Everywhere you go today, there is a group of people lining up the streets, beating drums, giving drinks to the police and clamoring for some form of freedom or liberty.  The LGBT community asking that they be given the same respect that other human beings,  feminist campaigners, protesting Catholics, peaceful Muslims, unemployed people, former prisoners,people with medical conditions, guys in the friend-zone, former child soldiers, the disabled,underpaid teachers, single men and just about anyone and everyone.

Basically there are many groups of people asking that they be recognized as a force to reckon with and that they too are human beings with as much right to freedom and liberty as anyone else. It goes without saying that the Young People have themselves gotten together every once in a while to complain about the marginalization that they go through in various spheres of life.

Not so long ago, there seemed to be overwhelming agreement not just in Uganda but across the whole world that the Young People were/are the future of this world. Whether or not this ‘future’ will ever come in our lifetime is something of debate but everyone seems/seemed to  agree that the young people are/were ripe for a take over.

Photo: Erik (HASH) Hersman / Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Erik (HASH) Hersman / Flickr Creative Commons

Quite naturally, a number of young people positioned themselves to take over from the older generation while others simply stayed on the streets and continued clamoring for empowerment. So many years down the road, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of young people taking over.

In Uganda for example, the young people have benefits that remain safely tucked away in text-books and in pages of the constitution while in real life the old guard holds onto economic,social, political and religious power. Of course it is easy to point a finger at the old guard and even throw stones at them because they seem to be immovable. However, as a young person, one needs to ask a question – ‘Am I ready for this responsibility?’

There is a crop of young people who have insisted on making noise about their time having arrived but still act, think and behave like infants. Quite naturally, there is no way the old guard will hang around forever. Their time to depart will come, with or without their approval. The question for the young people is therefore simple – are we ready for when the old guard departs?

Many of us spend our lives being young people and we forget that the world demands a lot from everyone no matter how young or old one may be. We forget that we can not be young forever. And we also seem to forget that the Youth Empowerment we clamor so much for begins in our minds. If a young person steps up to the plate and becomes a force to reckon with say in the business world, they will definitely be invited to the table of men for a discussion–that is how things work. And once their opinions are of worthy note, there is a great chance they will be offered audience. The old guard will not invite you until you have something substantial to put on the table. That is just the bitter truth.

A group of Youth take part in a computer training.  Photo Source: Youth For Technology
A group of Youth take part in a computer training. Photo Source: Youth For Technology

It is true that world over, the young people face a myriad of challenges when it comes to access to opportunities and being part of decision making processes. However, it is also true that there are many young people world over who have broken boundaries and have succeeded without waiting for the old guard to let them. They have simply risen up and taken charge of their lives and now they are regarded some of the richest young people.

Youth Empowerment as a movement rightly focuses on creating spaces and platforms for the young people to engage in decision making and be able to access opportunities. It should also focus on unlocking the minds of the young people so that they go out into the world and grab it by its horns as opposed to waiting for things to be handed to them. This world is much harsher than we think and young people need to get out of their comfort zones of complaint and get their hands dirty with activity. That is the only way we will push aside the unwilling old guard.

Youth Empowerment programs and strategies should focus on teaching the Young people how to occupy the spaces that they demand to occupy. They should help the young people unlock their potential and also encourage them to be self reliant individuals. If the world is not willing to give you what you want, there is no harm in going out and grabbing it by yourself.