Youth urged to push for AYC ratification

18 June 2013

Mmegi Newspaper reported on 18th June, 2013 that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative, Ms Aisha Camara-Drammeh urged young Batswana to lobby government to ratify the African Youth Charter (AYC), an African Union-endorsed political and legal document, which gives direction for youth empowerment and development in African states. Botswana is one of six African states that are yet to sign and ratify the charter.

Speaking at the official opening of the establishment of the Botswana Chapter of the African Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN) yesterday, she said young people are agents of change and should contribute to advocating for government to sign and ratify the document.

"A lot of the provisions of the charter are already being implemented in the country hence I urge the government to consider signing the charter," she said. Camara-Drammeh also pledged her support to the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture in advocating for the signing of the charter and said the UNFPA is ready to provide technical support as required. The charter refers to the rights, freedoms and obligations of youth in Africa and focuses on youth participation in society and politics, youth's role in development, commitments to young people regarding education, health, employment, eradication of poverty and peace and security.

The director of the Department of Youth Thabologo Ndzinge also encouraged young people, in their interactions with people in leadership, to advocate for the signing of the charter. She said her ministry continues to negotiate with government on the matter. Boikanyo Modungwa, a youth leader, said ratifying the charter must be a priority for Botswana. She said while Botswana has shown commitment to dealing with youth development, challenges for young people - such as high unemployment still exist. She said ratifying the charter would help enforce the recommendations that young people have as solutions to some of the challenges. Some of the recommendations she outlined include ensuring equal access to employment, creating microeconomic policies that will help in the creation of jobs and creating policies to regulate the informal labour sector.

The Botswana Chapter of AfriYAN is being established alongside a weeklong Leadership and Advocacy Workshop for local youth leaders themed Intensifying Youth Participation on Population and Development in Botswana. All African countries are expected to establish AfriYAN chapters, with 26 so far having already done so. "The network works with its members to create an enabling environment for the promotion of an effective participation of adolescents and youth in the fight of HIV & AIDS, poverty, unemployment, gender related inequalities and iniquities, and for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health," Camara-Drammeh said. She further said she believes the government recognizes the need to intensify young people's involvement in taking leadership roles and in leading sexual and reproductive health rights advocacy activities. She said she expected young leaders to raise their voices on issues that affect them and for them to dialogue with key policy makers. Young people make up more than 60 percent of the population of Botswana. Camara-Drammeh said prioritizing their issues is crucial for the development of the country, and that they should not be regarded as just an opportunity for development, but also a crucial resource. By GOTHATAONE MOENG