By: Eric Birori
Rwanda’s leadership has put tremendous effort into youth empowerment by putting in place various programs and platforms aimed at enabling the youth to become active citizens and contribute to the development of the country. This is highlighted within the governments strategic plan, where there are plans to encourage regional level youth forum debates on economic development, and also an aim to provide a platform on EAC level for youth to share information with colleagues around the East African region.
Previously in Rwanda, affairs of the youth always took a back seat behind national priorities, or simply did not feature anywhere. Youth never had the opportunity to discuss with decision makers and they lacked the confidence to express their needs and priorities.
Through the Inzira Nziza program of Never Again Rwanda, trainings were held with youth and local leaders in five districts, namely Ngororero, Nyabihu, Huye, Gisagara and Nyamagabe. The facilitator formed groups to discuss the differing perceptions of youth and local leaders that hinder engagement between these two parties.
Within the discussions, Ndagijimana Faustin a councilor in Karago sector, put emphasis on the behavior of today’s young people.
“Most of them want to behave like Americans, when you look at Nyamirambo youth, they choose to dress like Americans, at the same time he has nothing to eat. Another example, when we call them to national events it is hard to find young people who are interested, they are more interest in music events” He said.
Muvandimwe Freddy, the coordinator of the National Youth council in Huye district, insisted that leaders especially at the local level must change their attitude towards youth, because some of them consider youth as dependents.
“Local leaders should change their attitude and engage young people, and I urge councils members to monitor this issue”.
So far, youth and local leaders have demonstrated some mistrust towards each other. Youth claim that this is because of ignorance and selfishness from the local leaders; while leaders say youth have laziness, and lack maturity.
Youth said that adults tend to ignore them and deny their ideas because of a conservative mindset. On the other hand, adults have identified youth to be the center of every problem and not the solution.
One of the youth stated that “Leaders don’t keep their promises that made us lose trust in them. Second, they never trust youth’s opinions, and they are not able to give us the information we need”.
On the leader’s side, they pointed out some traits demonstrating youth’s misbehavior “Youth neglects jobs, they also ignore invitations to participate in government programs.
In discussions, youth touched upon some solutions and recommendations. They told local leaders to value the youth’s opinions more, and keep their word when it comes to sharing information to the young people.
Also adults said that the government should strengthen civic education in schools as well as in families, and urged youth to raise their issues while participating in government programs.
Amongst these discussions, youth, local leaders and facilitators from Never Again Rwanda, concluded that youth and adults are expected to listen and learn from each other in order to reach a consensus. Also there is a need for dialogue around the issue of trust, power and authority between youth and leaders that will help to make this type of collaborative relationship possible.