“The youth are recognized not only as future leaders but also as actors and foundation of our society, with a direct stake in the development process of our great nation. ……” Aishat Ismail, (New Nigerian, 2001)
Youth are one of the greatest assets any nation can be proud of, Not only are they legitimately regarded as the future leaders, young women and men are potentially and actually the vital resources worth of investment by a country as well as the valued possession for national development. As critical stakeholders, they are the center of reconstruction and sustainable development of any nation.
The emerging global and regional consensus on youth development clearly underscores the need to ensure the inclusion of youth perspectives in the development process along with the effective participation of youth in national development practice, Over the years, there has been a gradual increase in global awareness about the vital role of young people in sustainable development, The United Nations in 1985 drew the attention of the world to the important role of young people by declaring that year, The International Youth Year for Development and Peace. (Giwa, 2008).
Somali youth are at present face huge task in trying to restore order back to their beloved country, this is not one with a simple duty but with many challenges and also countless rewards if successful, with over 75% of the population, Somalia has seen its youth participate in both positive aspects of the country and also negative, Youth have witnessed themselves being sidelined in decision-making forums while at the same time at the frontline in combat defending leaders who clearly have shown to have no regards for their wellbeing and future.
History tells us the Youth of Somalia have been the driving force in establishing the state from colonial rule; 13 young activists formed the celebrated Somali Youth League (SYL) in which they had protested, lobbied for the rights of the nation, All over the country SYL members are seen as iconic and were the drive for the nation as they had been pivotal to see Somalia with self-rule away from British and Italian ruling; It was a movement with a fast-paced united action and the youth had regularly met with one another and build a support system amongst the public with nationalistic mindset awareness, We must remember at that time patriotism was easily built, as they had not been any sort of federal or clan system rule not like today, The nation was young and so was its ambition.
In terms of spheres of participation in national development, the UN General Assembly (UNDESA, 2004) defined youth participation as comprising four components: economic participation, relating to work and development; political participation, relating to local, national, regional, and international decision-making processes; social participation, relating to involvement in community activities; and cultural participation, relating to the arts, cultural values and expression.
Youth participation envisaged by the PAN-African Youth Charter, African Union, 2006 (in World Family Organization, 2006), aims at creating an environment for young people to be able to actively participate in all spheres of society. It calls upon State Parties to the Charter to undertake several steps that ensure youth participation. These include:
- Creating a quota system to ensure youth participation in parliament and other decision-making processes;
- Creating youth focal points in government structures to ensure mainstreaming of youth issues;
- Giving priority to policies and programs including youth advocacy and peer-to-peer programs for marginalized youth, such as out-of-school and out-of-work youth, to offer them the opportunity and motivation to re-integrate into mainstream society;
- Providing access to information and education and training for young people to learn their rights and responsibilities, to be schooled in democratic processes, citizenship, decision-making, governance and leadership such that they develop the technical skills and confidence to participate in these processes; and
- Providing technical and financial support to build the institutional capacity of youth organizations.
The General Assembly, in paragraph 8 (a) of the World Program of Action for Youth, adopted by its resolution 50/81 of 14 December 1995, emphasized that “every State should provide its young people with opportunities for obtaining education, for acquiring skills and for participating fully in all aspects of society.” (World Youth Report, 2007)
The following are key benefits to youth participation in promoting national development:
- Participation Promotes Youth Resilience: Service providers within governments tend to view youth as a problem in need of solution, Emphasis is therefore placed on problem intervention rather than young people potential.
- Youth Participation Leads to Better Decisions and Outcomes. Many of the profound difficulties faced by young people around the globe—illiteracy, poverty, substance abuse, discrimination and forced engagement in armed conflict— are subjects of widespread concern at the national and international levels.
- Participation Allows Unique Youth Perspectives in Policy and Decision- Making: Although youth tend to want immediate results from decisions and actions, usually they focus on their futures and typically think in the long-term when analyzing policy decisions. This long-term view can help counterbalance the short-term thinking which dominates governmental decision-making that is predominantly adult-led; Because they are typically excluded from positions of power or influence, young people’s perspectives are usually those of the outsider.
- Participation Strengthens Young People’s Personal Development: Checkoway, (1992) argued that “Youth participation can improve academic achievement by increasing young people’s substantive knowledge and practical skills as a result of solving real problems, It also strengthens their sense of social responsibility and long-term civic values.
- Youth Participation Contributes to Development: Participation involves youth in activities that bring people together (Rajani, 2001). It teaches them to prioritize and make decisions, and enables them to plan programs that can contribute to building the capacity of organizations, Youth participation contributes to community development.
BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE YOUTH PARTICIPATION
Despite young people’s current demographic significance, their full and meaningful participation in issues that affect their lives and national development is hindered by a myriad of challenges and constraints. The following section explores few of the challenges faced
- Lack of Access to Qualitative Education and Training: Providing qualitative education to Somali youth has been somewhat uneven, and many obstacles remain. During the latter part of the 1970s and into the 1980s, around the time the present generation of youth were set to begin their basic education, government difficulties in meeting the growing educational needs of the population became overwhelming.
- Youth Unemployment and Underemployment: Without adequate education, limited vacancies in the job market youth face a difficult transition to adulthood and independence, as they are likely to experience unemployment, poverty and social exclusion.
- Youth Poverty: Many of today’s youth in Somalia have suffered the consequences of severe poverty from birth, in this sense, they differ from their parents, who grew up at a time when many African countries were emerging from colonial administration, with its promise of a brighter, independent future.
- Youth’s Interests Often Disregarded in Public policy: Young people’s interests are frequently overlooked in the public policy sphere in favor of those of more powerful interest groups, It is not necessarily the case that the welfare of youth is deliberately disregarded, but because their voices are not heard and the impact of public policy on their lives is discussed in decision-making forums, their concerns never reach the top of the political agenda.
- Discrimination against Young Women: Girls and young women face systematic discrimination within entrenched power relations that perpetuate an almost universal subordination of females. Gender norms and bias ingrained in educational and economic policies and structures limit the social, economic and political contributions of girls and young women.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The value of youth participation in nation building needs to be fully recognized at all levels ranging from the local community to the national arena. However, recognition is not the same as action, and progress in the area of practical implementation has been slow. Many Initiatives may be limited to seeking the views of young people on particular issues; their involvement in decision-making is rarely sought, Young people therefore remain marginal to most democratic processes and I recommend the following areas.
- Access to Qualitative Educational Opportunities; reducing youth illiteracy and improving the coverage and quality of education and training are potentially powerful instruments for reducing levels of income distribution inequality. Schooling and training increase one’s productivity and as such increase young people’s chances of obtaining higher wages and increasing the social contributions they make.
- Developing and/or strengthening opportunities for young people to learn their rights and responsibilities, promoting their social, political developmental and environmental participation, removing obstacles that affect their full contribution to society and respecting inter alia freedom of association;
- Encouraging and promoting youth associations through financial, educational and technical support and promotion of their activities;
- Taking into account the contribution of youth in designing, implementing and evaluating policies and plans at all level of governance;
- Improving access to information in order to enable young people to make better use of their opportunities to participate in decision-making.
“We live in an age when to be young and to be indifferent can be no longer synonymous. We must prepare for the coming hour. The claims of the Future are represented by suffering millions; and the Youth of a Nation are the trustees of Posterity.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli
By: Samsam Said Mohamed