Youth as Changemakers: What the Past Dreamt, the Present Thought, and the Future Became

By: Yemurai Nyoni, Zimbabwe (President: Zimbabwe Young People's Network on SRH; Executive Committee Member: African Youth and Adolescents Network on Population and Development) to participants at the Africa Regional RMNCH Advocacy Strategy Implementation Meeting hosted by PMNCH and the Africa MNCH Coalition

Today we have the largest youth population in history. This demographic trend translates to the need for deliberate investment in the development of young people in the broader global development context, because our gains in this regard rely greatly on what we do and don't do for young people.

As a young person, I appreciate that efforts have been made by African governments to involve us in the development processes that affect us.

I can note the increased presence of young people in country delegations to the United Nations, with specific reference to the recently held UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011 as evident examples.

Let me say however, that in order for these efforts to yield more results they must be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the very young people they are meant to benefit. Young people must hence be seen as citizens, not subjects; partners, not mere beneficiaries; and as vibrant, not vulnerable in the development discourse.

As young people, we ask you all to think with the mind of today and the eyes of tomorrow in bringing youth involvement to a meaningful reality. We ask that you enhance your concept of young people within your different country contexts, in embracing the concepts that bring this pursuit to fruition.

We ask that you see us as resource mobilizers, as people who live in relative disempowerment, economically and in other respects, but have a keen eye for resources as attested by the success of your children in making you fork out resources you would have used otherwise.

We ask that you see us as master communicators, driving the development and uptake of all major social media and communication channels.

We ask that you see us as political change makers whose evident potential has been identified, but negatively used within African society, perpetrating political violence and other social misdemeanors.

We ask that you see us as the greatest future investors, the people who hold the money, time, and intellect that will drive world issues tomorrow.

We also ask that you see us as economy drivers, one of the largest consumer groups and a people attuned to entrepreneurial pursuits.

When we look at the young people in this room, and those who throng the social spaces of our countries, let us bear this in mind. Know that we climb the highest mountains in tackling the most difficult challenges; we run fastest in responding expediently and being ever-ready for action; we hope hardest as a people with aspirations uncorrupted by experience; we live fullest in enjoying life to the maximum extent possible; and we see furthest as visionaries building the future today.

Now, taking us to where we are today and what we have been up to as youth advocates to this point, the key pursuit we have is that of change. Change is not just an inevitable constant, it’s the gradual realization of what the past dreamt, the present thought, and the future became. As such we have established a change agenda on the premise of maternal health and youth in bringing this process to realization.

We are saying that we can influence change in:

Working with civil society organizations to build support for youth issues;

Working with the government to push for the implementation of all agreements including the MDGs and ICPD;

Calling for quality care for all women;

Pushing for more qualified and skilled health workers and health systems;

Asking all organizations and government to engage and include youth in a meaningful way; and

Ensuring that youth reproductive issues are at the top of the political, global, and national agendas, and in the work of the media;

In closing, and in recognition of the work set before us as young people, we want you to know that young women can deliver, young men can deliver, Young People Can Deliver, and with your support and partnership We Will Deliver. I thank you.

Entry Comments

  1. Well delivered,the times when youth were viewed as spectators and beneficiaries of initiatives that affect their very lives are long spent, we deserve an active role in every bit of issues that are meant in our names, directly or indirectly. I am looking forward to mobilizing strongly for the reduction of the age at which one can become a presidential candidate in Ghana; it is anti-youth to stipulate age 40 as the constitutional age for vying for presidency.

  2. This speech was a true reflection of our perspective as youth. The figures of speach are very inspiring but the message is a call to action. Lets take it serious.

    • Apr 13
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    The speech is factual.In fact i have a belief that its only and only the young people who can change the face of the world to turn into a better place to live in. Our elders seem to have failed and therefore we have to take the mantle.

  3. As a fellow youth advocate. I get inspired when other youth use all the different platforms they get access to, to speak up on youth matters. It reminds me not to sit back and relax. It reminds me that for Africa our continent to grow, full involvement of the majority population; youth, should be realized. It reminds me that I really have to ensure that my country signs and ratifies the Youth Charter and use it as a guideline. In fact, do we all know about the African Youth Charter?

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