Chengetai Nyagweta is the Assistant Marketing & Communications Coordinator in our Zimbabwe Hub. In this blog, Chenge reflects on her experience at the recent Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable Development – and how it proved young people are already doing so much to achieve the Global Goals, but are still at risk of being sidelined. 

Unemployment among young people in Africa currently stands at 16.8% and it is projected to reach a staggering 1.1 billion by 2030.

With numbers like these it is clear that young people need to be involved in achieving the Global Goals, which look to end extreme poverty and inequality.

However many youth organisations are facing several challenges in achieving this, which are not being adequately addressed by the different countries.

The challenges are wide-ranging, such as lack of funding to take part in Global Goals activities; lack of access to data; limited involvement in political spaces and meaningful participation at national dialogues are to name just a few.

Finding the spaces to make sure young people are heard

On the 16th of May I traveled to Ethiopia for the 3rd annual African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development (AFRSD) – an event where stakeholders from across Africa review their  progress on the Global Goals, share their success stories, experiences and learnings to make sure we achieve the Goals by 2030. It was a chance to make sure young people are involved in important conversations to make the Global Goals a reality.

The first day of the event started with a workshop for Civil Society Organisations and other groups. It was great to see young people represented by youth organisations from different countries, who were able to give insight on the work they were doing to achieve the SDGs, such as Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES) – a youth organisation in Ghana working towards building a sustainable future for young people through its SDG Youth Action Campaign.

Doing so much but still sidelined

Through my time at the Forum, it was clear that young people are already helping realise the promises of the Global Goals, such as delivering the Goals locally in communities.

Young people have come up with programmes that are taking the Goals to people in rural and in urban areas ensuring that it is a truly inclusive process.

For example, young Restless Development volunteers have been educating and introducing communities on the SDGs through awareness campaigns and training sessions. By sharing knowledge with communities about different Goals, young people have been able to take part in district and national events and  have been provided with platforms to interact with key decision makers. In Bulilima, volunteers gave a short presentation on the issues affecting young people to representatives from the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, National AIDS Council and other Civil Society Organisations.

At a national level, our Youth Power Champions took part in the Parliamentary Child Marriage Hearings held in Harare and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. In this case, young people’s voices contributed directly to policy on child marriage.

Key issues which were brought up during the forum such as the lack of data on the key target areas is being addressed by young people using data-driven accountability.

The Asikhulume programme has trained 246 Youth Champions who are working in Bulawayo educating young people on their civic and social rights. Conversations are now taking place between communities, public authorities, young people and civil society organisations on social policies and laws that affect access to services.

Despite all our work, further action is still needed to convince decision makers at all levels of government on the leading role young people can and should play in the implementation of the Global Goals.

Having myself and other young people participating in the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development was a step in the right direction, giving us an an opportunity to share information on the work we are already doing.

But governments still have significant work to do in creating platforms that ensure young people are meaningfully engaged and able to lead the Global Goals. This includes transforming the upcoming UN High Level Political Forum into an inclusive, participatory and youth-led space which reflects the needs and voices of the 1.8 billion young people globally – which is exactly what we’re trying to achieve this year. Because if young people are left out of the processes, conversations and subsequent decisions on how to deliver the Global Goals – the most ambitious set of targets we have ever set ourselves – our aim to end poverty, inequality and climate change will never be achieved.

Find out more about why we’re attending this year’s High Level Political Forum.

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