By Dumiso Gatsha
June 16 was declared by the Organisation of African Unity(now African Union) as International Day of the African child. This is a commemoration for the sacrifices made by young South Africans in the Soweto Uprising. Afrikaans had just been made a medium of instruction and students protested this. Similar actions of rebuke have occurred since; the Arab spring sparked by a young man in Tunisia burning himself in front of a government office out of frustration, student welfare strikes in Botswana whenever there are grievances and the #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa. All these were clear in intention and set in action. Yet many enablers remain demanding of strategies and visions before any youth mobilization takes place. Is this effective? When has meaningful change been felt under the guise of an M&E log frame? The civil rights and women’s movements were clear on what they wanted to achieve however I am yet to read any report of a ‘Theory of Change’ and ‘Logic Model’ that has been identified prior to building a movement.
Many youth activists speak of the administrative burden that comes with civic action, particularly when seeking out resources. As an activist, is it really useful to use theoretical frameworks on issues that are so uncertain, impassioned and political? The climate strikes that occur today or even the non-violent training youth receive end up with youth arrested and persecuted without having made a significant dent in those with power and privilege. The unplanned and unsanctioned often result in toppling repressive regimes or change in policy. No one can say that an M&E log frame would have foreseen the Military hold on to power for this long in Sudan or that the Kenyan High Courts would uphold decriminalization laws. I stress the need to start viewing our challenges as intersecting. That the injustice of one’s rights in another sub-region is an injustice to mine despite working on different causes. The overarching aspirations of a democratic society, even across jurisdictions are shared regardless of contexts and laws. Political leadership, young people and socioeconomic strife are common aspects that need persistent civic action to ensure that all of us can be included in a world that is safe, equitable, prosperous and participatory in governance.
Let this day be one to remind us that young people are far much better off in learning environments, with comprehensive access to health services and in creating opportunities for their peers. We need to reevaluate how we engage young activists so their talent, diversity and lived experience can be emboldened to collaborate and create more tangible solutions that are relevant to them. I can see a world where activists do not have to conform to an enabler’s strategy but rather are supported with no restriction to impact. This will allow for the kinds of results that can be replicated and felt by grass roots experiences of their peers. Young people are capable and ready to lead in solutions building. If not provide an enabling environment, see how best you can shape a conversation towards more a more equitable and enabling civic participation of youth.