Participation is a fundamental right. It is one of the guiding principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that has been reiterated in many other Conventions and Declarations. Through active participation, young people are empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as in that of their communities, helping them to learn vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and citizenship and to promote positive civic action. To participate effectively, young people must be given the proper tools, such as information, education about and access to their civil rights.
Article 11 of the African Youth Charter provides for Youth Participation. This important provision in this regional statute highlights that state parties must promote active youth participation in society by, “facilitating the creation or strengthening of platforms for youth participation in decision-making at local, national, regional, and continental levels of governance and ensure equal access to young men and young women to participate in decision-making and in fulfilling civic duties”. Section 20 of the Zimbabwe constitution compels the State and all institutions and other agencies of government to ensure that youths have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and spheres of life.
In pursuit of this important constitutional provision and other regional and international conventions that provide for youth participation, Heal Zimbabwe partner, Community Youth Development Trust (CYDT) created several platforms for youths between January and August 2020. For a long time, youth representation and participation has been a challenge in Matabeleland South rural communities. Young people have constantly been left out in critical decision making platforms as a result of traditional practices that have derailed active participation of youths.
However, following a project implemented by CYDT with support from Heal Zimbabwe, youths have become vocal and influential in demanding accountability from their duty bearers, and hence this has mitigated some patriarchal norms that were a hindrance to youth participation. CYDT continuously initiated a series of dialogues that sought to promote and uplift youth representation and participation in socio-political spaces.
The dialogue meetings gave the youths an opportunity to interact with duty bearers and fellow community members on issues affecting them. These dialogues created a platform for youths to deliberate on the challenges they face in regards to social services, so as to improve their local communities. One particular issue discussed was on the need for youth inclusion in Village Development Committees (VIDCOs) and Ward development committees (WADCOs). These structures are responsible for identifying developmental needs at grassroots and sharing them with other Local government structures such as District Development Committees (DDCOs) and Provincial Development Committees (PDCOs).
As a result of this intervention, youths from ward 1 were thus selected from each village to be included in the VIDCOs and WADCOs. Their role in these structures will be to shape and identify youth sensitive development projects and also inform grassroots policy formulation processes. Duty bearers who attended the dialogue meetings hailed CYDT for such an intervention as it acknowledges that the youths are the backbone of the communities because of their fresh and innovative ideas that would improve community development. Involving youths in decision making is an imperative step towards fostering a democratic space where youths can freely express their views and concerns. The intervention by CYDT is one among many interventions by Heal Zimbabwe to strengthen capacity of citizens to uphold participation, inclusion, transparency, accountability and responsiveness principles and mechanisms. Such interventions help build peaceful and socially cohesive communities.
Source: Heal Zimbabwe Trust