BYLINE: MARLENE LE ROUX
The United Nations declared 1985 to be the first International Year of the Youth.
In 1994, South Africa held its first democratic election. In 1996, we launched one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, including the Bill of Rights. In 1997, the South African National Youth Policy was adopted by cabinet.
In 1998, the National Youth Commission (NYC), supposedly the lead agency responsible for co-ordination of different government departments on youth matters and for ensuring that there is effective mainstreaming of youth policy in national development planning, adopted a National Youth Action Plan, aimed at implementing the National Youth Policy and identifying resources needed to implement the policy and set goals and indicators to measure progress.
Into the second decade of our democracy, 2004, the Western Cape Provincial Youth Commission was established to assist and support youth in our province (WCYC Act No 5, 2004).
The WCYC is supposed to provide a powerful lever to ensure the development of youth policies and programmes as a foundation for youth development in the province. It is also meant to provide a legislated platform for youth, as a sector to unite around issues of common concern as we struggle to make a difference in a landscape beset by geographical and other inequalities.
Despite such landmarks and progressive policy frameworks and plans, our current generation of young people faces more complex challenges than ever before, when dealing with issues of globalisation, information and communication technologies, HIV/Aids, conflict, disability and increasing unemployment and poverty.
Thirteen years into our democracy, youth in this province still do not have a platform where their united voices can be heard so that they can participate in the decision-making of the Western Cape, nor does it seem to be deemed necessary to engage and consult with youth about issues that affect their lives.
Thus during the week preceding Youth Day, a range of civil society youth organisations co-ordinated by Certificate for Youth Trainers (CYT) came together at Artscape to debate and dialogue around issues impacting on youth as a sector in the province and put forward recommendations, among others, to:
l Develop minimum standards and implementation guidelines for integrated youth development within the province;
l Perform a range of research activities strictly focusing on youth as a sector;
l Kick-start a process of dialogue and ongoing discussion between and among partner organisations;
l Streamline and co-ordinate current education programmes and campaigns;
l Manage and ensure access to information to youth located in communities; and
l Promote issues around youth development broadly in the province.
Would it not have been invaluable for the WCYC, the guardian of youth development in the province, to have participated in the above-mentioned discussions? A representative of the Youth Commission arrived only to deliver a political welcome and speech, and went off to (I suppose) organise another cultural event for June.
This begs the question: has our WCYC become a glorified events management company only concerned with celebrations once a year? And celebrating what? Our progressive policies we have in place? What about fulfilling its mandate as outlined in the WCYC Act 2004?
When looking at the list above and when I cast my eye over the different structures in our province, including the WCYC, I wonder what they are doing to improve or develop our youth as young people grappling, on a daily basis, with unbearable poverty, the high rate of unemployment, disability and HIV/Aids, all issues which cause the destruction of human life and impact negatively on the very fabric of our society.
My understanding of the Youth Commission is that it is a perfect tool to engage and start the notion of nation-building as we grapple with issues of identity of youth within our country. …