By Cinderella Anena
Whereas the United Nations defines the youth as “a section of the population between the ages of 15-24 years, the National Youth Policy defines the youth as persons between the age of 12-30 years and it is a period of great emotional, physical and psychological changes.
According to the State of the World’s Population Report (2012), Uganda has the World’s youngest population, where 78% of the population is below 30 years, while 52% are below 15 years and 39.3% are between 19-59%, the ageing population (60 years and above) are only at about 4.6%.
Uganda continues further to experience a high growth in the population of young people from 51.4% (1969) below 18 years to 53.8% (1991) and 56.1%(2012). With such an analysis, such a situation brings with it overwhelming needs and problems of young people that affect their wellbeing.
Notwithstanding their participation, the unequal gender relations, social and cultural barriers, low civic awareness and lack of political will and confidence have shadowed youth engagement in society today, especially in political structures and decision making. Many unemployed youth constitute, in the eyes of many, a threat to stability.
For example, youth in slum areas getting involves in substance abuse and crime. Inadequate funding shadow influence in political structures to respond to the needs of youth on the ground, this is worsened by unequal regional distribution of resources and power leaving behind the disadvantaged impoverished, illiterate and politically marginalised.
Whereas there is an enabling environment for youth participation through the extensive system in political structures and the elaborate policy framework on youth participation and youth issues, actual participation remain low.
The existing youth structures exist for formalities and do almost nothing and the youth are not fully involved in policy making or implementation. The National Youth Council presents with it a protected statutory status which challenges the youth in opposition to push for youth issues.
Much as there has been an institutionalisation of youth participation like in civil society, there is need for a youth focused participation whose realm of realm of attention in the political agenda is set to unlock the opportunities for influence on decision making, power and authority.
To bridge the gap, there is need to target youth organisations and build their capacities in areas such as project planning and management skills, democratic governance and decision making.
Women’s participation can be revamped through addressing the negative socio cultural barriers such as the traditional authoritative, patriarchal and hierarchical values that hinder women in getting a voice in decision making.
Youth focused and friendly approach in service interventions should be up scaled from planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation to address symbolic youth participation.
To be there yet, youth empowerment maybe necessary for meaningful participation and competence.
The writer is a youth activist
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