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At Cairo +5 Where Youth-less is Useless Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Henry Ekwuruke, Nigeria Nov 26, 2007
Human Rights , Peace & Conflict   Opinions
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Children and other young people converged in Cairo, the rich and great capital city of Egypt for the Cairo + 5 Summit and Mid-Term Review of the Africa Fit for Children, youth and child representatives made recommendations to the African Union led Pan African Forum to review commitments made in the Africa Common Position on Children.

Participants at the event thanked the African Union for giving children the opportunity to participate in discussions concerning them on continent of Africa.

At the meeting they demanded so many things that drives home their points.

First they think that "participation is not just about making speeches and resolutions at big international meetings. A speech on its own is just decoration and nothing more unless it is a part of a wider participation in their countries." They asked the big question about, how many children and young people in our towns and villages are participating? And when we say participating we are not just talking about events like this meeting, or the Day of the African Child, or World AIDS day. Where are the structures of participation? How many in our towns and villages are participating on a regular and recognized way? How many are participating not just in consultations but in decision making at all levels? Who takes young people truly and seriously?, they concluded.

They retoriated the need for them to participate, which they say is "the need to know"

Speaking further, they said; "It is now five years since Africa Fit for Children. It is full of excellent resolutions but how many children and young people know them? "How many know that this document even exists?" they questioned.

The African Youth Charter with many more resolutions they said, was accepted by all African Heads of State in 2006. While thanking the leadership for the gesture, they at the same time questioned, "how many young people in our countries know that there is an African Youth Charter?" The document is now being ratified at country level at this time but how many young people even know what it says so that they can talk to their leaders about what they expect from it?

Last year also they remembered vividly that there was the African Development Forum on Youth and Leadership with many more resolutions. How many young people were informed that that meeting was happening or who represented them at this and other meetings. At the end of this year, there will be another big UN meeting. Will children and young people know about that? If we want real participation then all children and young people need to know what is being decided on their behalf at all these big meetings. That is the first step". The young people spoke!

The second step they said, " is that young people need to be given the tools to make these resolutions a reality". So they can say no more resolutions until we have the solutions" they conclude.

And young people are the solutions … if leaders give them the chance to make a difference. Youths have shown this, as peer educators in the smallest villages, in youth groups for the environment and against HIV/AIDS, and in economic development. Stop being afraid of us, give us the space and see what we can do. Then, they said, instead of young people always demanding from adults, adults can hold young people accountable too. If our generation want accelerated progress in our countries, then leadership to the people will be the option for they run the fastest. And youth are not just talking about governments. We are talking about our religious institutions, and our media, and civil society organizations and even youth organizations. They questioned about how many young people actually participate in decision making even in their own youth organizations? Waiting for answers.

The third step, they said, is "if governments and stakeholders are serious about resolutions that we are making in every meeting, every year then we need to know who is accountable". In some countries, even primary education is still not free. Young mothers are dying every day not just because there is not enough money or access to health services, but because so many are having babies at home and don't have the right help or information, they are still being forced to marry in the name of African tradition, or they are being sexually abused and no one is standing up for them and it was time for young people to stand up for them.

Children and youth are the best people to be the solutions. "We the youth, they said, know where the problems lie and young people can play a key role in supporting and giving strength to the Ministries who are responsible for us. We can ask why they get the smallest budgets or why they do not have sufficient authority to implement all these wonderful resolutions. We can show where and why groups of children and young people have been forgotten. In ADF V, we were given the chance to question our Ministers and debate with them. They demanded for the setting up of such structures, such as children’s parliaments and local councils to enable and engage youth on a regular basis? Unless, they said their demands are met, they will come back for Cairo +10 and we will make another set of resolutions which look exactly like all the other resolutions we have been making ever since we were born. And another group of young people will make the same demands. they concluded.

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Henry Ekwuruke

Henry Ekwuruke is Executive Director of the Development Generation Africa International.
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