The word youth does not really have a generally accepted definition, however, the United Nations (UN) through its Member States opines that youth are those persons between the ages of 15 – 24 years. They are a significant group whose population amounts to well over one million, making it a total of 40 percent of the world’s population.
Interestingly, UN report reveals that the oldest youth organisation called The Key Club began at Sacramento High School in 1925, aimed at contending against the negative effects of fraternities and social clubs. Although, the impact of this exercise is unpopular but in a bit to further tackle issues of youth restiveness round the world, the UN General Assembly In 1965 hosted the first Declaration which focuses on promoting the ideals of peace, mutual respect and understanding among young people.
Later on December 17, 1999, the UN General Assembly went ahead to adopt the recommendations from the world Conference for Ministers Responsible for Youth held in Lisbon to celebrate youth annually on August 12, tagged International Youth Day (IYD).
The first IYD was celebrated on August 12, 2000 and since then, it has been a day used to educate society about the relevance of youth in the society, their inputs in the education sector, community development, environmental groups and volunteering in different projects
It is true that youth is the backbone of any nation, the strongest asset of a country in all fields of endevour, yet there are well established cases of prevailing problems facing them generally. For example, studies revealed that young people in developed and developing countries are more prone to mental and social challenges like poverty, unemployment, unequal opportunities and malnutrition, while extreme cases of education, health, and employment are deeply rooted in underdeveloped countries.
Also, research shows that about 20% of youngsters experience mental problems every year while approximately 152 million of young workers live below poverty line. Similarly, it is said that two third of youth in developing countries are not fulfilling their economic potentials due to very limited resources and inadequate attention on youth matters
In Nigeria, some common problems of youth are cultism, political thuggery, substance abuse, indecent dressing, etc. In Bayelsa State however, cases of teenage pregnancy have been on the rise. It is rightly stated that the hurdles of youth can only better be understood through understanding their problems. Hence, UN endorsed IYD to create awareness to those issues and find lasting solutions.
Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been on the frontline proving health services through USAID and other donors in schools to address health related issues amongst youths, while UN on the other hand had since prioritized in the areas of reducing HIV/AIDS cases, providing more access to education, encouraging creative thinking for a better future and many more.
In Nigeria also, the federal government, especially that of the immediate past administration of former president Muhammadu Buhari initiated lots of financial schemes like the popular N-Power, Nigeria Youth Fund, Trader money, Geep Loan, Survival fund, Cash transfer, school feeding programme etc, to encourage youth advancement in society. Most of these programmes are directed to ameliorate poverty and douse the tension of crime related issues amongst youths.
In Bayelsa State, the present administration of Sen. Douye Diri via the state Drug Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation Committee (BADAPARC) in collaboration with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA) commemorated the 2023 World Drug Day Symposium with the theme: “PEOPLE FIRST: STOP STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION, STRENGTHEN PREVENTION” The programme is targeted to discourage youth from engaging in substance related activities, see offenders as victims, rehabilitate them to manage their mental health.
In addition, the popular ICT-based scheme tagged “Diri Digital Entrepreneurship Empowerment Programme (DDEEP),” has empowered over 8,000 beneficiaries across the eight local government areas of the state. The state government is also trainning many young Bayelsans in different skill acquisition programmes, in which most of them have graduated and are now self-reliant and beneficial to self and society, as well as the huge investment in sports to encourage youth development.
Also, some state based Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) like the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) etc, have been actively involved in the advocacy against teenage pregnancy and child abuse.
As we join the rest of the world to mark this year’s IYD with the theme: Green skills for youth towards sustainable development, all activities of the day are centered on creating awareness amongst youth on the need to enroll in free technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes, similar to embrace Green Skills to gain knowledge of climate literacy, impact assessment, risk management etc that will contribute to reduce environmental pollution and technological advancement.
Youths should be encouraged to become climate ambassadors
that are prepared to promote the effective management of climate change.
In addition, the state government should also as a matter of urgency declare zero tolerance against cultism and political thuggery amongst youths in the state. Ban indecent dressing not only in campuses but also in the state as a whole.
As Nelson Mandela rightly stated, “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow, they form the highest population of the work force of every country.” They are the engine room of growth and development, capable of making reforms and improving the society, they are also critical stakeholders whose actions and inactions can either make or mar our society. Therefore, a Philippine political writer, José Rizal wrote, “Youth is the hope of our future” thus, we should allow them to create changes and challenge them to be the real hope of our future.
~ Ediabai Susan Chijioke
Min. of Information, Orientation and Strategy.