May 4, 2017  |  

Youth and the 21st Century by Jeffrey Shihembetsa

It always amuses me the way governing systems view youth as a burden rather than a treasure. The way quick fixes are applied to issues affecting youth without they themselves been consulted or empirical data been applied only worsens the issues.

The YMCA led One Million Voices research project interviewed young people, identifying issues they are faced with today.  The research identified what the world youth really need, laid bare for all who gravitate towards using bias or hypotheses on youth issues to digest, internalize and use.  The research is breath of fresh air for youth in the world and remains the go to factbook on the current needs of youth of this generation.

The youth of this generation surprise on a daily basis through creative ingenuity they possess, solutions to societal problems, the ability to lead and steer, their unrelenting ‘never say never’ nature and most importantly their sheer strength in numbers. YMCAs all over the world have recognized this and are committed not only in with engaging young people but by providing safe spaces through which they can empower themselves to change their status and that of society. Visit any active YMCA center world over and be amazed by the vibrant youth activities taking place.

Harnessing the demographic dividends of youth must therefore be the focal issue of all sector led initiatives.  Be it by governments, private sector or NGOs. It must be cognizant to all that nothing for young people without their input and participation that the charade of offering spaces but not promoting policy that supports youth growth cannot be fathomed. It is now intolerable to youth in the world over to ignore them in consultations about them. Doing so is at your own peril. It is no longer fashionable to purport to be youthful or youth mindful without youth themselves endorsing it. The jig is up.

When an organization such as the YMCA says they are for young people, they do so on the premise that they are fully committed to empowering young people. They do so with the full support of youth in over 119 countries. I as a beneficiary endorse their initiatives. So if any young person is looking for a safe place to develop, to be nurtured, to grow and to change the world then you’re welcome to the YMCA. Here you will find a place you can call home. A place you will never aspire to leave. A place you will belong. A place for all youth. A place I found and still apart off 7 beautiful years later.
By Jeffrey Shihembetsa.