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Youth Participation in the Southern African MDG Process -The missing bit in the Jigsaw Puzzle Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by charlton c tsodzo, Zimbabwe Mar 29, 2005
Child & Youth Rights   Opinions
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With a wide acknowledgement among development partners in the region of the need to reverse diminishing human development trends that began manifesting as a legacy of colonialism, Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) as well as political and economic governance-related factors, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have become more important to Southern Africa now than any other time.

All the eight Goals, seek to address issues of poverty, attainment of basic education, gender equality, health and the combat of major diseases, environmental sustainability and developing global partnerships for development - all vital cogs in a jigsaw puzzle of human development that all stakeholders have to contribute towards for its realisation.

While it is still appropriate to hold governments accountable to their promises on human development, as well as more advocacy and lobbying for other partners like the private sector and funding agencies to aid attainment of the MDGs, it is the issue of participation by the ordinary person on the street, particularly the young person, that might prove to be the Achilles’ heel in the attainment of the Goals. Governments and other development partners have conceded numerous times to the fact that for development to be sustainable, there is need for participation, inclusiveness and people-centeredness both in policy and practice.

However, it is as mind-boggling as it is discouraging to see the general culture of silence around youth participation in various development issues in the region. Most certainly finding origin in socio-cultural backgrounds and attitudes in which the youth have always been expected to ‘take it as it comes’ from the elders, non-involvement of the youth, moreso now in the MDGs, might actually be a time bomb waiting to explode and the repercussions might be too ghastly to contemplate. It does go without saying that young people, as the custodians of the future, surely ought to embrace values and practices of development and as with the MDGs, their participation might actually render a panacea to the myriad of developmental ills in the region that have left many an intellectual’s head screaming for painkillers.

It is just a wonder when you transect across the Southern African Region- no matter where you are, whether it’s Cape Town in South Africa, Lilongwe in Malawi, Harare in Zimbabwe, Mbabane in Swaziland, Maputo in Mozambique or even in smaller towns in the region and see how young people would be busy in internet cafes and computer centres accessing various web platforms, generating and sharing intelligent computer programmes, knowledge and skills. The manner of zest and passion for ICTs the youths in this region possess would certainly leave Bill Gates uncontrollably turning green with envy, and one just wonders if such intelligentsia and innovativeness could not be harnessed for developmental purposes.

In this information era that we are living in, ICTs indeed have a pivotal role to play in boosting economic growth in developing countries and India is one country among many that lives to tell the tale. With the right policy environment youth potential in ICTs can be harnessed to boost industrial and economic development, hence leading to creation of more employment, more revenue to governments and inevitably contributing to poverty alleviation (MDG 1). ICTs would also find use in aiding research and capacity-building of various socio-economic institutions pivotal for attaining human development. Young people could also be relevant in terms of innovatively creating and disseminating relevant localized content of information, education and communication on various issues like health (MDGs 4, 5, 6), education (MDG 2), gender equity (MDG 3) and environmental sustainability (MDG 7), all of them critical on the development agenda.

It’s also important to note that with such Goals as attainment of gender parity (MDG 3), environmental sustainability (MDG 7) and combating HIV and AIDS (MDG 6) are not in themselves events, but these are processes that require time to achieve because of their deep-rootedness in socio-cultural connotations. It therefore means for realisation of the respective goals, there has to be massive shifts in traditional paradigms and these would be a lot easier to start from children and the youth for obvious reasons. As the timeless adage would testify, “It’s easier to teach a young dog new tricks.”

It certainly leaves youth as a major hope for an equitable, sustainable and AIDS-free future in the region. Young people, now enjoying more access to global issues through ICTs and higher quality education, could also play a pivotal role concerning global integration issues and how they apply to their respective countries (MDG 8). In this sense they could influence integration policies if given the platform as well.

Now as shown above, the important role of young people in attainment of the MDGs in

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Kids Can Make A Difference (KIDS)
neil jay wollman | Sep 6th, 2009
Kids Can Make A Difference (KIDS) is an innovative educational program for middle school and high school students. It helps them understand the root causes of hunger and poverty and how they as individuals can take action. KIDS has three major components: ►Teachers’ Guide: Finding Solutions To Hunger: Kids Can Make A Difference has provided over 5,000 classrooms, religious schools, after school programs and homeschoolers with tools to help young people to understand the causes of poverty and become informed and effective citizens, realizing their own capacity to change the world. Students learn about the pain of hunger; the importance of food; the inequality of its distribution; and the links between poverty, hunger, joblessness, and homelessness. They are then given the skills to take what they have learned into their communities. ►Website: The KIDS web site is rated one of the top 20 websites for educators by Educational World. The site provides news, a hunger quiz, hunger facts, suggested books, back issues of the newsletter, the table of contents, sample lessons, program notes from the teacher guide; and ►Newsletter: The three yearly issues highlight current hunger issues, showcase student initiatives, and feature teachers' experiences teaching the KIDS program and students' experiences making a difference in their community and world. Contact KIDS at: Larry Levine, Co-Founder KIDS, 1 Borodell Avenue Mystic, CT 06355 (860) 245-3620; (860) 245-3651 FAX kids@kidscanmakeadifference.org; www.kidscanmakeadifference.org KIDS is a project of WHY (World Hunger Year), a leading advocate for community based solutions to hunger and poverty.

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