As many may be aware, “Politics” (from Greek: πολιτικός politikos, definition “of, for, or relating to citizens”) it is the process of making uniform decisions applying to all members of a group. It also involves the use of power by one person to affect the behaviour of another person. Based on the above definition, for many young people especially young professionals, politics is often perceived as something which is far removed, detached and isolated from their everyday life, and something which most young people don’t easily relate to. Such arm’s length attitude is not unwarranted. Many young people warmly marvel some leaders of the country but they are also quick to giggle with laughter at others who simply have nothing to inspire, when they open their mouths to speak, even flies run away in protest. These are the breed of leaders that give politics a bad name. They are the type that deliberately decided to run away from education like cows avoiding wolves. Sadly it is these individuals who are role models as governors or proponents of tobacco smoking. This is why it is understandable for young people to be cynical about politics. In this short opinion piece, I want to argue that young people, notwithstanding the above, should not be far from politics. In fact, if you’ve been a youth worker for any stretch of time, you’ll understand that youth work is by default political with a small “p”.
It is very much about engaging young people to enable, empower and invest in them, the power, authority and right to make positive, progressive and enlightened decisions for themselves, as well as giving them the skills to be able to interact positively with the world around them. Inevitably, issues that most affect them in their daily lives will be discussed and addressed in the course of youth work. And that’s the crux of it. Issues that most affect people in their daily lives are precisely what make up politics.
In response to the worldwide phenomenon of young men and women calling for meaningful political participation, UNDP’s Youth Strategy 2014-2017 recognizes the involvement of young men and women in participatory decision-making and development processes as vital to achieving sustainable human development. Identifying development challenges and issues facing youth today, the strategy offers recommendations for strategic entry points and engagement of a broad range of partners in addressing youth empowerment. To catch up with the rest of the world, it is critical and of paramount importance that Namibia as a country put youth issues on the national agenda and priorities promoting; inclusive youth participation in effective and democratic governance, economic empowerment of youth through entrepreneurship development and, strengthened youth engagement in building resilience in their communities, and inclusion of youth in the future development agenda, including through consultations and discussions. This also implies that the country must decide on who role models should be: the hard workers or the accidental appointees who have got no clue of what leadership really?
I strongly believe that Namibia should intentionally should encourage embed policies and legislations that ensure that youth empowerment is a permanent and lasting feature of our body politic, in order to guarantee meaningful participation by youths and other marginalised groups like women and the physically challenged.
As indicated above, today we bemoan the fact that youth empowerment, participation, involvement and immersion in national processes is limited. Political parties, big and small alike have one common design, ‘inadequate youth representation in leadership positions’. This has led to high levels of youth not participating during election times and where there is participation those elected often and completely forget the youth support when it comes to the “eating table”.
If we are a serious country, interested in being a force to be reckoned with in future global affairs, youth empowerment must go beyond being a dismissible civil society slogan but it must become a strategic necessity.
It is regrettable that youth empowerment has in the past been nothing but a side dish of the well fed generation that claim to have “liberated” this country yet we know that not all truly were liberating the country. It is critical to note that liberty alone does not guarantee generational prosperity or perpetual national sovereignty but youth empowerment does. My final word will be that young people must be provided space to think and chart their path forward towards the struggle for economic empowerment. It should also be clear that many of those who “claim” to have liberated this country; their children are beneficiaries of tenders but rarely are they seem sweating to be volunteers or youth workers. Politics must therefore not be used by the ruling elite to eat alone or insulate themselves to milk the resources of the country alone but like the definition said let it be “the process of making uniform decisions applying to all members of a group” in this case uniform decisions applying to and benefiting all members of the Namibian society.
George Hidipohamba Kambala is a radical youth activist and Co-author of Affirmative Repositioning: Awakening a Generation