 15 years of age and in countries such as Zimbabwe, the age distribution is even more extreme, with those under 15 accounting for up to 75 percent. One reason is that AIDS has decimated the large productive middle age group, leaving the young with responsibility for taking care of their younger siblings. In countries such as Zimbabwe and Kenya, young people can be abused for political motives during civil unrest. In both places, young people have been enlisted into gangs of thugs and doped with drugs.
"It’s true that young people tend to be in the frontline when conflicts flare up, but this day in Marsabit has shown that they are also the ones who hold the initiative for reconciliation. It has been obvious today that it’s young people, in contrast to their elders, who dare to stick their necks out and make the first move. And this is what the caravan is all about, creating an occasion and a space for the local youth to take an initiative in the process of reconciliation.”
Jeppe, young MS volunteer in the Peace Caravan in Kenya
However, young people are also in the frontline of peace and reconciliation, for example, such has been the case in Kenya after the violence in 2008. Young people are not as mired in prejudice and ancient feuds, but better at moving ahead in terms of confronting scourges such as corruption, which many elderly, on the other hand, consider to be inevitable. Young people carry the potential for the future. Young people have ideas and visions, and it is from their ranks that the leaders and politicians of tomorrow will step forward. This is why MS supports young people as a particularly important target group.
How MS supports youth for development
Young people – and women – are a priority target group in all our areas of intervention. Furthermore, in Tanzania we have chosen to focus on youth for development in particular, and in many countries, youth organisations are among our partners.
We help build the capacity of these organisations to involve, inform, engage, raise awareness and protect young people, as well as to secure them education, employment and influence in society.
We also support political advocacy aimed at improving young people’s rights and opportunities.
Furthermore, we create direct links between young people from different countries, for instance by exchange of global volunteers and work camps through our travel programme Global Contact.