Youth Convention: Youth Identity

Youth Convention: Youth Identity

This week sees the convergence of African youth in Nairobi, Kenya, at the behest of the Africa Alliance of YMCAs (AAYMCA) and the All African Conference of Churches (AACC), in order to participate in the Africa We Want Youth Convention themed: We have faith: the Africa We Want.

The Youth Convention focusses on: Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want and skills building for the 21st century. The workshop is taking place at the AACC Desmond Tutu Conference Centre from 22 – 26 November, 2015. The convention comes at rather a crucial time; two years after the adoption of Agenda 2063 by the African Heads of State. This week the African Union was represented by Maryann Brown who attended proceedings to speak of how the AU, the AAYMCA and the AACC can galvanize support towards achieving Agenda 2063.

The AACC and YMCA believe that youth possess endless potential, dynamism and a freshness of ideas that ought to be harnessed to transform our societies and the continent of Africa in general. For meaningful change to happen, youth need to be engaged as actors, stimulators, creators, agents, innovators and partners in the development. The AACC and AAYMCA have already begun to popularise the African Union’s Agenda 2063 strategy and are advocating for national governments to commit to the ideals of Agenda 2063 by ensuring that the goals and aspirations spelt out are captured within the planning and budgetary processes of African states and countries, especially on the issues that are specific to young people.

At the opening discussions, participants were grouped into committees where Aspiration Five of Agenda 2064 was extensively digested. This was done to bring youth up to speed on the experiences, emotions and thinking of the tenets of Aspiration Five which states; “An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, values and ethics”

At the preliminary stage of discussion, participants concerned themselves in defining what “identity” means to them in the spectrum of Agenda 2063 but most importantly to them as young people. It must be recorded that words like; impression of oneself, expression of oneself and the understanding of oneself echoes throughout the discussion as making the totality of one’s identity.

I must confess that the understanding of one’s identity clearly represents the cultural diversity represented at the congress where some participants have asserted that their identities are shaped by their dreams and aspirations. Some were quick to say that socio-economic and environmental forces that surrounds them underpin the formation of their identity, who they are, and perhaps who they will become in future. Some are equally shaped by the moral codes of virtues and the socially accepted Dos and Don’ts. It is however refreshing to know that young people are shaped by different things, which endorses the fact that the challenges of young people cannot have one blanket solution.

The ability of young people to have access, and to engage, largely depends on their capacity. Participants at the Youth Convention delved into a scientific assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses in relation to their identity. They concluded that collectively they have a large following which can be used to influence and indeed has been influencing youth in their networks. Notwithstanding the above, young people are plundered into different forms of injustice because of their vulnerability which results from a lack of information and knowledge, and their naivety, poverty, and diseases.

Young people’s identity and wellbeing are influenced by so many things; a scholar once posited that “anything that surrounds us has the propensity to influence us”. The history and culture of where young people come from, whether it is national stereotyping or the ethos of a nation, greatly influences their dreams and aspirations and how they conduct themselves.

Believe it or not, young people at the convention did admit that they are aware of the influence of Religion on their lives. Born into homes that are Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, young people are constantly aware of their religious obligations and the sovereignty of their maker, and the fact that their actions and inactions shall be judged hereafter. Here I shall like to echo the words of Karl Max about the extent to which Religion can influence a person; “Religion is the opium of the masses”, the addiction to religious practices, rituals and dictates imposes a heavy influence on young people on the African continent.

The overriding interest of bringing youth of the continent together to discuss their identity in relation to Agenda 2063 was done in order for participants to appreciating the unique ways needed to address the challenges faced by young people. To the AAYMCA and AACC, this approach is indispensable when engaging with Africa’s youth, policy formation and implementation mechanisms, and the African Union.

Cedric Dzelu, S2C Ambassador, Ghana YMCA

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