2015 ICASA YouthFront Blog

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Young People’s Engagement and Empowerment Critical for 2030 Agenda

The ambition of the SDGs is certainly inspiring. Among other things, the agenda pledges to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. How can we make sure that these far-reaching goals are actually achieved? One way is to ensure the active participation and engagement of young people.

It is a fact that we are 1.8 billion of young people; often poorly represented and marginalized from global decision-making processes. The lack of youth participation must not be mistaken for granted. As both a young person and youth advocate, I see great enthusiasm among my peers in their work, seeking sustainable solutions and creative strategies for development, but frustrated at the lack of youth consultation in decision-making. Young people often feel relegated to the periphery of decision-making rather than central to the process.

But when it comes to development, young people are strong catalysts for change. Despite this enthusiasm for development, in my experience, there is still a great lack of knowledge among young people about how to convert their dynamism and energy into action. Young people tend to be disenchanted with traditional politics because of ineffective governance and corruption, leading them to dismiss traditional routes of influence. However, my experiences as a Leader and Advocate have shown me that many politicians do take the voices of young people seriously — after all, we are the voters of the future. Still, decision-makers will continue to listen to the loudest voices, which is why we must explore all routes to encourage young people to speak up and take action.

So l have been thinking on how we can maximize youth participation in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

  1. Engage youth.

Information should be inclined at a frequency that speaks to youth, and this includes making language more accessible. If it is too wordy, jargon-heavy or dense, young people will be discouraged. Capitalizing on digital/ social media reach is also a great way to reach out to this tech-savvy generation and to mobilize them via the channels that they are familiar and comfortable with. Young people are almost twice as likely as older generations to turn to the Internet, particularly social networks, for information about development issues.

Young people’s affinity with digital technology paves the way for them to be key actors in holding leaders accountable on their promises. By digitally tracking data, young people can follow their governments’ spending and track progress on development targets, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, this is a really urgent issue — with the recent launch of the SDGs, but what use are they if we can’t measure progress because of a lack of data? Right now, the world’s governments do not have more than 70 percent of the data they need to track progress, but tapping into technology and launching a data revolution could change all this.

  1. Empower youth.

The next step is to support young people’s inclusion in decision-making by empowering them to draw on their creativity and potential. To benefit from quality youth input, we must work with young people as beneficiaries, partners and leaders, and see them as initiators of development themselves. This might require capacity building and professional training, but young people should not be excluded when things get technical. Of course, a sure fire way to discourage youth participation and diminish trust in leaders is to resort to tokenism. Youth contributions must be taken seriously and institutions need to create spaces for youth to assume participative and influential roles.

Through successful engagement and empowerment, young people will have the capacity and the confidence to contribute to decisions that will shape the world that they will inherit. Talk with us, listen to us, and give us space to contribute. Given that the future world will soon be our present, it seems only fair that we have an active role in determining the planet we will soon be responsible for.


Onward Chironda (24) is the Executive Director of My Age Zimbabwe Trust, a young leader who is passionate about youth empowerment and participation in developmental processes.  >>> Email: ochironda@gmail.com  |  Skype: onward.gibson  |  Twitter: @OnnyGibbs