The theme for 2018 International Youth Day (IYD) is exceptionally motivating and inspiring.
For young people to become centrality of economic transformation, political stability and voice of reason, respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, adherence to principles of good governance and constitutionalism, it is imperative to acknowledge the usefulness of civic space, public space, digital space and youth friendly physical spaces.
These are spaces pronounced in the 2018 IYD theme. If well cultivated, fostered and financially resourced, these identified spaces could constitute solid and durable catalysts for youth empowerment and development agenda here at home.
Perhaps not many are familiar with what these spaces represent. The objective, therefore, is to ‘demystify’ these spaces, facilitate robust dialogue among young people, generate evidence for advocacy, engaging duty bearers and demand entitlements.
It is amazing how young people are excited about electing leaders with clear mandate and legitimacy. Notice, however, that the role of citizens does not end at elections.
Section 12 of the Constitution advances two concepts of paramount importance: The Social Contract or the Social Trust. Citizens are much obliged to keep elected leaders and duty-bearers accountable for all the decisions they make and implement.
Citizens interrogate into departure from principles of good governance, violation of tenets of constitutionalism and disrespect for rule of law.
This year’s theme is calling upon the state and all other stakeholders to adequately facilitate young people enhance democratisation processes.
On August 11, young people gathered in Lilongwe at Bingu National Stadium to watch delightful performances by various artists.
A good number of young people were seen selling different kinds of merchandise to peers such as branded t-shirts, caps to spice up the auspicious occasion. The stadium epitomized the public space.
The theme is calling on the state and all to establish safe public spaces for the young people to grow their talent and skills, market and sell products, glitzy and monumental infrastructures for sharing of ideas, enjoyment of rights and freedoms.
On May 19 2011, United States President Barack Obama said the following about Middle East and Arab Spring: “Cellphones and social networks allow young people to connect and organise like never before. And so, a new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.”
He was speaking about the digital space as extensively pragmatic for ending needless oppression. To what extent have young people used the digital space to confront the bleak and hopelessness?
The construction of the theme is the loudest call to action to optimize digital space to demand rights and freedoms. Digital space can support advocacy for creating jobs for countless job seekers and improvement conditions for the existing jobs.
Finally, whereas Section 20 of the Constitution outlaws any form of discrimination, persons with disabilities continue to suffer because the state continues to approve construction of structures at learning institutions and recreation facilities that are not disability friendly.
Persons with albinism are exposed to scorching sunlight while learning, aggravating their risks to skin cancers. Fewer health facilities across the country have designated spaces for young people to access sexual reproductive products and services.
It is imperative, therefore, that conversation about safe spaces must not end with the commemoration of IYD this week. Instead, let the theme kick-start a relentless advocacy challenging the status quo regarding how the state views the affairs of young people. Let the theme serve as a categorical call to action that youth get organised and united to demand full implementation of national youth policies and other related policies and laws.
The State must also ensure prudence in provision of resources for youth development.