A new year brings with it new prospects and hope for better fortunes. A clean slate and new chapter for everyone to determine how their life is meant to be is offered to all. This article outlines a few events and developments that youth need to look out for in the year 2023.
The Youth Bill has been getting discussed for nearly two years now and it is anticipated that this will be gazetted in 2023. Youth need to ensure that they take advantage of available opportunities to influence the development of the Youth Bill. The objective of the Youth Bill is to have an all-encompassing legislation that addresses all sectors/areas of the youth, align it to the Constitution, as well as the domestication of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the SADC Declaration on Youth Development and Empowerment.
The 10 seats that are reserved for youth as Members of Parliament will take effect from the 2023 elections. This means that there will be 10 Members of Parliament (MPs) who are between the ages of 21 and 35 years. These MPs will be elected under a party-list system of proportional representation which is based on the votes cast for candidates representing political parties in a general election for constituency members in the provinces; and in which male and female candidates are listed alternately.
This presents an opportunity to lobby and advocate for youth issues within the law-making process. The inclusion of the 10 Youth MPs also adds to the skills and knowledge base of lawmakers and widens the selection pool for cabinet Ministers. The Youth MPs need to prove that they are aware of the youth issues in Zimbabwe and are bold in communicating these through motions and debates in parliament. Youth in the generality of Zimbabwe also need to play their role and demand accountability from the Youth MPs. This can be done through securing the contact details of the MPs from Parliament and engaging with the MPs on Social Media platforms.
Parliamentary Youth Caucus
The Parliamentary Youth Caucus was officially launched in December 2022. This presents a milestone in developing youth friendly laws and policies in Zimbabwe. The caucus’ goal is to advocate for youth development, empowerment, participation and representation across all spheres of life in Zimbabwe. There is a need to ensure that the caucus bridges the gap between parliament and youth by providing a continuous interface with the youth. The caucus needs to be in touch with a diverse set of youth issues so that it plays an informed role in pushing the youth agenda. Youth can reach out to the caucus directly through the Parliament office or reach out to youth associations such as the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT), National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO) and other youth organizations who can facilitate engagements with the parliamentary youth caucus.
2023 Harmonized Elections
The highlight of 2023 must be the holding of the general elections. Youth need to participate in related processes around these elections. Youth need to be able to register to vote and encourage their peers to vote. Voting is a key process that elects persons who make decisions that affect youths’ everyday lives thus it should be taken seriously. An analysis of the 2018 Preliminary Voters Roll conducted by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) revealed that only 49% of the 18–22-year age group was registered to vote. That means that only 663 930 people registered to vote out of an eligible 1 348 919 which needs to be improved in the 2023 election. This discrepancy was also common in the 23 to 27 age group which had 62% registered and 28 to 32 age group which had 68% registered. Voting is a right and youth need to exercise this right in their numbers. There are also other opportunities to participate including observing elections or participating in the political party of your choice either on campaign teams or political party agents during the elections.
The year 2023 has numerous platforms, events and opportunities that youth can take up to participate in governance processes. Youth have been accused of being apathetic and lacking the maturity to contribute their views through available platforms. This new year presents an opportunity to debunk such myths and show that youth are capable citizens who are willing to not only participate but lead in the process of building Zimbabwe. Youth it is our time and indeed, it is the Year of the youth!