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Youth in Uganda: A major resource for change

By Vision Reporter

Added 15th April 2012 03:00 PM

To define the people of a country, a common starting point is to examine their characteristics, determine what groups exist, and what are the largest groups, and the characteristics that they share.

To define the people of a country, a common starting point is to examine their characteristics, determine what groups exist, and what are the largest groups, and the characteristics that they share.

By Munuulo Nasser

To define the people of a country, a common starting point is to examine their characteristics, determine what groups exist, and what are the largest groups, and the characteristics that they share.

Age is a particularly important characteristic in classifying populations, and when used as criteria to define the population of any African country, the most salient fact is that the largest groups are the young.

In all African countries, the median age of the population is 20 years or less, that is, half or more of the population are under 21 years of age, and up to one fifth between 15 and 24.

Uganda is a country of young people, whose demographic structure demands a sociopolitical transformation. It is a country of youth who aspire to forms of modernity, in terms of education, employment and family.

But for most of them, the reality is of marginalisation in rural settings in which males achieve true adulthood only after marriage and economic independence, and women, usually not at all.

The experience of African youth and Uganda in particular is one of instability and uncertainty, exacerbated by war, displacement, economic crisis and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

We are part of a sociopolitical category that emerged from the collapse of traditional societies under the impacts of colonialism and the post-colonial mobilization of young people for a range of power struggles in which they have often been the major victims.

Uganda's young people are often frustrated by their environment. This contributes in many cases to militancy, impatience and risk-taking.

Some governments, and their opponents alike, have exploited these tendencies to mobilise youth along militaristic and violent lines, for use in their own struggles.

Different forms of organised religion, often of fundamentalist orientation, are also seeking to mobilise and capture the allegiance of youth in form of persuading them for employment opportunities abroad.

Young people are also seeking their own alternatives. They present the vision of a social order struggling to emerge despite repression and economic hardship, and seeking to have a voice in societies whose basic structures is not conducive to listening to young voices.

Nevertheless, the reality is that today's youth no longer accept or respect those structures and increasingly demand a voice of their own, hence the establishment of Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs for youths who are numerous, energetic, and increasingly seeking alternatives.

This can be a solution for the governments who often become the targets of their frustration.

Everywhere, young people are a force for social and political change, but in a demographical country, such as today's Uganda, they represent immense potential, as both threat and opportunity. Both those demanding change and those seeking to defend the existing order, seek to mobilise young people to their side.

This makes the vital problems of youth, their role in governance, their struggle for a livelihood, and the overwhelming threat of HIV/AIDS, key issues for governance in Uganda. 

The Government of Uganda needs to find solutions for this youthful majority of their populations, that is rapidly growing larger, poorer, more discontented, and occasionally, more militant.

The youth agenda adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1995 recognised the critical importance of youth to development, and the need for young people to have the opportunity to participate fully in their societies.

It also called on UN member states to formulate national youth policies but operationalising the UN Youth Agenda requires that the youth voice should be increased through meaningful representation and participation in community and political decision making bodies.

The Governments and policy makers need to focus on the theme of youth and governance with three priority areas: political participation, livelihoods/employment, and HIV/AIDS; and the development and propagation of policies aimed at mainstreaming youth issues into all government ministries and programmes.

The writer is policy and communication officer, Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs

 

Youth in Uganda: A major resource for change

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