[BLOG] Special Youth Series: Young People: Zimbabwe’s Untapped Resource
By Collins Shava
Young people are the largest demographic group in Zimbabwe and are some of the most affected globally by a host of development issues. Yet, young people remain unrecognized as the vanguard for the future. In Zimbabwe, people between ages 15 -34 comprise 56 per cent of the economically-active population. Despite this number their collective voice remains unheard, meaning they rarely can contribute to, or influence, developmental policy and its practice.
But young people have the right to be heard; not just because it is right, but because it is strategically beneficial to tap into this invaluable resource. Public engagement on development issues is still low; so low that issues that might otherwise have been resolved by now linger.
According to the Zimbabwe 2012 population census, my country has an astonishingly young population: of the total population of 13,061,239, metrics indicate 77 per cent of this group consist of people below 35 years of age. Youth ages 15-34 constitute 36 per cent of the national population and 56 per cent of the economically active population. Yet, they remain neglected.
Unemployment is one of the major challenges confronting the young people in Zimbabwe today. Current data shows young people are the hardest hit by unemployment. The 2012 Population Census data indicates youth comprise 84 per cent of the nation’s unemployed population, hitting people between ages 15-24 years the hardest at 55 per cent unemployment rate.
There is a gendered dimension to youth unemployment. There are higher levels of unemployment among female youths despite there being more females than males in the population—particularly in rural landscapes. Unemployment breeds a host of the problems amongst youth populations borne of desperation—e.g. professional and personal exploitation, abuse, increased abuse of drugs, and high rates of HIV infection; as well as unplanned and teen pregnancies.
Finding a solution
The government of Zimbabwe has developed numerous policies to address the economic empowerment needs of Zimbabwean youth. The focus of these policies revolves around skills development and employment creation, as well as creating sustainable economic growth in the country. These policies have spawned several initiatives—including the drafting of the National Skills Development Policy (still in progress), a review of the National Youth Policy, a review of the Vocational Training programme to create a focus on Training for Enterprise, and the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment program.
Unfortunately, there still hasn’t been much success in disseminating this information. Very few young people are aware of the existence of these policies, and from the pool of those who do, not many actively understand these policies. This makes it difficult for youth to make reasonable impact in the developmental issues of the country. Frameworks must be made that comprehensively allow for youth to be informed, alert, and educated on how to engage with these policies, or challenge them if their applicability is redundant to their needs.
Self-determination is a right enshrined in the Zimbabwean Bill of Rights alongside the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. There’s need for closer attention to the vital links between democracy, development, and satisfaction of basic needs – and with special attention granted to the most disadvantaged sectors of the community—such as women, children, youth, and disabled people—who are most vulnerable to poverty, unemployment, HIV and AIDS, food insecurity, and a lack basic amenities such as water and sanitation.
Young people have never been more prominent in the international development discourse. Government and development agencies are beginning to recognize the significance of this demographic force and the unique skills, knowledge, and energy that young people bring to development initiatives, but as is common in the development space, implementation is slow.
Emerging nations have an obligation to their youth engagement to create meaningful engagement on the global and domestic stage. The large population of young people represents both a challenge and an opportunity for development, and its duration is a limited window in which to develop a larger and younger workforce who can drive economic development and play a significant role in the social development of their communities and society.
About the author
Collins Kudakwashe Shava | Gweru, Zimbabwe
Shava was educated in Kwekwe, where he started his journey to advance youth voices as a Child Parliamentarian from 2010-2011. He worked with the Young People’s Network around the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and youth engagement with sexual and reproductive health frameworks. He is an active member in the Lutheran church, and has worked with the Southern Region Communion for Lutherans (LUCSA) to advance youth voices that seek to address problems within the community. He is currently interning in the Economic Justice office of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, having studied Natural Resources Management and Agronomy at Midlands State University.
As Every Woman Every Child seeks to create global youth engagement in all international development spaces, young writers are invited to apply for a grant with Wellbeing for Women Africa to discuss key issues affecting women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and wellbeing. Pitch to WBW to influence the global conversation with a tap-tap-click of the keyboard! Engage with trending issues of Africaʼs youth and read the insights of WBW Youth Partners. Content resulting from this partnership is being published as part of a Special Blog Series leading up to International Youth Day 2017 and beyond.