Creating safe spaces for youths

Hon Kazembe Kazembe
We publish a statement by Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe to mark International Youth Day, which is themed ‘‘Safe Spaces for Youth’’

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oday, Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Youth Day under the theme “Safe Spaces for Youth”.
The International Youth Day is an awareness day designated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1999, and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in development.

The 12th of August each year, since 2000, presents an opportunity for UN member states to raise awareness on challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.

The World Programme of Action for Youth as the UN framework for youth development identified 15 priority areas to guide member states in improving the well-being and livelihoods of young people.

These mutually reinforcing priority areas are; education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, leisure-time activities, improving the situation of girls and young women, the full and effective participation of youth in the life of society and in decision making, globalisation, ICT, HIV/AIDS, armed conflict and inter-generational issues.

Besides providing better awareness on the WPAY, International Youth Day is an opportunity for assessing progress in the implementation of these priority areas.

Government recognises that unemployment among the youths is high.

The Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation through vocational training centres is providing skills to the youths in order to develop them into entrepreneurs and also make them employable.

VTCs play a key role in empowering our young people to attain the necessary skills and knowledge required to drive this economy towards attaining our vision of a middle-income economy by 2030.

Out of the more than 300 000 young people who sit for O-Level examinations yearly, less than 20 percent proceed to advanced level and other institutions of higher learning.

The remainder find their way into the informal economy where start-up costs are low but their contribution to the economy is minimal.

It is these young men and women that the Ministry seeks to equip with skills at VTCs. Admittedly, the VTCs are not adequate and Government is in the process of setting up a VTC in each district.

The Ministry is also establishing business production and incubation hubs at VTCs in all the provinces of the country aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among the youths.

The initial ones are involved in cosmetology, vegetable processing, livestock and dairy production.

The production hubs serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they are incubation centres from which young people receive on-the-job training. When trained, the youths are assisted to set up their own production units under mentor-ship arrangements.

Once they have completed on-the-job training, youths are grouped into production zones and clusters that feed into the hubs.

The production zones are expected to produce and market their products through the production hubs.

Secondly, the hubs with be responsible for monitoring, evaluation and providing continuous support to the young entrepreneurs.

Government is also aware of the need for the youths to be financially empowered to create employment after receiving training at both our VTCs and other institutions of higher learning.

On 05 July 2018, His Excellency the President officially opened EmpowerBank, a youth focused financial institution that will provide youth friendly products to young people.

I urge the youths to take full advantage of this facility to start their businesses and in the process, create much needed employment.

Unemployment among the youth has a huge bearing on other important aspects of youth development and priority areas identified by the UN.

Currently, the country is battling to address youth challenges related to their sexual and reproductive health such as, teen pregnancies, early marriages, STIs including HIV and gender based violence.

Such issues have far reaching consequences in the lives of young people, preventing them from reaching their full potential.

Teen pregnancies, early marriages and gender based violence end up causing school drop outs thereby fueling cycles of poverty among the youths and the nation as a whole.

As we celebrate the International Youth Day, let us seek solutions to unlock young people’s potential, energy and imagination that should drive their crucial contributions to create employment and bring development.

The ministry calls upon stakeholders to join hands with Government to ensure that policies and processes are in place to continue investments in youths.

The theme for 2018, “Safe Spaces for Youth” enjoins all stakeholders, Government included, in affording youths an environment where they can communicate and express themselves freely, engage and participate in decision making processes in line with section 20 of the Constitution.

In terms of the same section, youths should also be protected from harmful cultural practices, exploitation and all forms of abuse.

Safe spaces also include public spaces that afford youths the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in their communities so that they can effectively contribute to development and social cohesion.

To this end, the Ministry is in the process of rehabilitating sports and recreation infrastructure throughout the country.

As part of this year’s celebrations, the Zimbabwe Youth Council in partnership with other stakeholders will launch a massive clean-up campaign in Harare before cascading the programme to provinces and districts.

We encourage all stakeholders in the environment and health sectors to take part in this noble clean-up campaign.

ZYC through affiliate youth associations, Junior parliamentarians and Junior Councillors are going to adopt a street or road in each provincial capital with the intention of keeping our cities clean.

Finally, as Government intensifies efforts to raise awareness and find solutions to youth challenges, the youth themselves have a role to play.

They should not accept to be abused to undermine the safe spaces that Government is endeavouring to create.

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