Young people made Zambia’s history, built the present and now they’re writing the future

Building a country, 1964 – 2019

While peak youth represents a new era of opportunity, young energy is not a new phenomenon. The impact of young people on Zambia’s development is evident throughout history from the cadre of young people that worked in deep mining tunnels to drive Zambia’s post-colonial economy forward to the young men and women who sweated in the fields that fed the nation. From the strong young mothers and young wives that stayed home and prepared food and nurtured the children of their young husbands, who worked on the railway lines to make it possible for Zambia to import and export goods, to young nurses and doctors who healed the young wounded men and women who fought the war for independence. Whether it’s in sports, where the under 23 soccer team, also called the “fallen Heroes,” revolutionised Zambian soccer, or in politics, where the young Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of the Republic of Zambia and numerous young men and women overcame social economic and political challenges to mobilise communities, towards social liberty and justice, opportunities and economic independence, young people  have made the country proud and massively contributed to the country’s development. 

Youth powered development, 2019

In 2019, youth power continues to drive development in Zambia. Restless Development has been working with government departments and other civil society organisations in Zambia since 2003 setting up ambitious programmes to support young people to demand and deliver a just and sustainable world so that they can lead in identifying and solving the challenges that affect them. Whether that means supporting communities to end child marriage or prevent HIV, they have worked with young people to change their own, and their communities’, lives. 

Young people like;

Joseph Chapusa, Janet Xhosa, Emmanuel Kapasa, Robby Malama, Rita Malwita, Agness Nanyangwe and Joana Zulu demonstrated leadership when they implemented the “Tikambe project.”  They trained their communities in community participatory social accountability systems and tools allowing them to audit social service provision, challenging the mandates of their services providers and generating evidence for policy  papers which they used for advocacy. On 30th November 2018, they supported young people from Northern, Central, Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces to call for a national dialogue meeting in Lusaka to present issues, recommend solutions and demand commitments from decision makers.

Targeting key decision makers and gate keepers from the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development, Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs and Ministry of Gender, the meeting created an opportunity for young people to participate and engage in constructive and critical discussions with decision makers and Sexual reproductive health (SRH) service providers on the  sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and related issues affecting young people at National Level.

While Theresa, a 25 year old single mother of Katondo community in Kabwe is also pushing boundaries, shaping her present and creating her own tomorrow. Theresa, who has mobilised and set up a savings group with 21 active  members is working to improve her life by investing to grow her business. She managed to get a loan from her group and worked to boost her small business.

“I borrowed 400 Kwacha [roughly £25] from the savings group and started ordering washing soap, tomatoes, beans and charcoal.”

“Now [since the loan] I am selling at least three to four different commodities and the number of customers has increased. In a day I can get up to 15 to 20 customers.”

“When we do not have electricity or food in the house I use part of the money I make from my business to buy them.”

Theresa’s business started small, first selling caterpillars,a local delicacy, and eventually fritters, a sweet pastry similar to a doughnut. 

“At first there were few [customers] because I only sold caterpillars and fritters. I would buy a 10kg bag of flour, and I would get maybe a [monthly] profit of 20 Kwacha [roughly £1.30].”

Theresa’s business eventually grew and monthly income increased. She started making a profit of 200 Kwacha [roughly £12.30] per month, which she used to build a small shop outside her home.

Theresa’s does not want her daughter ‘Shekinah’ to experience the same challenges she faced growing up, during her childhood theresa recalls how difficult it was growing up without a father. She had to drop out of school from time to time due to lack of tuition fees.

“Due to the stoppages in my education I did not do well in some subjects so I could not go to college.”

Using her profit Theresa has been able to return to school and has already retaken four subjects.

“I have gone back to school because if I get an education, I might get a job and even start a business which is bigger than this one. I could secure a future for myself and also help others.”

She wants to continue using the profits earned from her business to support her family and eventually pay for Shekinah to attend school when she is old enough. 

Theresa’s story was also inspired by a Restless Development Financial literacy project implemented in Katondo Community called Tusunge Lubono [Let’s grow our wealth].

Young people are the future. 

Today, in a world with 1.8 billion people aged 10-25,we have a great opportunity; a demographic dividend. The Demographic Dividend is the potential economic gain that can occur when a country’s educated, skilled and healthy working age population is larger than the dependent (i.e. children and the elderly). There are more young people in Zambia today than ever before, 4.8 million young people aged 15-35 [36.7% of Zambia’s population] this provides the country a huge opportunity if they can redirect this great energy. With targeted investments, Zambia’s youth have the potential to be innovators, creators, builders and leaders of sustainable development. 

As Zambia advances with the domestication of the far-reaching and complex Sustainable Development Goals, critical attention is required to address the multi-dimensional development challenges young people, including adolescent girls encounter that limit their access to quality health, education and decent employment opportunities, amongst others. By so doing, Zambia would be securing and utilising the time limited window of opportunity in harnessing a “demographic dividend.” (UNFPA)

Caleb Masusu

Caleb Masusu

Caleb J. Masusu is a 23 year old from Mufurira, Zambia. He is a studying for a Bachelors in Development studies with Economics at Mulungushi University.He is also a Youth activist, Development thinker, writer and Programme Assistant at Restless Development Zambia. He is passionate and active around issues of social inclusion in economic development and a human rights activist.

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Young people made Zambia’s history, built the present and now they’re writing the future

by Caleb Masusu Reading time: 4 min