Restless Development was in Johannesburg last week, leading a Regional Consultation on Youth-Led Accountability powered by The United Nations Popular Fund and She Decides with 23 young leaders from East and Southern Africa who are experts in sexual reproductive health and rights campaigning and advocacy. Valarie Musavi was at the workshop.
The theme of the the 28th African Union Summit was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth”. We are seeing a focus on the “Africa Rising” and “Agenda 2063” narrative to seize the moment and value the ever-growing population of the youth now estimated at over 70% Africa’s population.
It is notable that young women are still under-represented in civic spaces, including politics, the economy, social affairs, and science and technology. For example, young women in different platforms have expressed that they lack dedicated spaces to discuss concerns specific to them. They continue to be limited by social and cultural norms, face discrimination and lack access to support systems. Young women are derailed from realizing their potential by challenges such as early and forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and other harmful practices, as well as unwanted pregnancies and limited access to education and to health care.
Restless Development in conjuction with UNFPA and ESARO convened a Youth Accountability 2.0 workshop in Johanesburg last week to deliberate on the urgency of having African youths’ agenda at the core of development discourse. The event also engaged young people as actors of development therefore promoting partnerships amongst them in order to lobby those in power. This networking enables them to amplify their aspirations and supports each others input to influence policies that will secure their interest at social, economic and political spaces.
It was an exclusive space for African youths to come together and highlight their priorities and interest of an Africa they desire. This platform aimed to empower young leaders from East and Southern Africa to categorically state what they really want in the quest of ensuring that efforts in implementing policies and development agendas take into account the interest of our peers. The reality is that young people are the future.
As a young leader participating in this consultation I felt that it was an opportunity to delve deeper in my role as an agent of change, responsible for implementing my desires for my constituency. As young people we must recognise that accountability starts with us just as we expect those currently in decision making positions to be transparent and responsible. Next year, the UNFPA celebrates its 50 anniversary and the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) commemorates it 25 years. These milestones highlight the significance of youth inclusivity because this cohort will lead and sustain such organizations in the future.