The great work being done by ActionAid Zimbabwe in amplifying the muted voices of the marginalized and disadvantaged people in grassroots and remote communities is commendable. Giving voice to young women, supporting youth developmental initiatives, fighting poverty and advocating for socio-economic rights are some of the great works being done by ActionAid Zimbabwe in various communities across the country.
My testimony is that of a grassroots activist based in the small mining town of Kwekwe situated in Midlands Province of Zimbabwe. I got an opportunity to attend the 38th Southern African Development Community (SADC) People’s Summit which took place from 16 to 17 August 2018 in Windhoek, Namibia. ActionAid supported me to participate at the regional platform exposing me to many opportunities of leadership growth, being a member of Activista Zimbabwe, a movement of young persons in Zimbabwe advocating for mainstreaming of youth in national development. Activista is supported by ActionAid.
More than 600 people from various grassroot social movements gathered in Windhoek, Namibia for the 38the SADC People’s Summit held under the theme ‘Reclaiming SADC for social, economic and political justice, free movement and use of natural resources for youth employment, affordable land and housing for all’. The statement ‘.... use of natural resources for youth employment’ aroused my interest as I come from Kwekwe a small town richly endowed with gold and other vast natural resources. The summit was an opportunity for me to represent my community, lobby, advocate and contribute in the regional as southern African countries under the banner of SADC. Students and youth leaders expressed their concern and stressed that natural resources in their countries were not benefiting them as most of their governments focused on accruing debts rather than beneficiation and domestic exploitation of these resources.
In a young people communiqué which was presented to Heads of States and Presidents, we called on governments to prioritise youth empowerment and participation as lack of these has resulted in the marginalisation of young people in the SADC region. Some of the issues the youths put to the table were: Reduction of the retirement age to at least 55 as well as a reduction of the age at which one is eligible to contest in presidential elections to 30 years. The called for the introduction of sustainable youth economic empowerment programmes. The youth want an active desk for youth and children at SADC Secretariat for self-representation and support for the ever-changing youth social movements. They lobbied for the creation of employment and financing opportunities in the renewable energy sector done through the SADC Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency and the revival of a SADC water youth network.
The Chairperson of the Southern African People’s Solidarity Network (SAPSN) Uhuru Dempers applauded youth participation at the SADC People’s Summit. The majority of those presented in this year’s Peoples’ summit are young people and we believe that they should be involved in decision making processes and input fresh ideas that will serve our citizenry for greater good. It’s high time we changed the rhetoric about them being leaders of tomorrow because in truth they are the leaders of today’.
The SADC Summit gave young people an opportunity to contribute towards shaping the Africa they would want to see giving recommendations on what they expect from our respective leaders.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), Agenda 2063, African Youth Charter and other regional instruments recognize the youths as a critical mass in the development discourse. ActionAid Zimbabwe through its programmes is contributing in strengthening of youth participation in development. The support which they gave me to participate at this remarkable SADC People’s Summit helped me to learn a lot, grow as a leader and broaden my networks across the region.