International Youth Day – Are youth being given the opportunity to make a change for a better future?

Yesterday, 12th August 2011 was the International Youth Day which also marked the end of the International Year of the Youth (August 2010 to August 2011). 

“The international community must continue to work together to expand the horizons of opportunity for these young women and men and answer their legitimate demands for dignity, development and decent work. Failing to invest in our youth is a false economy. Investments in young people will pay great dividends in a better future for all.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The slogan on the occasion of the International Youth Day is “Change our World”. We all know that the youth of today are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, but are youth being given the chance to make a change happen? Today, several parts of the world are being touched with problems of poverty, hunger, HIV/AIDS, food insecurity, climate change etc.  The question that we may ask ourselves is how are youth dealing with these problems? Are they being given the chance/opportunity to discover and develop their potential? Are they being offered what they deserve?

Today, while reading the local newspaper, I found an article on Mauritian Youth. The main issue was that most of our youth are leaving the country to find a job abroad because (a) they are not getting a job in their field of study and (b) if they are even getting a job, they are over-qualified for it and badly paid. After College and University, the job hunting task is so discouraging that youth lose all their motivation and grab whichever opportunity they are getting, whether it suits them or not. Many graduates are working for Rs 10,000 (~250 Euros) for a job from 07:00 to 16:00. In Mauritius, the problem does not lie in the education system, as most of the youth have attended secondary school (according to the law, it is compulsory to attend school up to the age of 16). The problem lies in employment. The country does not have enough job to offer its youth. This is why the Government is encouraging youth to go in entrepreneurship. Here also, the question which arises is where to begin with? Saying things and doing things are two different issues. Opportunities must be created for youth for them to grab them. Going into entrepreneurship is indeed a solution for the problem of unemployment and this will contribute to the economy as well. But to start a business (whichever field it is), investment is required and it is very difficult for a youth who has no job/experience to get a loan from the bank. These are just some examples of problems youth are facing in general.

Coming to agriculture itself, many organisations and networks have launched online discussion forums, blog series, essay/photo competitions amongst others, to create awareness on youth , agriculture and ICTs, highlight the challenges they are facing, and make opportunities available to them more visible. 

Among these initiatives was the ARDYIS project by CTA, which started with the essay contest on youth, agriculture and ICTs. In the context of the essay contest, selected best participants were invited to Accra (Ghana) for the Youth Exchange and Training Workshop on Web 2.0 for Agricultural and Rural Development. By the end of this workshop the “Call for Stronger Support for Youth Involvement in Agriculture and ICT” was developed and shared with stakeholders in agriculture. From this document, it is very clear what are the problems youth in ACP countries are facing and how appropriate policies can help solving them.

This is the voice of the youth in ACP countries, who are engaged in agriculture. What is needed now is someone to hear us and take action!

Below is a video of the international youth day by the UN:

About Nawsheen Hosenally

Nawsheen Hosenally, a national of the Republic of Mauritius, has over 6 years of experience in the agricultural sector, specifically focusing on the engagement of youth in agriculture through the use of ICTs. Currently, Nawsheen is the co-Founder of Agribusiness TV, a web TV that features success stories of young agricultural entrepreneurs in Africa. Nawsheen holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Extension from the University of Mauritius, and a Master’s degree in Management and Information Systems from the University of Manchester.

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