Young citizens: African youth step up to governance challenges
Young Africans (particularly boys and young men) are often seen as a 'lost generation' - frustrated, excluded and marginalised from decision-making processes.For decades governments have been ignoring and silencing young African voices. But things are changing.
A new special journal issue, 'Young citizens: youth and participatory governance in Africa' co-edited by IDS Fellow Rosemary McGee, demonstrates how.
As citizens all over the world are starting to demand accountability from those in power, young people in Africa are beginning to step up to the challenges of engaging in governance and policy making processes – and claiming their rights as young citizens.
According to editors McGee and Greenhalf, 'There is much to learn from the ways that they are challenging norms and structures that exclude them, engaging with the state and demanding accountability.'
If policies, plans and budgets are to be relevant to youth, those policies need to be informed by their realities, priorities and perspectives. And young people’s participation in governance needs to be seen not just as an end in itself but as a means to further, more concrete ends that bring about sustainable, progressive changes. Until now, there has been little documentation focusing on young people's perspectives and roles in governance, and importantly on how these perspectives can be surfaced and incorporated into policy making processes.
The authors argue that we need to know more about why this is and how it can be overcome. As young people move from childhood to adulthood, it has implications for the ways young people’s needs and interests are represented and pursued. It also affects the opportunities they have to exercise citizenship and realise their rights.
The special issue was developed and written by and with young people. It includes 19 case studies about young people's engagement in participatory governance across Africa.
It highlights how young people are driving change in creative and unexpected ways and why it is so important that young people are now stepping up to the governance challenge.
Co-author Rosemary McGee said, 'In the process of producing this publication, we brought together two different and mutually enriching kinds of knowledge: citizenship and governance concepts and frameworks co-generated with southern researchers in the IDS-coordinated Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability (Citizenship DRC), and the realities and expertise of practitioners promoting youth participation in governance in Africa.'
'The practitioners' realities breathed life into the concepts and frameworks, and the concepts gave practitioners ways to see more clearly and demonstrate more convincingly why and how we need to promote youth engagement in governance. The Citizenship DRC’s bottom-up notion of ‘seeing like a citizen’ becomes still more relevant when we realise how far young citizens are currently marginalised from governance processes.'
Participating in governance and policy processes is re-shaping the way young people perceive and exercise citizenship in powerful ways. This special issue demonstrates the persistence, passion and enthusiasm that young people bring to governance processes, and enables participatory practitioners – young and old – to learn from their experiences.
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