One of the hot topics today is youth. Everyday there is a story in the media on youth issues ranging from health, education, socio-economic and political.
Unlike before where a lot of focus and funds were channeled towards particular special interest groups including women, children and People With Disabilities, today, the paradigm is shifting and several organisations including Government are heavily investing in improving the livelihoods of youth.
Not even the transition issue from youth to older age can stop the young people from tapping from the existing opportunities because of the fact that youth constitute 62% of Uganda’s population, according to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
This therefore means that youth constitute a big number of the country’s decision makers and implementers. This makes it inevitable to engage and involve young adults in the country’s development processes.
Involving young people in the development processes is a move in the right direction because it prevents and reduces vulnerabilities to economic, political and socially unstable environment.
It is, therefore, upon young people to continue harnessing the available opportunities to improve on their livelihoods, thereby impacting positively on the overall growth of the country.
Some of the ways in which this can be done include but not limited to the following;
· Firstly, the youth have to be thirsty for information because information is knowledge. There is a lot of information disseminated through all available channels in regard to youth investments and jobs. Good news is, Uganda is progressing well in terms of Information Technology compliance because today, a lot of information is disseminated via the internet and moreover 19.5 million Ugandans own mobile phones, according to the 2014 Uganda Communications report. This is vital because many young adults own phones and find it easy to access information using their phones. For example, the budgeting process is in now in the final stages. Parliament is in the process of presenting Policy papers. But the question is, “how many young people have information about the budgeting process”. It is important for young people to be part and parcel of the budgeting process because that is the time they get their views captured right from local level to national level. At National level, youth can present their views to organizations which have access to Parliamentary Committees. But the issues handled at National level must be real issues which include budgetary appropriations to various sectors like Agriculture, Health, and Education among others. The youth can also participate in the budgeting process at district level. This means that they will channel their ideas through their district youth council. The other options are the District sectoral committees, Community Development Officers, Youth councilors and Committees at Sub County level. The youth have several avenues through which they can have their issues handled. It is however unfortunate to note that young people do not seek the right information. They instead abuse the available information channels especially the internet. Today, it is notable that rather than utilizing the internet meaningfully, a young person will spend more time on social media which promotes idleness and immorality.
· After gaining knowledge, one can then move on to crystallizing their agenda. The information has to demand clear solutions to issues affecting youth ranging from unemployment, health and education. Armed with the right and well packaged information, one will avoid manipulation.
· Following is strategic delivery of the information. Anyone can deliver information to the right person, but it takes skill and strategy for action to be taken. This therefore calls for formation of coalitions and groups whose main responsibility will be to create the right networks to deliver the information. But again, the young people have been a disappointment in this area. A lot of intelligent youth have resorted to forming clicks whose aim is to deliver information to government and other authorities through demonstrations and strikes. While you will send a message through a demonstration, the response you get will not solve your problem, instead, it will escalate the problem. The best way to find a solution to any problem is peaceful and meaningful engagement.
· And after all that comes in Monitoring and evaluation. Youth must develop interest and a habit to ensure that the programs and policies they are benefiting from are progressing as expected and this can be done through close monitoring. That’s when Youth focused and led organizations come into play. Such organizations have the capacity to carry out the technical Monitoring and Evaluation with the help of the beneficiaries. But the M&E should not only stop at report writing. This information gathered should demand actions and those actions must be seen. Most times, Youth have not fully benefited from government and other programs because they relax after policies and programs have been passed while the implementers are either misappropriating funds or not following the set guidelines and policies.
It is time for youth to shine, and they must shine well by putting into good use every chance given to them.
The writer is a policy and communications officer of the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs