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Earlier today, just ahead of International Youth Day tomorrow, The Guardian hosted a live q&a called How can young people wield more power in Development? Here at Restless we spotted many familiar names taking part in the discussion who have worked with us before , including Ani Hao (Case for Space Global Researcher), Marion Osieyo (action/2015 Youth Panelist) and Minhaz Abedin (UNGA UK Youth Delegate). However, it was Lombe Tembo from Zambia who was representing Restless Development as an Accountability Advocate. You can read her answers to the key questions below. Part of our ‘1 in 1.8 billion’ series to celebrate #YouthDay.

How does the panel think development leaders can better leverage young people’s skills and passion to have more impact on development work?

I believe that development leaders can better leverage young people’s skills and passion to have more impact by ensuring that they are being consulted and included in what is happening around them, from grassroots level in their communities, right up to national and international level. In Zambia for instance, the UN has come up with the UN Youth SWAP that allows young people from all of the country’s provinces to be meaningfully included in the development of their country. As an Accountability Advocate, I am a part of this program.

In trying to achieve SDGs, how can governments ensure inclusive participation of youths?

Governments can ensure inclusive participation of young people by ensuring that they are involved in what is going on. That they have access to information/data that can allow them to make informed decisions and have open dialogue with decision makers. For instance in Zambia today, the country has taken to the polls for Presidential and Parliamentary elections, as well as a referendum that talks about enhancing the Bill of Rights. The amount of information available to the general public comes down to ensuring that people are not clueless as they vote, and that they are understand why it is being done. In the same way, for the SDGs to include young people’s participation, they should be explained in a way that young people understand and can relate to.

How young women can be included in the peace processes effectively and at decision making levels?

In Zambia for instance, this has been an interesting time to observe how far women have come in terms of being effectively included in peace processes and at decision making levels. This is an issue of context because it is worse in some countries than others. In Zambia, there has been a slight increase in the number of young women who are vying for political positions but there is still a lot of work to be done. Young women are still lacking the knowledge and confidence to step up, particularly because of the hate speech and violence that have been connected to the build up to today’s elections.

Young people are not sometimes taken seriously by traditional activists. Have you come across this?

Young people are generally kept out of important matters by some traditional activists, believing that they have no place speaking out on issues that can/should be handles by adults. This diminishes the perceived power of young people, making them believe that they do not deserve to speak out. But more and more, I see young people defying the odds and leaving their mark by stepping out of their comfort zones

How then do you suggest we can best bridge the gap between older and younger activists, particularly when we are advocating on the same issues?

Finding a middle ground for dialogue is something that will help. This is something that worked pretty well at the Beyond2015 CSO Conference in Copenhagen. Not only were the young activists participating meaningfully in the discussions, they also had the opportunity to have a segment in which their ideas were presented to the rest of the activists in attendance. In this way, younger and older activists can then work together towards the same goal, having looked at things from a different perspective and worked out all the kinks collectively.

Find out more about Youth Power and how Accountability Advocates like Lombe are using data to hold leaders to account.

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