By Martin Chiwanda:
For any years, youths in Nsanje District have been watching, from a distance, elderly people mobilising themselves into caucuses in the name of area or village development committees.
The committees are popular and important structures as they are vehicles for transporting development projects from any corner of the world to the locals.
But, as years went by, the youth came to their senses. They realised that letting the elders only to be meeting with non-governmental organisations on matters that determine the district’s future was cowardice.
They started lobbying for their inclusion in different committees but failed to break through.
Apparently, there was resistance from some quarters due to lack of guidelines to direct stakeholders and those in decision-making positions on how the youth would be taken on board.
Some claimed that the youth were idle and unproductive.
They argued that embracing such youth would be a recipe for inactive structures which could paralyse governance processes.
However, the youth deny such accusations saying they have not been given a platform to prove their worth.
Nyamikuta Youth Club Chairperson, Yowasi Kampira, says, in his area of Traditional Authority Mbenje, issues that concern the youth are not included due to lack of youth representation in the committees.
“Those in authority are taking us for granted. They don’t include us in development activities being implemented in our areas. We need our share in governance structures. As youth, we can do more if given the necessary support, even more than the elders,” Kampira says.
One of the area development committee (ADC) chairpersons, Redick Semba, acknowledges the gaps, saying, in most areas, the youth are not included in local governance structures.
He says young people can play a crucial role in bringing positive change in any community.
“We have now realised the importance of encouraging the youth to participate in activities so that they don’t feel neglected. Therefore, as authorities, we need to engage the youth so that, whenever they have issues, they should be able to take them to village or area development committees through their representatives,” Semba says.
To this effect, Foundation for Civic Education and Social Empowerment (Focese), with funding from Dan Church Aid, is implementing a Youths for Inclusion, Participation and Empowerment in Local Governance (Yipe) Project.
The project facilitated the formation of district guidelines for youth inclusion in governance structures.
Senior Chief Malemia welcomes the guidelines and says they are crucial to achieving the district’s desired meaningful development.
“We need to adopt the guidelines and make sure that we use them. We all need the youth to be part of the changing process and try to develop our areas together. We, as traditional leaders, are going to ensure that young people have positions in governance structures,” Malemia says.
The guidelines, among other things, require every committee to have at least two youth representatives comprising both a woman and a man below the age of 35.
Following the adoption of the guidelines, Nsanje has young faces in different committees. Some have been given opportunity to lead while others deputise.
Rose Twoboy and Mabvuto Thomas from Ndamela and Nyachikadza areas, respectively, are some of the youth who have been incorporated in the governance structures.
“This is a breakthrough in as far as youth inclusion is concerned in the district. We were being ignored as if we cannot contribute to the district’s development agenda. We are now in and change is now here,” Twoboy, who has just attained the position of VDC chairperson, says.
Focese Executive Director, Christie Banda, applauds Nsanje District Council for adopting the youth guidelines.
She says the youth are fundamental to the country’s achievement of Agenda 2030 and that, without them, the Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved.
“Youth in the district and the country, as a whole, have been sidelined by duty- bearers in top positions, governance structures and even in decision-making. Most of the people feel that the youth cannot bring positive change if they are involved in such levels.
“This is the reason we came up with strategies to ensure positive youth participation at any level, through this project,” she says.
She urges the youths in the district to show their capabilities and active participation in all development activities.
“The guidelines have been approved and adopted by the full council. However, it is not automatic for the youth to be included in the committees for the sake of meeting the guidelines. What we want to see is active youth participation in everything,” she says.
Nsanje District Youth Officer, Richard Juwawo, describes the adoption of guidelines as a milestone in the youth in the district.
“The guidelines have made the youth to be included in governance structures and be active in the formation and implementation of the district’s development agenda,” he says. —Mana