By Thandeka Matebesi
Matobo Youth Development Initiative (MYDI), a non governmental organisation working with young people has revealed that there is low participation of youths in local governance issues in the area.
Information Officer, Ms Stacy Nyathi said young people in the area shy away from governance issues mainly because their views are not taken into account.”Generally, there is low participation of youths in local governance issues in Matobo district. Reasons range from ignorance, to lack of motivation and failed efforts at engagement. Some discussions with young people have revealed that most do not have sufficient knowledge about the structures and procedures of local governance.
“Young people have previously tried to engage some structures and be part of processes. For example,some tried to attend ward or village meetings and made contributions. However, these contributions have been systematically disregarded and that kills motivation to participate. The feeling is “what’s the point of participating if what we say is not even considered in the end,” she said.
Nyathi also said that the wider generation gap between the young and the old further alienates the youth and prevents them from contributing or attending meetings “The other thing is in rural communities like Matobo, there is a wide generation gap. Like umntwana ngumntwana (a child is a child) you see , and they have to behave accordingly. So sometimes when young people speak out against some resolutions from the elderly it can easily be misconstrued as disrespect. Hence a number of youths shy away altogether even to the extent of shunning the meetings,” said Nyathi.
She added that while the organization was making strides in cultivating interest in governance among the youth, poor network infrastructure was hampering their efforts.”We have also adopted social media as an engagement tool but it’s also restrictive because of the digital divide.
Network is really poor in most parts of Matobo therefore WhatsApp, Zoom, Facebook and other platforms also have a low turnout. Some do not even have up to date smart phones that can support these social media applications. But we have been pushing regardless with those that are capacitated to be online.”We were making good strides, young people were now showing interest in the constitution and their rights. The turn up for dialogues was quite an improvement. However, with the advent of Covid we have had to restrict the numbers of people we can engage with at a time so it is now difficult to measure impact,” Nyathi explained.
The information officer reiterated the importance of access to information among young people on their rights asserting that it was key to full participation in governance.She also said that MYDI was working with organisations with similar interests to promote civic engagement.”MYDI has been on an awareness campaign drive. We believe that sharing information is the first port of call. People need to be knowledgeable on their rights and they also need to know roles and responsibilities of themselves and the local governance structures. That way they know what exactly they need to do, coming from a well informed background.”We have partnered with organizations that have been of tremendous help in fulfilling this particular mandate of ensuring impulsivity of young people in local governance.
For example South Western Region Gender Network (SWRGN), which is running a program that aims to promote civic engagement in local governance. This particular program is ongoing. We have also had Constitutional rights awareness programs with International Republic Institute of Zimbabwe (IRI Zim) particularly about mining and agriculture rights of youths and women,” said Nyathi