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The Youths, Politics and Elections: An Unfolding Paradigm Shift


Prelude

Youth are taking the world of politics by storm. There is no more space too big for their boots. The presidential office is no sacred place for youthful incumbents. This paradigm shift for the higher political playing field has rendered the youngsters a rich niche for political parties, though they are confined to lower order roles. Political ideologies appealing to youth that were once considered “marginal” are becoming mainstreamed, and more young people are associating themselves with non-popular political parties. The number of taking to politics has always been rising. The local community campaigns have been the main center stage. Given this purview, one will want to believe that young people can change the nation (Zimbabwe) through politics by becoming actively, meaningfully and substantially involved throughout political parties and beyond. But a question remains…. How can youth change the political narrative?


Youth in Zimbabwe can be a viable political force without relying on political big giants in spite of their historic low turnout at the polling booth. This was discovered after a series of engagements with young adults who confirmed that they have taken up the initiative and managed to mobilize each other to register as voters in preparation for the plebiscite. They resoundingly confirmed that older politicians have failed to provide a meaningful livelihood, hence their turn to create a new Zimbabwe as they want their marginalized voices to be heard. In the past it was felt that nobody cared when they talk about voting but now is time to change narrative and to be well focused in casting the ballot. This time around the rhetoric is changing and leaders are elected on merit rather through being shepherded by old political Goliaths. Young people should be given opportunities to listen to what electoral candidates have to offer and identify with the manifesto not to be coerced to vote for certain individuals just for a token enough to buy a beer pint. Advocating for youth mainstreaming can allow young people to change the world by creating new awareness, opportunities, influence formulation of policies, systems and cultures that foster youth engagement and increased political participation. In political parties, youth mainstreaming could allow (us. the youth) to effect democratic representation even in parties that would discriminate against a youth voice – this can only take a youth initiative to demand space and be able to set a clearly defined electoral- youth- agenda.


Running for office –

Youth as politicians If someone has the right to vote, he or she should have a right to run for public office. Youths have every right to be active participants in civic and public life and it is time to ensure they no longer face barriers to run for public office be it at local or national level. It is thus my desire to see my fellow youths rising against age discrimination by calling for non-restrictive measures on the rights of young people to run for public office. Whatever age they are be it 18 or 35, young people can run for any desired office. I came to sincerely appreciate youth quality of leadership when I started interacting with them on a daily basis on issues of governance and democracy. It also dawned in me that fighting for and demanding youth rights to vote is not any easy task as you develop enemies far and wide. This comes from the fact that some young


people are used as foot soldiers and pawns of violence during electoral cycle. It is therefore of paramount importance that we don’t lose heart in mobilizing young voters so that they effectively contribute to the governance agenda of the country by electing leaders of their choice and also get elected. They should be made aware that voting and standing for election is their democratic right as provided for in section 67 of the constitution. Youths shall not indulge in protest vote through casting blank ballot which they might think it would be a way of communicating their dissatisfaction with the current political system. Youths as voters can also vote for youth candidates who is capable of bringing social, political and economic change needed by any young person.


Benchmarks: Towards a Sound Youth Participation in Politics and Elections

The involvement of youth in politics leads to civic engagement which is broader than political engagement because it can yield service to the community through involvement in health, education and other key sectors. Therefore, political engagement becomes a more targeted aspect of civil lobbying and can be expressed through voting and or signing issue based petitions.   It is therefore believed that youth who participate in their community are more likely to become engaged citizens and voters. Thus in order to have better young citizenship, politics is one of the best tools.  More so, for youths to be engaged in politics and its processes in the most effective way, they need to learn/taught about political systems, political actions and other realities within and around the political systems. They can be allowed (without structural intimidation), to conduct action learning oriented activities that allow them to gain credit for their involvement. Training — Youths need to be trained to change the nation through political means, teaching them the skills they need to become involved. These include communication, problem-solving, change management and conflict resolution skills. It also means participating in knowledge-sharing activities designed to build their capacity for powerful action. Some might only need inspiration for them to get involved in such processes. 


Youth for the Youth

The youth are confronted by many challenging issues in the world unheard since but most of them rarely get sympathizers to help them tackle the said challenges. The youth are naturally disposed to better understand other young people. The best way to improve this newer generation would be through politics, which is a tool universally used to take action for development.


Article compiled by

Sichasisile Ndlovu

Founder- Community Youth Dev Trust

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