Today is the international youth day with the theme “Youth civic engagement”. What is this about civic engagement? Civic engagement is very important for the development of a nation, meaning that citizens are actively participating in the life of a community in order to improve its conditions. Citizen participation may involve public concerns, needs and values being considered during decision making especially by the government. For this year’s theme, the United Nations is not just stressing civic engagement but rather Youth civic engagement. Youth civic engagement seeks to engage young people in democracy. Through these initiatives, young people make valuable contributions to social change in their communities and across the nation. Young people participate in community projects, leadership and advocacy through which they can develop their communities.
Achieving sustainable human development is the top importance of Youth civic engagement which also leads to reduced risky behavior that some youth do instead of meaningful participation. This would greatly reduce the crime rate as it is known that most criminals are the youth. There are high chances of greater civic participation later in life if involved at an earlier age as this is important since we have seen older people still doing poorly in civic engagement. Civic engagement also provides young people with opportunities to gain work experience, acquire new skills, and to learn responsibility and accountability while contributing to the good of their communities.
There is need to appreciate that successful youth engagement strategies require that youth have genuine and meaningful opportunities to work with each other and with policy makers to impact issues of importance. These initiatives need to respect the value of young people in public problem-solving and provide young people with with information, tools and support to work effectively together as partners, allowing opportunities for youth to take ownership of parts of the process, mobilize others and become powerful role models. As the whole world is looking forwad to the Sustainable goals and achieving them, then there is need to plan and work with youth. By creating opportunities for youth civic engagement, policymakers promote the healthy development of young people
However, youth today are not actively participating in the lives of their communities, not because they are not interested as most people may think but it is mainly because they are not empowered. Young people need to be empowered so as to bring full contribution to their societies. They need to be empowered all round especially with information. It is not surprising to find young people between ages of 18 to 24 and they do not know their rights, do not understand the principals of citizenship, are disengaged from the political process, they generally just lack the knowledge necessary for effective participation in their surrounding.
If we want to increase youth civic engagement, we need to protect the rights of the young people. Education is known to have a significant impact on youth civic engagement. Dropping out of school may decrease the access to information which may stand in the way of meaningful participation in the community. Violating the other rights of young people including sexual and reproductive health rights may limit civic engagement of the youth. Other socio economic factors that limit youth civic engament need to be checked.
There is need for training in civic participation so the youth feel empowered and capable of engaging in the projects they pursue. Institutionalizing youth voice in the policymaking process engages young people and helps policymakers make wiser investments and policy decisions responsive to youth needs. By creating formal youth advisory councils to ensure the voices of youth are heard and play a meaningful role. State policymakers encourage youth participation and enable youth to identify ways in which policies and programs can better serve their needs. Not only do they need information, there is also need for funds which may be through youth-run grant programs which allow youth to shape policy and programmatic priorities. With these in place, I believe youth will be ready for civic engagement and later play a big role in achieving the Sustainable development goals.