How are we to move this country forward if youth have no say in the archaic machinery of the country?
By Tariro Senderayi
The Zimbabwe Constitution defines a youth as “any man or woman between the ages of 18-35 years”. Whilst the African Youth Charter gives a continental definition of a youth as anyone between the age of 15-35.
In this country the youth constitute almost 68% of the overall population yet Members of Parliament who fall under that bracket are about 4 out of the 260. How can that be? As much as we can advocate for open dialogue between young people and Parliament, achieving that goal is a mammoth task taking into consideration that youth representation in Parliament is nowhere near 10%. 50% is a farfetched dream but one, if vouched for properly, that can impact considerably on young people’s issues being considered at the top of the agenda in Parliament. The most effective vehicle in achieving this is engineering a shift in our priorities and prioritising equal representation of young people in Parliament.
The numbers game if spun in a tactful manner can work in our favour. I can count the number of youth MPs on the palm of my hand and I can’t help but feeling that as long as the status quo is maintained our issues will remain swept under the rug.
Young people strive for development and the injection of young and fresh ideas in decision making. Unfortunately, our Parliament is still comprised of the same people who were put in office during the Lancaster House Agreement more than three decades ago. This gross flaw sees young people’s issues being sidelined. We all know that only a young person knows what challenges young people face in Zimbabwe.
Amongst the high priority challenges young people are facing, unemployment tops the list. We are in an era that sees so many young people pregnant with potential going to state universities or institutions and thereafter becoming jobless graduates. With the formal job portal wearing thinner by the day, industries lying dormant and the informal sector being characterised by undertones of violence and endless frustrations, the future for the youth looks bleak and hopeless through a nakedly honest lens.
A ray of hope for such a generation lies not in the continued lip service we are given by the elected Members of Parliament but instead in the authoritative boot wedged in the door into Parliament as a first step. This step closely followed by a substantive amount of young blood injected into Parliament. Who best to represent young people’s needs and aspirations than the young people themselves? It defeats the purpose when our needs are represented by not-so-youthful politicians who don’t walk the walk of a young person in Zimbabwe today.
This is the turning point for the future of our generation, a time we can rewrite our history to say that our voices may be finally heard by the powers that be. Talking about equal representation of the youth in Parliament is one thing but actioning this cause is another. Grabbing the bull by the horns is surely the only way.
So, do we let our hopes and aspirations die and be buried with the archaic brains in Parliament or alternatively make it our sole mandate to bulldoze our way into the gaming room? That is question that begs not just any answer but THE answer that will see a future that embraces the diverse, green and contemporary ideas of young people in the governance of Zimbabwe.