A Call For Change On International Youth Day
The following statement was written by the members of Letters to Strangers’ Zimbabwe Chapter.
Letters to Strangers Zimbabwe (L2S+Zim) joins the world in commemorating the International Youth Day, which highlights the importance of global efforts’ encouraging the meaningful participation of young people. The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”. Resonating with the 2030 Decade of Action, which calls for accelerating sustainable solutions to all the world’s biggest challenges, this theme highlights how young people act as key drivers in generating these unstoppable movements and engendering necessary global transformations.
The 2021 Youth Day comes at a time when the impact of COVID-19 is being felt far and wide. As this generation ventures into the workforce, many young people are desperately hoping for a fast reawakening of the economy. The COVID-19 induced lockdowns have resulted in schools and universities shutting their doors, forcing youth people to quickly adjust to the new normal of online lessons. Consequently, virtual learning, despite its immense benefits, has exposed deep-seated inequalities between the “haves” and “have nots”, making it nearly impossible for poor and/or isolated communities to access education. Not to mention the fact that the world will be feeling the effects of COVID-19’s impact on public health for years to come.
Furthermore, while climate change shocks have devastated ecosystems, the COVID-19 pandemic has further disrupted markets and supply chains for small-scale farmers in Zimbabwe and around the world, exacerbating food system challenges. Therefore, it is clear why International Youth Day recognizes the importance of re-evaluating our food systems for the health of humanity and the greater world.
Yet, effectively solving these intensifying challenges can only be done if no one is left behind, especially the youth. It is only by building together that we can build better.
For that reason, it is imperative that young people become involved in policy formulation and implementation, so that they can contribute to identifying innovative solutions and transforming food systems for the betterment of human and planetary health. To help address the exclusion of children and youth in decision making processes in environmental and well being, L2S+Zim, a youth-for-youth organization, approaches all of its programmes and volunteers with such inclusivity in mind. Failure to involve this segment of the population and, by extension, continuing to exclusively follow the opinions of the older population will be detrimental to our present and future efforts towards a more equitable global society.
What is more, in order to include the younger population in solving these challenges, their rights to safety must be prioritized as well. As L2S+Zim commemorates the 2021 Youth Day, it would be short sighted of us to ignore the threat to the well-being of children and young people caused by the environments that the greater society has created. That is why, L2S+Zim calls on the government to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation, as well as condemn child marriages and other forms of abuse. For child marriage not only threatens the lives and health of young women but also hinders their ability to pursue educations and meaningful careers.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes the internationally agreed definition of a child along with their rights to health, education, protection from violence, and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, all of which are violated by child marriage.
When speaking to the betterment of poor food systems and the greater world’s health, it is therefore pertinent that young people are included in the conversation, since that is the only way to prevent such abuses from occurring in the future.
Moreover, it is also essential that young people receive the help needed to ease their suffering in other areas, such as their mental health, a component of the human condition that has been ignored for too long.
All in all, this International Youth Day ought to serve as a reminder to ensure the inclusion of young people in the post-pandemic world. Hopefully, this year’s theme will push humanity in the right direction.
If you’d like to learn more about the issues mentioned above, feel free to consult the following resources: