Poimen Ghana today, on the occasion of the International Youth day celebrations themed “Youth Engagement for Global Action” is calling on the state to step up its efforts for effective youth engagement and participation in governance and nation-building.
The state has not done enough for youth participation. The youth is one of the biggest demographic groups in Africa and the number of youths is projected to rise within the next decade. State policies intended to incentivize youth participation seem to be few and there are clear stumbling blocks to the progress of the youth in governance. A good example of this is illustrated in the rather artificial glass ceiling imposed on the youth with regard to ascending the highest offices in the country.
With the age of eligibility for contesting the presidency set at 40 years, it appears all youth or majority of the youth – depending on which age designation of youthfulness you decide on – are immediately limited in the highest political aspirations they can aspire to.
This is saddening since aside the considerations of sound mental status and full moral agency that makes the age of adulthood and voting to be set at 18, with a reasonable few years added on for experience, it does not seem that the 40 year rule has much backing except in the outdated concept that ‘old age correlates with wisdom’. Needless to say, correlation does not connote causality and even the notion of correlation, given the decades-long poor state of affairs under the governance of the old, is in doubt.
This has left a lot of the youth frustrated because most of the youth’s problems of unemployment, poverty, and underdevelopment are scarcely felt and cannot be adequately dealt with by the main demography holding power in the county- the older and retired populace.
The NATIONAL YOUTH AUTHORITY ACT, 2016, has not been backed by a Legislative Instrument (LI) since its passing into law some 4 years ago. For a country with a lot of problems endemic to the youth, it would seem that we would do more than pay lip service to the idea of youth empowerment and participation. However, since the National Youth Authority ACT was assented to in the ending of 2016, it is surprising that the requisite LI that will guide and supplement the ACT has not been passed.
Nascent Youth Parliaments across the country represent a respectable, yet resource-starved endeavour of youth participation in Ghana and it has been poorly executed in many instances in the country. Last year, the idea of creating fully functional youth parliaments to incentivize youth engagement at the local level was met with the warmest of support from existing youth groups and the youth in general.
Drawing its mandate from the National Youth Authority, the National Youth Parliament was a bold and ambitious project to collate the very best of youthful minds into a single functional body that focused on deliberation and providing a platform for youth-focused advocacy on affairs. This idea has some significant challenges that need to be boldly addressed.
The regional secretariats across the country are working around the clock to get the idea implemented but it would take a lot more to ensure that this idea becomes the quintessential youth-based representative and advocacy platform. The national youth parliament idea is especially promising in addressing youth participation because of how the structure makes room for extensive representation of requisite groups including people living with disability and women.
Lastly, the state must invest in dispelling the stereotypical concepts around the youth. It would be one of the good ways to encourage youth participation. In a recent write up, the President of Poimen Ghana, Mr. Awotunde Awosika bemoaned the stereotyping of brilliant youths in leadership citing the well-known exchange between then Senior Minister nominee, Hon Yaw Osarfo Marfo and the MP for North Tongu and Member of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa during the vetting of the Senior Minister-designate. The reference to the well-accomplished politician in terms of his age and the denigrating way it was used is testament to a mentality that needs transformation if the youth are to break out of their shells.
The youth are one of the greatest assets of a state and the best way to ensure we reap the full benefit from their demography is to ensure their skills, ability, and competences are ably represented and utilized in governance and decision makings.
Signed Issued by:
……………………… Jessica Afful Tuleassi
Caleb Otabil Deputy Communication Director
(Director of Research)