Youths can be a creative force and a dynamic source of innovations. However, youths also face poverty, barriers to education, and limited employment prospects and opportunities. In the area of political participation, eligibility for national parliament starts at 25 years old or older. 1.65% of parliamentarians around the world are in their 20s and 11.87% are in their 30s. The average age of parliamentarians globally is 53 (50 years old for women parliamentarians).
Young people between the ages of 15 and 25 constitute a fifth of the world’s population. People under the age of 35 are rarely found in political leadership positions.
The main challenges for youth were limited opportunities for effective participation in decision-making processes, with limited opportunities and exposure to meaningfully participate in inclusive decision-making processes, Young men and women feel excluded and marginalized in their societies and communities.
The need for participatory structures and greater trust between youth and institutions for greater capacity development cannot be overstressed. Efforts should also be made to focus on the most vulnerable of young people, including specific actions targeting young women, The support to young people’s participation in inclusive political processes and democratic practices must be through three measures: covering the wider enabling environment, individual capacity building and a specific focus on young people.
The promotion of an enabling environment (legal frameworks, policies and plans) for young people’s participation in a broad range of processes and areas (electoral and parliamentary processes, public administration and local governance, including in peace building environments) at local, sub-national and national levels and the promotion of young people’s skills and capacities to participate actively in democratic practices, including in local, national, and global processes (leadership trainings, etc.)
There are numerous advantages attached to youth inclusion in politics, when you have youths that are of high character in politics. When you have passionate youths in politics, there will definitely be rapid growth and development in all sectors of the economy. Our youths are better performers in the area of sensitization and mobilization of the electorate during electioneering campaigns; the vibrancy of youths makes them indispensable in politics. As such their inclusion in politics cannot be overemphasized, The energy of the youths if well channeled into politics will go a long way to affirm their relevance in the polity of the country, For instance, the likes of Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello were all youths when they led the struggle for the independence of Nigeria, Their active participation in politics at that time in the country changed a lot of things in the political landscape of Nigeria, Their efforts gave birth to the independence of Nigeria in 1960.
I would like to make reference to a youth that made history based on his vibrancy and passion for a peaceful America, he is none other than Civil rights activist, Martin Luther King who made a difference in America several years ago even when very few people shared in his vision. It’s on record that he led an historic March in Washington on August 1963, it was there that King made his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, emphasizing his belief that someday all men could be brothers.
Another advantage of youth inclusion in politics is the access to information. Politics thrives on information not propaganda. With the advantage of the Internet and the social media, youths have virtually an unrestricted access to information and this paves way for the sophistication and robustness of their knowledge base. The youth in any population is an asset for national growth and development, There is no gainsaying in the fact that the youths are in the productive stage of their lives, they need proper orientation from the adults in order to approach politics with a positive mentality. Youth Agencies and Civil Rights Groups have to come together in this regard to ensure that the youths make a great impact in politics and governance. Generally, youths have innovative ideas and are passionate for change in any capacity they find themselves; the much desired change in the political landscape can only happen if the efforts of the youths are encouraged by the larger society. The youths need to be given a chance to make use of their intellect.
As mentioned earlier. the youths face poverty, barriers to education, multiple forms of discrimination and limited employment prospects and opportunities, that is why many youths are being used as political thugs in many countries; an educationally disadvantaged youth can surely be a tool for political violence. This may also make the uneducated youths become veritable tools in the hands of political godfathers who only want to serve their own selfish interest. Youth inclusion in politics becomes a curse when there is a higher population of youths without education in the political system, Education is a tool for enlightenment and it must be given utmost priority by our leaders.
Likewise, the war against poverty must be in place in order to make youth inclusion a blessing to our generation, In Nigeria today, youths are already aspiring to make a difference because they are much more enlightened, This is the right time for the youths to rise and challenge the status quo of being left to dance to the tune of unscrupulous elders who try to lure the youths into political vices like violence, rigging, ballot snatching, etc.
Without highly educated, highly literate, highly skilled, intellectually brilliant and self-confident youth, a nation is toying with its future, and undermining its existential capacity.
Babangida Ruma is the Commonwealth Youth Council Peace Ambassador, Contributor to the “Informed Youth Policy dialogues in African Region.”