By David Takawira
Y'en a Marre youth movement in Senegal. Image via SeneNews.
We are the Game Changers
For beyond the observation that ‘young generations are individualistic and tend not to ask for bigger decision’, understanding youth would not be complete without interrogating the topography within which they engage and operate. While disagreeing with the observation, a working definition of youth and its generational connotation to society remains elusive, contextual and yet ‘youth’ as an ‘agent’ remain an unsung generation. And yet the case of Malala Yousafzai, Mohamed Bouazizi, Steve Espinosa, Rachel Weeks and the Y’en A Marre movement in Senegal epitomises a youthful generation that continuously questions and engages the status quo while offering life changing solutions to community challenges.
While many definitions have been proffered, UNESCO provides a unique entry point. It identifies “youth” as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community. The United Nations on the other hand, and for statistical consistency across regions, defines “youth”, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, while the African Youth Charter locates ‘’youths” as meaning, “every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years.
The complexities of defining youth using age as a variable is that in some societies and in particular economies, unemployment has been so high that individuals as old as 36 or 40 are neither employed nor independent. Hence the ‘transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’ is impassable. Dictatorial spaces and societies that are trapped in patriarchy or religious hegemony continue to shrink the space for youth innovation and participation. In such spaces, the older generation, outside engaging in fault-finding missions on youths, have not been providing an enabling environment and in many cases have claimed to be youths, occupied the ‘youth’ space while continuously changing it to suite their own goals. Absolom Sikhosana is almost 60 years old and was the ZANU PF Youth League President until recently - youths within the party have started demanding for leadership renewal. And yet even within suppressed spaces, courageous young people continue to demand for bigger reforms.