Youths all around the world today are facing different challenges, difficulties and obstacles that have continually threatened their existence and redefined their identities. While both developed and developing countries have high rates of young people with mental and social problems, the youth living in poorer countries like Nigeria have more severe problems because of their inability to access basics such as food, education, primary healthcare, unemployment etc.
The International Youth Day (IYD) is meant to create awareness of these difficulties, embark on activities with the youth to resolve some of these problems and empower them to participate in public life so that they are prepared and equipped to contribute to society’s development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The theme for the International Youth Day 2022 is Intergenerational solidarity “Creating a World for All Ages
Youths in Nigeria fall between the Millennials and Gen Z (majorly Gen Z) They form the highest percentage of the Nigerian population. They represent the future of the nation and are at that age when the past heroes of our nation took crucial decisions on the existence of Nigeria. They are energetic, strong, versatile but according to the National Bureau of statistics, youth unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 53.40 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020.
This implies that many of our youth are unemployed, out of school, unskilled and economically unproductive. This notwithstanding, there is no doubt that the Nigerian Youth have great potentials and capabilities many of which are untapped and far below optimization.
Statistics of Nigerians thriving in developed worlds particularly in the fields of medicine, health care, engineering and business enterprises are proofs that given the right environment, Nigerian youths will equal or even supersede their counterparts in developed countries.
To create an environment for our youth to thrive, the solution lies in localizing the UN SDGs and making it attainable by year 2030. Unfortunately according to a UN report, this achievement have been set back by 4 years (globally) by the Covid 19 Pandemic. For us in Nigeria, we have been set farther backward by political instability, poor governance, the menace of banditry and the activities of Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, Niger Delta militants, kidnappers and a host of others. The realization of the SDGs by 2030 (about 8 years from now) seems like a mirage and near impossible feat for our nation.
This then mean that, while the Gen Z generation (the youth) will be required to play a major part in reinventing our society, its success goes beyond them and a collaboration is inevitable to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. We therefore need to leverage the full potential of all generations as solidarity across generations is key to sustainable development. There must be an alliance that will foster successful and equitable intergenerational relationships and partnership for the realization of the SDGs. We must ensure no one is left out or behind in the whole process.
Intergenerational solidarity will help to break down harmful stereotypes, bring communities closer together, synergise all efforts, dispel myths and create public space for dialogue. It cannot be business as usual for us as a nation. We need new approaches in education, workforces, politics, and socio economic development. While we all do have rights, we also have responsibilities. No generation can afford to remain on the fence.
What we are saying in essence is that there is strength in diversity (instead of just peanuts let’s go for mixed nuts). Our generation differences should be our strength and must be harnessed to solve our Nation’s problem. We all need to put aside differences occasioned by age, technology, culture, religion, policies and outdated structures to build bridges that connects and break down the silos. The SDGs affect everyone. Hunger, poverty and climate do not discriminate by age. In the words of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres “When young people are shut out of the decisions being made about their lives, or when older people are denied a chance to be heard, we all lose”
We all have responsibilities and indeed no generation is dispensable.
So firstly, How then can we bridge generation gap?
It starts with accepting our collective responsibilities Our youths must not just be seen as leaders of tomorrow but more importantly as PARTNERS of today. They have the potential to effectively transform the world into a better place for all. Therefore they must be provided with the necessary skills and opportunities needed to maximize that potential.
TO BRIDGE THE GAP THEREFORE , WE MUST
- we must be open to dialogue
- Avoid ageism against youth(discrimination against youth )
- stop social stereotypes (old people are weak and old fashioned/ young people are rascals and lack experience)
- Dialogue must lead to mutual respect
- Youth-led organizations and networks, in particular, should be supported and strengthened
- Mentoring (mentor/mentee relationship) submit to mentorship. Governance is not family business.
- Communication channels must be opened, accessible and free
- Create a structure that works
- Invest in Education
- Increased participation in civic and political rights. The youth must be integrated into the decision making mechanism at all levels.
- Build skills and capacity
- Create enabling environment (energy, security, access to credit that will promote; entrepreneurs, agriculture etc.
- Proper representations in meetings, policy design etc.
THEN WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE YOUTH?
Internationally and in the new dispensation our youths are blessed with great POTENTIALS. We must as youth leverage on this potentials to actualize the future we want to see. The youth’s ability to think critically, make changes, innovate and lead must be put to good use through;
- Continuous engagement and awareness among the youth (all spheres, the SDG must be taken beyond the classrooms, town hall meetings to motor parks, markets. A team is as strong as its weakest link)
- Taking responsibility (end to blame games)
- Demand accountability and good governance. These include accountability from our fellow youth who are occupying position
- Pay the price of sacrifice. There is always a price.
- Resilience; a never giving up spirit. This “japa” migration syndrome will not help our nation. People only thrive where there are problems by proffering solutions. What solutions are our youth going to proffer in the developed countries? At best they will be one of the crowd.
- Embrace self-development
- Representation; This must also be demanded
- Take advantage of technology with an understanding that technology is a medium to drive change but not the change itself
- Driving social progress and inspiring political change
- Playing a significant role in the implementation, monitoring and review of the Agenda as well as in
- Holding governments accountable
To achieve the SDGs we must be ready to tap into the enormous potentials of both the young and the old. We need people of all ages to join forces together to build a better world. The Youth which form the largest percentage of the Nation and the world at large cannot be pushed aside. It is time to bridge the intergenerational gaps and connect the dots. It is only then that the Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved.