A group of young people from Eastern and South Africa meeting in Pretoria on Saturday declared that they were indeed the people who will bring solution to the myriad problems facing their countries.
At a meeting with the UN-HABITAT Executive Director Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, the more than 50 young people lamented that many times, policy makers and politicians made decisions with far reaching implications on the lives of the young people and yet they were never consulted.
Ms. Emmie Erondanga from Kenya set the mood of the meeting when she told her colleagues to use the power they had in large numbers to effect change. "We have the power to bring change. We have to make our environment better, make our housing better and also ensure that the education we get is of better quality," she said.
Thanking Mrs. Tibaijuka persnoally and UN-HABITAT in general, Ms. Endoranga who is a community mobiliser in Nairobi's Korogocho slums said the opportunity the agency had accorded the young people was a rare one. She challenged her fellow youth to seize the opportunity and make their dreams a reality.
"We are going to be the Kwame Nkrumahs and Nelson Mandelas of our continent but this will not come easily. We must start by first changing our thinking and thinking positively," she said amidst cheers from her colleagues.
Carrying along the same theme, Abdoul Byokusenge from Kigali, Rwanda said that the youth had for a long time been taken for a ride with the promise that they were the leaders of tomorrow. "I am saying we are the leaders of today and not tomorrow," he said. According to him, merely talking about problems facing the youth was not enough. Such talk, he said, must be backed by action if any meaningful results were to be seen.
"We all have a role to play as young people and increase our networking. One of the best ways of doing this is by making more use of networking sites like facebook," he said.
The UN-HABITAT adviser on Youth Anantha Krishnan said that young people needed empowerment adding that if such affirmative actions are not taken then the young people will not be able to achieve much.
On her part Mrs. Tibaijuka said that the key to safe urban centres was on young people. "Safety and security is a serious issue worldwide and the young people must be taken on board because they are the best placed to ensure sustained safety and security in their respetive neighbourhoods," she said. She cited the Lake Victoria Water and Sanitation Initiative where she said a huge investment by UN-HABITAT was already facing threats by vandals and appealed to the youth from the area, some of whom were present, to be in the forefront of ensuring the project's sustainability. "We must sensitise the residents on the need to take care of this massive investment because they are the greatest beneficiaries and would also be the greatest losers if the project was to fail," she said.
Mrs. Tibaijuka reminded the youth that they were the trustees of projects aimed at benefitting their communities and that they should take that responsibility seriously.
UN-HABITAT Programme Maneger for South Africa Ms. Pinky Vilakazi told the young people not to have their backgrounds limit their potential. "Do not look at yourself and say just because you are coming from informal settlements you cannot achieve much. It does not matter where you come from so long as you are focused you will achieve your dream, Ms. Vilakazi said citing herself and Mrs. Tibaijuka as examples of people who rose from humble beginnings to make it in life.
The youth are gathered in South Africa on the fringes of the ongoing FIFA World Cup. Under the aegis of "Pan-African Youth Group for a Safer Africa", the team comprises of young people drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and South Africa.
This event characterizes the final highlight of a UN-HABITAT and partners co-sponsored initiative titled "Youth for a Safer Africa" that involves the sponsoring of a group of 20 select youth from various East-African nations undertake a journey to South Africa that began in Nairobi, Kenya.
The partners include: SCORE, Right to Play, the Tshwane Municipality, and Coca-Cola. The exciting programme will see the select youth attend workshops on sport for peace and development, attend several meetings and be a part of the publicity events to be held there as a promotion of the whole event