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National Youth Policy – An Important Tool for the Betterment of Southern African Young People. Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Douglas Tigere, Zimbabwe Mar 23, 2006
Child & Youth Rights   Opinions
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Youth have long been sidelined in policymaking and implementation. Through out the world, policy makers rarely seek the participation of young people in policy making or in issues that bring a bearing on the lives of the youth themselves. The national youth policy is of utmost importance and should be awarded due attention for implementation. It is through a comprehensive and youth driven policy that young people are ensured meaningful participation in program or project design and development.

The government, among other stakeholders, testifies their commitment to protect and promote the rights of young people through an
all- encompassing youth policy. For instance, the National Youth Policy of Zimbabwe, which was passed on by the Ministry of Youth Development, Gender and Employment Creation on 30 September 2000, clearly stipulates its main objectives: to empower the youth by creating an enabling environment, and marshalling the resources necessary for undertaking programs to fully develop youth’s mental, moral, social, economic, political, cultural, spiritual and physical potential in order to improve their quality of life.

The importance of such a youth policy can never be overemphasized, as it seeks to address all issues affecting, or likely to affect young people from realizing their full potential. Encouragingly, the policy also highlights the government’s commitment to mitigating the HIV and AIDS pandemic among the youth; “to reduce the spread of STDs, HIV/AIDS among the youth and their impact on the individual and society”. Therefore, it is imperative for all concerned stakeholders to promote and protect the implementation of such policy.

According to the Zimbabwean Young Adults Survey, 2001-2002 (ZAN Information Sheet 12/2005) in the 15-29 years age group, 22% of the young women were infected with HIV, while the corresponding figure for young men was 10%. It is disheartening to note that young people account for an increasing number of HIV infection every year, and are now infected and affected by HIV more than any other population group in the country. Hence, the national youth policy is timely designed. However, without immediate concrete steps, such targets will be little more than empty gestures.

National youth policies are equally important the world over, as they create a basis for the betterment of all young people regardless of social or economic status. The national youth policy of Botswana, after noting that young people are prominent in the figures of STD and HIV infection in the country and, as such, represent one of the major groups who are at risk in this country, saw it fit to address the specific social, economic, and health problems faced by young people that inhibit their capacity to participate in society.

The national policy of Botswana also seeks to examine the traditional attitudes towards the roles of women and men in society. Young women for example, are often restricted from participating fully in development processes due to a number of socio-cultural practices in society. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that the contribution that young people can make toward national development, as well as their own development and that of their communities, is not limited or restricted on the basis of gender.

In addition, one of the priorities of the national youth policy of Botswana is the promotion of healthy lifestyles and behaviours, and the development of personal confidence and self-esteem, so that young people will be better able to prevent themselves from placing their health at risk. This also extends to access to appropriate support and treatment services by the youth. In some cases, specific youth-oriented services are being established to address particular aspects of the problems experienced by young people. For example, services for young pregnant women, and counselling and support for young people living with HIV/AIDS. It is indeed crucial for all countries to have a youth targeted national policy that addresses young people’s issues.

According to the national youth policy of South Africa, young people are currently at the most risk in terms of HIV infection, and it is estimated that young people will account for a total of 72% of all new cases of HIV infection. It is one of the policy's top priorities to address this issue through active participation of the youth right from project design to implementation. On principle, such youth focused policies are the best documents any country can have in the quest to protect the most valuable resource for the future of the nation, and the key to long-term development- young people.

However, without concerted efforts and commitment from all stakeholders, these policies will be little more than pieces of paper. Young people now need to be aware of these policies and advocate for their right to be engaged in decision making, program and project design and implementation; particularly in sexual and reproductive health. To complement the global fight against HIV and AIDS, national AIDS plans and national youth policies need to be harmonized, as this would help to empower the youth towards protecting themselves from HIV infection.

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Douglas Tigere

Douglas Tigere is my name .I am a 22 year old Zimbabwean young man with special interests in HIV and AIDS Information dissemination.

I am a 3rd year student at the National University of Science and Technology majoring in Journalism and Media Studies.
Currently am an intern in the HIV/AIDS Knowledge Management Unit (Media)at Southern Africa HIV/AIDS Informatuion Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), Harare, Zimbabwe.
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