The youth of Ghana, under the auspices of Youth Empowerment Synergy (YES-Ghana), has launched a youth manifesto to serve as an advocacy tool on issues critical to youth and national development.
The 'Youth Manifesto 2012' is a comprehensive compilation of youth policy options and proposals developed by the youth themselves, through broad consultation with, and participation of other stakeholders.
Among other things, the manifesto aims to increase attention and investment in critical youth issues in Ghana's development.
According to the Executive Director of YES-Ghana, Mr. Emmanuel Edudzie, who was speaking at the launch of the manifesto on Tuesday, the manifesto presents an opportunity for the youth to work together, build a strategy, and project the youth voice in a more practical and intellectual way.
He said the manifesto was the result of a participatory, open and inclusive process, by which the youth arrived at a consensus on various thematic issues, using social media platforms, working directly in the districts to collect input from youth at community forums, small group dialogues, and school visitations among others.
He explained that the motivation to develop the manifesto stemmed from a desire expressed by influential members of the Ghanaian society to develop ideas and find ways to change and build the lives of young people, to make more constructive contribution to the country's development.
In view of this, YES-Ghana, and its partners, including, the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDF), Crossing Borders and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), brought together about 700 youth across the country for a three-day conference in Accra.
Mr. Edudzie said the purpose of the conference was to draw a plan on how young people would use the manifesto as an advocacy tool. He added that this exercise was necessary, because any party that comes to power in 2013 would have to develop a youth policy.
'The manifesto will be a start point for that policy, because it has already done what the youth want, and the government will only come and prioritise it,' he stressed. Additionally, 'the conference seeks to raise the profile of the manifesto to place it on the political agenda of the next government, private sector, academic, and research institutions. It is not an end in itself, but a means only to an end,' he noted.
He pointed out that this was the first time in history that the youth would be going to the decision-making table with policy options, and not just to demand things of their leaders.
He urged the youth, especially youth leaders, to make a conscientious effort to digest the final product, and understand the issues, so they can use it to engage their leaders in serious dialogues.
In a solidarity message, the International Projects Coordinator of Crossing Borders, Ms. Camilla Nielsen-Englyst, said her organisation supported the development of the manifesto, because 'we believe in the youth of Ghana.'
She urged the youth to take ownership of the project, and lead the way for Ghana's democratic process, saying, 'You are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also of today, and have to shape and influence the outcome of the conference.'
In her view, the manifesto project was one that belonged to the youth, and the success of it would be attributed to them, as well as its failure. She said that the youth would have to sit and wait for long if they wait for solutions to their problems to be provided by the older generation.
She said they should learn to create new ideas on their own as citizens and leaders of tomorrow, and take responsibility for their lives.
She noted that the youth could learn a lot from their elders, but for a country to develop, it also need new ideas, hence the need to challenge young people to use their skills and desire to take charge of their lives, and to act responsibly.
Furthermore, she told the youth to venture into politics to try and reform their societies through a better direction, saying, 'I believe that true democracy needs, and should accept the new ways of doing things, and you, as young people, can deliver that.'
'The older people have more experience, but the young people add some spice to debates. Engage yourselves to make a difference. Go out and make some noise for your voice to be heard in this manifesto, but do it in a constructive way, so that people can listen,' she concluded.
On his part, the Mankralo of the Prampram Traditional Area, Nene Atsure Benta III, who chaired the occasion, said issues of youth were very important, hence the manifesto should serve as a tool for them to work with. 'The manifesto is for us. We have prepared it, and we have to read it and know what we have put into it, so that we can argue our case wherever we shall be,' he stated.
He said the youth must use the manifesto properly if they want other people to understand or listen to their message. This, he said, also called for the youth to respect their own document, adding, 'Send the message to others, and by going strictly with the manifesto, we can make it.'
Also, he reminded the youth that they would have to be armed with their own information and policy options, before they engage politicians and other leaders on matters of the youth.
He said: 'The politicians are already in the game, and they know the rough edges and what not, so you must prepare for any discourse.'
He ended by saying that if the youth condemn the current acts or ways of handling issues concerning the youth, then they must put across alternatives, stressing, 'We should not just criticise, but give alternatives to resolve the issues.'