By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
ACCORDING to the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment, a national youth policy (NYP) is critical for empowering youths to contribute to the shaping and building of the nation.
Zimbabwe launched its NYP in 2013 and according to government; the policy seeks to ensure that all young women and men are given meaningful opportunities to reach their full potential, both as individuals and as active participants in society.
The NYP among other things also helps in giving a definition of youths as persons between 15 and 35 years and it also stipulates guiding principles and framework to provide common aspirations and priorities for youth development across Zimbabwe.
It’s been almost five years now since the policy was launched and one would believe that by now almost all the youths are versed with the policy, but the situation on the ground proves contrary.
There is a glaring lack of knowledge of the policy among many youths and this has largely been attributed to lack of extensive consultation when the policy was formulated.
Chitungwiza North legislator Godfrey Sithole who also sits on the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment said the problem is that the policy is not supported by an Act and therefore difficult to enforce.
“I think the main reason why this policy seems to be non-existent and many youths are not aware of it is largely because there wasn’t a wider consultation among the key stakeholders.
“As long as it’s still a policy and it’s not an Act, it is then very difficult to force the responsible authorities to deliver and there is the inherent need to make it a law so that youths can be able to force the ministry to deliver the ‘meaningful opportunities’ that the policy talks about,” he said.
The policy recognises the inter-relatedness of challenges facing youth and provides for equal opportunities and it also affirms that youth are heterogeneous with diverse interests and diverse needs.
According to the policy, there are youth subgroups with particular and special interests for differentiated national responses and strategically targeted interventions.
The subgroups are Young women, Youth with disabilities, Pupils and students, Unemployed Youth, Out-of-school youths, Youth living with HIV and Youth in the Diaspora.
However, according to Bensen Banga an activist for people living with disabilities, “government has been very insincere in addressing the plight of young people living with disabilities given that the youth policy actually sets youth with disabilities as a target group but no meaningful efforts are being done to empower them.
The government has been using a revolving Youth Development Fund to empower youths but only a few youths have accessed it owing to various reasons.
Some of the reasons include partisan allocation and failure to repay the loans by youths owing to difficulties in the economy, while others have instead used the funds to buy vehicles.
Almost 95 percent of projects visited recently by the Youth Portfolio Committee were either nonexistent or had simply collapsed as some were never genuine from the onset but were just a way of looting the fund by unscrupulous youths.
The Zimbabwean government has applauded on numerous occasions for coming up with good policies on paper but has not done well on the implementation part and the National Youth Policy could be one of such.