Youth need to be central to government’s policymaking

COMMENT

This Youth Month is one of the most significant South Africa has faced since 1976 and could mark a turning point in our history if government and broader society recognises the essential role young people played in fighting the coronavirus pandemic; and continues to involve them as essential to overcoming current crises.

The youth activators in our network, Activate!, were some of the best equipped to swiftly step in where the government lagged in terms of service delivery to communities. 

Through some of our hubs and through the ecosystem of relationships that has been mobilised; our youth stepped in during national lockdown to assist with soup kitchens when food parcels weren’t getting through to communities in need; they translated Covid-19 health information into the vernacular so that it was easier to understand in their rural homes; they mobilised other young people to assist with getting information to the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, through regular social media messaging; they were part of the workers at the forefront of testing; and some started creative projects to capture the historical significance of the lockdown through poetry and storytelling. 

In reflecting on Youth Month in general and the youth activism aligned to it in times of crisis; we must look to the historical significance of youth activism in South Africa. From 1976 and beyond, young people drove political change to bring about our democracy. They were at the centre of the fight against HIV/Aids through the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), which culminated in the largest HIV treatment programme in the world.

Under this Covid-19 pandemic, they are once again being called to be of service, and they are. We are all very aware that this invisible enemy has exposed the reality of what is happening on the ground and the rampant level of poverty we are dealing with. Young people are at the forefront of that. 


So now we have to ask ourselves, in terms of having to affect policy change, why are the youth not essential stakeholders? They are often the ones who respond quickly, leveraging off networks that exist, like our Activate Change Drivers’ network; and are able to perform the change in their environments that is needed. 

We find ourselves now having to live in a new environment, refine what it means for us and how to shape it. As a youth network, we have tried to be present at all important policymaking decisions and we are making a call now for the youth to be included by government, by business, by civil society, at all important conversations on youth policy and in solutions to fight this pandemic on the ground.

This crisis has shown us once again, that there is space for citizen activism to fill the gap; that there is space for change and for the youth to be recognised as an essential service in South Africa. Since 1976, the youth have led the revolution. We have shown our worth, we have done the work. We are ready.

Althea Farmer is executive director: operations for Activate Change Drivers

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Althea Farmer
Althea Farmer is executive director of operations for Activate Change Drivers, a network of young leaders driving change for the public good across South Africa

Related stories

The high road is in harm reduction

While the restriction of movement curtailed the health services for people who use drugs in some parts of the world, it propelled other countries into finding innovative ways to continue services, a new report reveals

South Africa must revisit and refresh its idea of itself

Covid has propelled citizens into feelings of a new shared identity in which the historical force of ‘whiteness’ is fading into irrelevance

Capitalism rotten to the cor(p)

Pushback from strong social movements have recovered democracy for the people of Bolivia and Chile

How to escape the ‘era of pandemics’

Any of 850 000 viruses could cause the next global crisis. Experts say we should focus on prevention

Air pollution link in 15% of global Covid-19 deaths

Researchers have found that, because ambient fine particulate air pollution aggravates comorbidities, it could play a factor in coronavirus fatalities

SAA to receive R10.5-billion government bailout after all

Several struggling state-owned entities received extra funds after the medium term budget policy speech
Advertising

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Khaya Sithole: Tsakani Maluleke’s example – and challenge

Shattering the glass ceiling is not enough, the new auditor general must make ‘live’ audits the norm here in SA

State’s wage freeze sparks apoplexy

Public sector unions have cried foul over the government’s plan to freeze wages for three years and have vowed to fight back.

‘Veteran’s stripes’ vs ‘kind and fair’

This weekend the Democratic Alliance will choose between two starkly different visions for its future

The high road is in harm reduction

While the restriction of movement curtailed the health services for people who use drugs in some parts of the world, it propelled other countries into finding innovative ways to continue services, a new report reveals
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday