Youth Empowerment?

Youths of the twenty-first century are faced with issues and challenges of global magnitude. Subsequently, sustainable solutions demand trans-national and cross-cultural dialogue. Issues involving AIDS, governance, poverty, democracy, globalism, environment, conflict, development, human rights and peace can no longer be exclusive. Present problems require political will to understand its global consequences and demands leadership that can contextualize solutions to the needs and aspirations of the local situation without causing harm to the others. 

At a time of great technological advancement, one assumes that human existence could be sustained in isolation. This assumption is however contrary to the reality. With the increasing inter-dependency of issues, knowledge, technology and problems; the understanding and dynamics of human relations is radically changing. The realization for collective survival has never been more apparent. Critical solidarity and partnership based on mutual respect is the essence of today’s youth. 

The political decision to have declared 2005 as the Year of Youth Empowerment is a step that must be applauded. Yet as the year draws to a close, one must question if indeed it was really enhancing youth empowerment. This question arises primarily out of the nature of the approach exercised thus far. For instance, most of the activities have revolved around what the government thinks is important, rather than focusing on the needs of the youth. Subsequently, it has created a scenario where the process is scratching the aesthetics rather identifying and confronting the core issues concerning youths.   

This leads one to detect misplacement of priorities and lack of decisive understanding. While the declaration is appreciable, the stand-point from which the government has approached the question of youth empowerment could prove counter-productive. Since the approach centers on situational assessments rather than issues of empowerment, it has designed readymade programs that caters to perceived wants, which causes temporary relief and excitement. This inevitably causes stagnation and creates a patronizing system of governance which contradicts principles of empowerment. If left unaddressed, it could pacify voices for transformation.

The youths certainly don’t need a patronizing government. What it needs is an understanding government that has the will and courage to provide support and facilitate space for Naga youths to take ownership of the process and define for themselves the issues and identify the needs required for empowerment. It certainly implies willingness on the part of the government to extend support for the youths to participate in decision-making processes concerning their future. 

In essence, youth empowerment requires principled partnership with governments that transcends party politics, political obligations and political seduction. Ultimately, youth empowerment must translate to a realization where youths are empowered to address their realities without having to depend on a patronizing system. Would the government be willing to reduce the power and control it enjoys? That is the crucial question!