Youths decry exclusion and oppression on grassroots

Environment and structural setups of developmental forums are suppressing youth participation at grassroot levels in most districts of the country, discussions at the 2018 National Youth Conference have revealed.

Mkandawire: suggestions are treated as childish and unworthy being considered.

The discussions which aimed at tracing youth participation in national development among other things highlighted on the manner in which young people’s voices are suppressed in development structures where decisions are only made by those in authority within the structures.

Speaking during the discussion, one of the participants to the conference, Catherine Mkandawire who is Chairperson for Nkhatabay Youth Network said in most Village and Area Development Committees (VDCs and ADCs) in the northern region, young people who represent their fellow youths suffer oppression as their suggestions are treated as childish and unworthy being considered.

“Most of the times a committee will be filled with older people and only one young person to present voices of all youths that he/she represents, and when it comes to making suggestions the older people expect the youth to just keep quiet and agree with whatever is being put forward whether it furthers the lives of their fellow young people or not,” said Mkandawire.

Mkandawire further recalled how attempts to stand up for her fellow young people at her ADC led her into verbal insults and segregation from development meetings and trainings that were supposed to be attended by all members of the committee.

A random survey among young leaders from across the country who represented fellow youths at the conference confirmed that the oppression and exclusions were happening in many development committees in the country regardless of region and district location.

While not disputing the outcry, Chairperson for Mkhumba Village Development Committee in Phalombe, Maxwell Piliminta said it was important for all development structures to pay listening ears to young people in their area.

Piliminta said nowadays most young people have access to a lot of information, a thing that local development structures can take advantage of to source more information on how they can run their developments.

Principal Youth Officer in the Department of Youth, Deus Lupenga said suppressing young people’s voices was not good for development as they comprise the hugest part of Malawi’s population and are supposed to be encouraged to participate in developmental activities in their areas.

Lupenga said there was need for district councils to make deliberate efforts to track youth participation in their districts.

“The issue of youth participation is key to national development and there are no two ways about it because everyone understands how dangerous it is to exclude the huge part of our population in development,” Lupenga said.

He emphasized that simply including young people in development structures is not assurance that young people would participate, but creation of an enabling environment for young people to participate and having their voices considered were key steps in ensuring participation.

The two day National Youth Conference took place under the theme: Reflect and act for improved youth participation and leadership

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