This exclusion is driven by what the scholar and expert on young people, Barry Checkoway, calls ‘adultism’ – when adults take a position that they are better than young people and prescribe solutions for them. Young people are seen as potentially dangerous elements that should be kept away from key decision-making processes.
On top of this, poverty makes young people particularly vulnerable to being excluded. About 70% of young people in Zimbabwe are unemployed. And those that work experience extreme poverty, earning less than US$2 per capita per day.
This renders them susceptible to exploitation and control – young people who are poor are ready to sell their rights, for food hand-outs and promises of jobs that never materialise.
But it’s not just about the adults. Young people are also to blame for low participation.
In the interviews they showed a lack of interest in a system they felt they couldn’t change. They share this apathy with many other Zimbabweans.
The legitimacy of the country’s elections since independence has always been a thorny issue. The opposition has regularly raised accusations of vote-buying, electoral fraud, vote rigging, as well as the intimidation of voters by the ruling party – ZANU-PF.
This has led many to question the legitimacy of the electoral process.
Other barriers to young people include a lack of financial resources, lack of capacity, lack of information and the absence of a culture of positive engagement.
Most believed that young people were prepared to run for office in the 2018 elections. But nearly half indicated that young people needed more support, such as leadership training, in preparation for running for office.
When asked what the top five solutions to improving the participation of young people were the answers included:
· freedom to participate in politics and development without restrictions (71%),
· provision of leadership training (54%),
· youth awareness campaigns (42%),
· pro-youth policies (40%), and
· effective engagement in productive activities (38%).
Young people should be viewed as a vital source of information which justifies the need for adults to give them space and opportunities to engage meaningfully. This could be done through local campaigns, like the United Nations’ ‘Not Too Young to Run’ campaign. This promotes the right for young people to run for office, creates awareness and mobilises them.
Young people also need to be equipped to participate in politics. This includes getting support through leadership training and training in elections and governance processes. Finally, resources and support must be given to youth-led initiatives that are reaching out to young people.
By Hillary Musarurwa . This article was first published by The Conversation