Statement on COVID 19 and the youth

Community Youth Development Trust notes with grave concern, the deteriorating social and economic state of young people across the province, a situation that has been worsened by the insurgence of COVID 19. Majority of the youths are unemployed and survive through informal trading and artisanal mining which has been negatively affected by the lock down. This means that their revenue base and livelihood remains severely affected. The demolition of the informal markets across the province, which provided majority of the youths with a platform to earn a living in this ailing economy; diminished hopes for these youths to lead a normal life again. As a result, scores of youths have lost all their investments and they have used their trivial savings. As such they have been rendered the most vulnerable group in the society. Those in mining continue to be exposed to manipulation and extortion by those mandated to protect them by the law of the country. Therefore, the government should exercise agency in attending to the socio economic needs.

Youth in Matabeleland South province lament lack of representation in foras that seek to evaluate the short and the long term impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic. This comes as a realization that efforts to mitigate effects of the pandemic requires an unprecedented level of collaboration for it to be comprehensive and ignite inclusivity. However, limited efforts to engage and include youths in such spaces have perpetuated lack of urgency by the government to draw stringent measures that reduce susceptibility of young women to Gender Based Violence and other forms of physical abuses as a result of increased duty care during this period.

Consulted young people are of the opinion that cooperating in the fight against COVID 19, requires adequate caution and prudence so that young women and girls, are not exposed to preventive dangers related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Containment and physical distancing measures, further limit their capacity to exercise their rights, leading to discrimination and exclusion from decision making processes. While online and digital spaces exist, inequalities in access to internet and data remains a major challenge and limit youths’ participation and influence on policy issues during this period. While young people are already taking actions to stop the spread of the disease and mitigate the repercussions of the pandemic, it is critical to recognize the multiple and diverse impacts the COVID-19 pandemic already has on them and their human rights.

Call for action

  1. Government to create spaces for young people to actively participate in shaping responses and meaningfully engage on all aspects and phases of the response across the province.
  2. Government to activate GBV functions in rural communities where young women have reported increasing cases of abuse and violations due to increased duty care.
  3. Government to consider speeding up process of assisting affected youth led business initiatives, so as to rescue them from the challenging economic strains they are currently facing.
  4. Relevant government departments to consider scaling up food aid and have young people constituting the majority of beneficiaries; in a bid to limit criminal cases committed by youths trying to put food on the table.
  5. Young people call for a clear and well communicated strategy around salvaging those who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID 19.
  6. There is need for a clear strategy by the government to ensure right to safety and security particularly to the returning youths who are currently under isolation – Sanitary wear to be supplied to young women with no restrictions.
  7. Youths note with concern that current isolation measures increase the likelihood of violence towards young women particularly physical and sexual violence and may also hinder their ability to seek supportive services and psycho social support. As such youth call upon Government to ensure that such services are activated and well publicized even in isolation centres.
  8. Government to walk the talk of leaving no youth behind in times like these.

Source: Community Youth Development Trust (CYDT)

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