Celebrating International Youth Day in Uganda

With a youth group of about 60, we joined the rest of the world to commemorate the International Youth Day (IYD) under our national theme “We Are The Investment Choices We Make: Youth Matter” in Kampala, Uganda. 

According to statistics, youth constitute 60% of the world’s 7.3 billion people. In Uganda alone, the young make up over 80% of the population. Despite interventions, youth unemployment, at 62%,still remains a big challenge in Uganda. Reports in Uganda further show that over 85% of youth, who are not in school, are jobless.

We cycled and marched from Makerere University Freedom Square, around the town of Wandegeya and Sir Apollo Road, raising awareness to the public for world leaders to end poverty, eliminate inequality, stop climate change and provide quality education to all children.

With the youth power we have, our voices were loud and clear, with the accompaniment of the band, skaters and Ugandan police. Signing the #‎UpForSchoolâ¬â¬â¬ Petition and taking group photos closed the event. Many thanks to Voice Africa’s Future and African Monitor, along with my fellow my fellow youth change makers Henry Otafiire and Francis Maberi who worked tirelessly for the event to be successful.

Reflecting on the international theme “Youth Civic Engagement”, promoting youth engagement in politics and public life to empower youth to their full potential, clearly shows that the United Nations is not just stressing civic engagement but rather YOUTH civic engagement.

What is this about civic engagement? How or will youth engagement help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals? Civic engagement is imperative for the development of a nation since the public is actively participating towards the development of the community and improving its conditions.

Youth civic engagement seeks to engage young people in all aspects of development – democracy, policy and decision-making. Through these initiatives they can develop their communities and be able to make valuable contributions to social change across the nation.

As youth continue to demand their rights, the most important goal is achieving sustainable human development for them, especially in regards to the economy. This will help reduce the crime rate in the country that is instigated by unemployment.

If youth participation is considered at early stages, there are higher chances of civic participation later in life which is also crucial since there is currently poor engagement by the older population.

Civic engagement also provides young people with opportunities to gain work experience, acquire new skills, and learn responsibility and accountability while contributing to the good of their communities. Answering the question on everyone’s mind, in my opinion, successful youth engagement strategies require genuine opportunities to work with each other and with policy makers to impact issues of importance.

These initiatives need to respect the values of young people in public problem solving and provide them with the information, tools and support to work effectively together as partners. Youth need empowerment to bring full contribution to their communities, they need education. If world leaders want to increase youth civic engagement, they need to protect the rights of the young people.

Education is known to have a significant impact on youth civic engagement. Need for civic participation training sessions for youth empowerment and engagement in projects is important because institutionalising youth voice in the policymaking process helps policymakers make wiser investments.

Policy decisions are then responsive to youth needs; formal youth advisory councils ensure that their voices are heard and play a meaningful role. With these in place, youth will be ready for civic engagement and later play a big role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It is time to say Youth Now or Now with Action.

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