The Youth Agenda: Exuberant Quest for Peace
Demographic projections point to the likelihood of Africa having undergone a massive population boom by year 2050 and with a more youthful population. The population boom is bound to lead to a rise in conflicts for resources if no measures are taken to counteract that development. The effect of the population boom without a requisite increase in the provision of social services is likely to be felt in many African countries and also in parts of the world to which increasing numbers of young people are bound to migrate in search for better living conditions. In Zimbabwe, the rise of the youth demographic is already evident, with people under the age of 35 constituting more that 65% of Zimbabwe’s 13 million total population. In Zimbabwe, when politicians appreciated the significant increase in number of the youth eligible to vote in 2018, a scramble for the youth vote consequently ensued.
The rise of the youthful population comes with both a promise and a peril. It is a potential spring of a young, vibrant and creative human resource, and therefore of economic prosperity and peace. Despite the longstanding economic deterioration in Zimbabwe many young people have found creative ways of irking out a living in the informal business sector. Many display an indomitable attitude of innovative and entrepreneurial resourcefulness, albeit in small scale business activities.
However, on the negative side, the rising young population is also a source of vigorous criminal activity, political violence, and conflicts over limited resources. In contexts of instability and widespread conflicts such as those which have been experienced of late in Zimbabwe, youths are found both as villains and victims. They comprise most of those involved in political violence, criminal gangs, violence related to competition for mineral resources, human trafficking, and drug and alcohol abuse. They also get affected as victims of the various forms of violence and abuse. The most vulnerable are those young people who are orphaned or neglected and left with little or no means of fending for themselves. Many young people in Zimbabwe have experienced or witnessed violence among peers, in domestic settings, in society in general and at times in school.
Although Zimbabwe is one of the most literate of Africa countries, its unemployment rate is over 80% with most of school leavers and graduates unemployed. The country is also experiencing high inflation rates. Chances of getting a job even for those qualified are very slim, sinking many youths deeper and deeper into despondency. As a result, many young people migrate to neighboring countries, especially South Africa, in search for greener pastures. Some youths become victims of abusive patronage in which the affluent and powerful may deploy them for their sinister missions in exchange for alcohol and meager sums of money.
Convinced that young people can be agents for positive change, ECLF seeks to equip them with relevant skills that will enable them to prevent, manage, resolve and transform conflict constructively as well as arm them with dialogue skills that will enable them to express themselves non-violently. It is ECLF’s vision to have a critical mass of Young Peace Pioneers in all the provinces of Zimbabwe whose role will include advocating for peace in their respective communities. The conflict prevention, management, resolution and transformation skills are meant act as a foundation for livelihoods-related pursuits.
ECLF’s peacebuilding programme intends to raise a young population in Zimbabwe with capacity for and a steadfast orientation towards peace in society as well as to foster active youth participation in decision making. The programme, which is implemented in diverse contexts of rural and urban Zimbabwe, is done in cognizance of the fact that conflict affects males and females differently; as such, a gender lens deliberately characterizes its implementation, ensuring that gender issues and disparities are addressed in the process.