Every year on 12 August, the world commemorates International Youth Day. This day is commemorated to celebrate young people’s views and initiatives on a global scale and to raise awareness of the challenges that youth are facing. The commemoration of this day is an opportunity to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ voices, actions, and initiatives as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement. It supports the inclusion of youth to generate an unstoppable movement that pushes for the required transformations in education, the environment, conflict resolution, and social justice just to name a few.
The theme for the International Youth Day 2021 is, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health.” The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the public health, the environment, and food systems crises which were already an issue of concern in Zimbabwe before the emergence of the pandemic. Partisan distribution of food aid has and continues to be an issue of concern in Zimbabwe particularly amidst concerns of food insecurity. Further, as the country gears up for the election season, the National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) notes that young people have often been lured to perpetrate violence under promises to meet their basic needs by providing them with food, among other things. In this season, this trend is likely to be worsened by the measures taken to combat the pandemic that have developed into an economic crisis that has affected people’s livelihood, particularly young people who are largely unemployed on account of the existing jobs shortage.
The NTJWG recognises that food insecurity may also result in socio-political disturbances in which young people often play a leading role. It is therefore incumbent on the GoZ to mitigate the risk of conflict by stabilising incomes and access to food as well as promoting food production assistance for the most acute food-insecure members of the society. In exploring options that can be used to address the existing challenges, there is need to effectively engage the young people as a key to ensuring that they are actively engaged in the prevention of conflicts that may arise from food insecurity. Such engagement is necessary to ensuring non-recurrence of violence and conflict in Zimbabwe as the nation grapples with its efforts to facilitate national peace and reconciliation.
The NTJWG therefore calls upon the Government of Zimbabwe to;
- Ensure that child headed, and youth-led families are prioritised in a non-partisan distribution of food aid;
- Support programs aimed at making up for the loss of income experienced as a result of the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that young people have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food; and
- Facilitate meaningful engagement with young people and encourage them to play a leading role in the identification of innovative solutions to national problems to minimise conflict and ensure sustainable peace.
Source: National Transitional Justice Working Group