Dear Mauritian youth,
Today we mark the annual International Youth Day to honour the world’s young people; their energy and enthusiasm; their dreams and ambitions; and their important contributions to development. But it is also a time to take stock of the needs and aspirations of young people and what we must do to provide them with the options and opportunities that are at the heart of human development.
On this International Youth Day, I would like to express my heartfelt support for this year’s theme, Building a Better World: Partnering with Youth.
Today’s generation of youth – the largest the world has ever known, and the vast majority of whom live in developing countries – has unprecedented potential to advance the well-being of the entire human family. Yet the global economic crisis has hit youth the hardest, and many are understandably discouraged by rising inequalities. A large number have no immediate prospects and are disenfranchised from the political, social and development processes in their countries. Without urgent measures, we risk creating a “lost generation” of squandered talent and dreams.
As a matter of fact, we need to establish more and stronger mechanisms for youth participation. Youngsters are not passive beneficiaries but equal and effective partners. Their aspirations extend far beyond jobs; youth also want a seat at the table – a real voice in shaping the policies that shape their lives. We need to listen to and engage with young people. The time has come to integrate youth voices more meaningfully into decision-making processes at all levels.
Youth are a transformative force; they are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change, be it in public squares or cyberspace. From their pivotal role in efforts to achieve freedom, democracy and equality to their global mobilization in support of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, youth have energetically demonstrated yet again their capacity and desire to turn the tide of history and tackle global challenges.
Shaping our future
It has often been said that the youth is the future. The youth of Mauritius will one day be captains of industry, champions of their own causes, leaders of men and women. One day, you will have to manage and inspire others to move towards one direction to achieve a common goal.
Many years from now, when you have grown wrinkles on your face, perhaps one of you will have to be on a podium, delivering a speech to the most brilliant minds of the next generation. By then, the important questions in your lives will no longer be: “Why is my crush taking so long to reply to my text?” or “What do I do when my mother adds me on Facebook?” The important questions will carry so much more weight, and they will have a significant impact on the lives of your fellowmen.
Despite the commendable efforts by the Government of Mauritius and other strategic partners over the past years, the relative insufficiency to integrate young people as strategic partners in the national development process remains a major concern.
If we accept that participation is the very essence of development, then conscious efforts on the part of the government to constructively engage and mainstream young people must become a central plank of national development strategies.
However, it is an undeniable fact that young people continue to be faced with various challenges of development, namely: unemployment and poverty; crime and violence; disrespect and bad citizenship; gender bias and discrimination; health and HIV/AIDS; and lack of access to entrepreneurial skills.
We also cannot ignore the role which alcohol and drug abuse play in this phenomenon. Young men and women under the age of 18 continue to frequent taverns as if this is the most normal thing to do.
Teenage pregnancy among Mauritian youth continues to remain one of the critical challenges facing young female learners, and this needs to be addressed.
The way forward
It is this struggle that should now challenge the youth, in all their formations, to wake up every day and begin every single day with more determination than ever before to make a mark in this new struggle. The challenge to the youth of today is to emulate the revolutionary and exemplary role of the youth of previous decades and assume its rightful role in the development of society. We must continue to organise and mobilise our youth to advance the struggle against the above-mentioned setbacks. The youth ought to be at the vanguard of the popular movement towards our programme of renewal and demonstrate their commitment to education, health, addressing unemployment and skills development.
Our commitment to the fight against HIV and AIDS has never been greater. We must double our efforts as a country to ensure that all our interventions yield the required results. It is not enough to simply shout from the rooftops and broadcast the message to abstain; we must all roll up our sleeves and volunteer in our communities to educate others and provide home-based care to those who have succumbed.
Similarly, education remains at the core of our efforts to build a generation of youth that will lead the country with diligence and take it to new heights.
It must never elude us that today’s youth represent tomorrow’s leaders, and our failure to adequately prepare them for the responsibilities of tomorrow will only propel the country to a downward spiral and a broken future.
National Youth Council (NYC) of Mauritius
The National Youth Council has an important role in preparing you for the challenges you will confront in the future. It is our duty to equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed; and to give you opportunities to achieve that success here.
The NYC is currently designing innovative strategies to provide an unparalleled opportunity to address the leadership challenges and to take the field of youth leadership to a new level. To maximise this opportunity, NYC is convening a consortium of collaborators, which combine a passionate commitment to supporting a new generation of young leaders.
Last month 81 young leaders were elected in the Regional Youth Councils around the island. An intensive professional leadership workshop, under the aegis of The Leadership Network, is being provided to all these 81 representatives at the end of this month. We at NYC believe that social transformation can only be achieved through value-based leadership and when individuals undergo a process of inner change and then collectively begin to chart their destiny as a people.
Furthermore, to address its communication information and empowerment challenges, the National Youth Council identified its newly-launched website as a critical component of its PR and communication mix to converse with Regional Youth Councils, Youth Clubs and the youth community in general – provincially, nationally and internationally, thus informing them of the latest information in our portfolio, our policies and obligations.
Why are we doing all of this? Why are we working overtime to address these issues when we can just fulfil the minimum that is required of us? The answer is simple: Because it is worth it. It is worth it if we can give our youth the knowledge, the opportunity, and the quality of life they truly deserve. It is worth it if we can create enough opportunities for success here so that the most brilliant of our people, should they decide to work overseas, do so not out of necessity but rather as a choice. It is worth it if we can build a Mauritius we can all be proud of.
The energy and inspiration we have seen in Mauritius’ youth will become drivers of economic renewal and prosperity. Efforts to build a safer and more just world will fall squarely on your shoulders, and again it is our duty to ensure that you are ready to take on these challenges. At the same time, we can all learn from your openness to change and your willingness to take up the hard work that will build a brighter future for yourselves and your country.
So, as someone who is a youth and as Chairman of the National Youth Council (NYC), I am calling on all of you to contribute to this cause – to make the most of your opportunities; to constantly strive for excellence; to go beyond yourselves; to push yourselves, and to always raise the bar. Perhaps more importantly, I am calling on you not only to harness the positive energy that is prevalent in our country again but also to contribute to it: by extending to others compassion and gratitude and by always being responsible for the effects your actions have on others.
While I am writing this article for young readers, I am certain that even other countries – the whole of humanity – will be well-served by a generation that is motivated, compassionate, and responsible. Together, as a team, let us do what we can in our individual capacities to bring our beloved country (…may God bless thee forever) back to its rightful place in the sun.
By Mr Krishna Athal, Chairman of National Youth Council, 2012