Published once every two years by the UN Department of Economic and Social affairs (UN DESA), the World Youth Report on Youth Civic Engagement takes a good look at young people’s participation in economic, community and political life. The report offers and proposes unique and out of the box perspectives and ideas on youth engagement and participation. The report is also expected to generate dialogue, and serve as a tool for policy discussion and action between youth and government.
The report provides insight on 3 thematic areas: economic, political and community engagement. The objective of the report basically is to provide a basis for policy discussions around youth engagement to ensure that young people are able to participate fully and effectively in all aspects of the societies in which they live.
The transition to the world of work marks a crucial stage in young people’s lives. However, unemployment, under-employment, regional disparities and gender disparities all limit the potential of young people to earn their keep and delays their full economic integration, this has a serious impact on their ability to engage with the government and other authorities.
Internships, entrepreneurship, skills development and training and participation in trade unions are some of the solutions to these challenges.
Globally, youth participation and representation in institutional political processes and policy making is low. Youth remain unrepresented or under-represented which often times lead young people to find alternative means of political engagement. Also, the position of young people following political transition remains largely undefined especially in Africa, as after the campaigns and elections the youths are left idle and not engaged in the process of governance, resulting in most of them plunging their energy on the internet and engaging in online activism.
Governments and organizations should work to improve youth representation, provide education on democracy, strengthen interactive communication, empower young people through social networks, increased community engagement, youth engagement in peace building, youth engagement through sports as well as other means of encouraging youth participation in politics and governance.
The rise of social media and new ICTs and mobile technology has provided young people with greater opportunity to engage within their communities in new and innovative ways. Involving youth as collaborators, team members, leaders and decision makers as well as providing them the opportunity to be involved in addressing the day to day issues that affect them, offers lots of benefits to both young people and the community, from greater community connectedness and social awareness of the individual to enhanced participatory decision-making and democratic governance in community institutions.
Such involvement also sends youth the message that their participation has immeasurable value. Engagement at the community level often provides young people with their first experience of active participation in a cause or activity, serving as a gateway to further and broader engagement throughout life as well as opportunities for leadership building.
In closing, all three thematic areas discussed in this report, depend on the full engagement of young people and actively relies on the active participation and commitment of governments.
It is only through meaningful involvement and active partnership, inclusive policies and decision making processes, that solutions to some of the key problems experienced by young people can be developed and then actualized.
It is therefore evident from the discussions above that young people cannot tackle the challenges alone, governments also need to provide support as well as an enabling environment so that young people can thrive and make meaningful contributions to the economy and development of the nation.
Hacey Health Initiative as a leading organization in Nigeria has successively designed and implemented programmes in the three thematic areas as covered by the report and continues to do so. Some of these programmes include: empowerment of underserved populations especially women and girls with means to sustainable livelihood as well as skills and information with which to engage the government at the local and state levels. Majority of these people come from rural communities in South-West Nigeria and most of them have had the courses of their lives redirected and better positioned for positive outcomes, many also have become forces and voices to be reckoned with in their communities. All of these efforts have been made possible by generous support from international partners as well as the zeal and drive of staff and volunteers of Hacey .
Hacey has also been able to engage and mentor youths over the years by opening up volunteer opportunities within the organization to young people thereby giving many of them their first opportunities at active involvement in a worthy cause, as well as an opportunity at skills and leadership development.
Hacey does not intend to relent yet, rather as constantly new innovations and programmes targeted at youth populations are being crafted and designed as well as policy lobbying and advocacy to lawmakers and political office holders, all in the bid to ensure that young people not only in Nigeria and Africa but the world over take their rightful place in the evolvement of a greater, peaceful and more sustainable future.