Creating safe spaces since last week – The irony of the rural African Youth

I was privileged to be part of youth worldwide as I joined my brothers and sisters in Uganda at the Design Hub Kampala to celebrate this years International Youth Day. The theme for this year’s events was ‘Safe spaces for the youth’.


The UN estimates about 1.8million young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the worlds children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labour market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.


There is a presence of youth led organisations working throughout the country which I found really positive in terms of civic awareness and rights, advocating for the welfare of the Ugandan youth.


Due to unequal distribution of infrastructure and social services in most African countries, the rural youth face a double neglect. In Kampala and other major towns in Uganda, there are a couple of safe spaces for young people such as libraries, co-working spaces, youth centres etc. The Design Hub Kampala(DHK) is a coworking space for tech start-ups and the creatives. DHK also provide space for meetings and events.


There are a couple of such spaces for people especially young people to work. But in most rural regions I had the opportunity to visit, coworking spaces, public libraries were absent.


Lack of skills, educational, employment opportunities and social services continue to isolate most rural youth from being part to contribute meaningfully to the growth of their families, communities and nation. These challenges force most rural youth to migrate to areas where they think they could get economic benefits at the risk of their lives.


Uganda like most African countries have had governments who continue to talk about youth political and civic participation. But are not willing to put in the adequate resources to train and empower the youth to positively engage their communities and governments. Provision of training centres, hubs and incubators by government where young people could acquire skills and also channel their energies into solving communal problems.


It is clear that more attention needs to go into the equal distribution of social services, amenities and opportunities especially for rural youth to enable them pursue income generating ventures, education and leisure.


Youth who are actively engaged in a country (through community groups or political organisations) are less likely to engage in political violence because they have a non-violent means to channel their concerns.


Moreover, unemployed youth are more likely to engage in political violence since their opportunity cost of doing so is low and they may perceive potential economic gains.


Furthermore, youth who may feel they are being treated unfairly are more likely to engage in political violence. This could be reflected through perceptions of relative poverty, social exclusion or ethnic discrimination.


The 12th of August was designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and serves as an annual celebration of the role to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the worlds youth.


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