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Namibian youth demand to be heard! #youthpolicy16

Panel discussion during the Opening Ceremony
High-level plenary discussion
Kavango Cultural group
Namibian Red Cross Society
The HSF Namibia Team

The idea behind the seminar was to create a platform of direct exchange between the youth and its leaders and to get young peoples’ opinion on the preliminary findings of the 2016 Youth Status Report. The three-day event took place at the Windhoek Country Club and the Gateway Conference Centre and was graced by a number of high state officials including ministers, deputy ministers, as well as leaders from UN, the Commonwealth, and the African Union. In such a setting, the youth representatives proved rather resolute about making their voices heard and were keen to give policy recommendations.

The workshop was initiated by a high-level plenary discussion, which included the Minister of Economic Planning, Hon. Tom Alweendo, the Minister of Sport, Youth, and National Service, Hon. Jerry Akandjo, and the Presidential Advisor on Youth Matters and Enterprise Development, Ms. Daisry Matthias. Panellists touched on national and international policies and frameworks affecting the youth including the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) as well the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Kiki Ghebo, emphasized the need to redouble the focus on the education, while Mr. Mandela Kapere, the Executive Chairperson of the National Youth Council, highlighted that young delegates must learn to convince their elders using a combination of tact, evidence and courage. The 2016 Youth Status Report as well as the NDP4 and NDP5 were the main topics on day two. Some of the main challenges identified during the presentations included alcohol and substance abuse, high drop-out rates in grade 10, unemployment, urbanisation, and poverty. 

Once the leaders had made their statements, the youth was finally given the chance to voice their concerns and make direct policy suggestions. There was a surging sense of frustration in the room as individuals competed with one other to be called on and demanded to be heard out in full. They vociferously lamented the lack of funding for youth projects and enterprises as well as the unequal distribution of resources between different constituencies. Further themes included token representation, the low quality schools and education, the lack of effective Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and high unemployment. The youth stressed the importance of economic empowerment and there was heavy discontent over the rural-urban divide in terms of access to media, jobs, and resources.

The seminar’s slogan, “putting youth at the heart of development”, is a vital strategy considering that the average age in Namibia is 24 and 35% of the population is aged between 16 and 35. The youth has the potential to become Namibia’s greatest asset for the future. However, it was pointed out if government fails to address young peoples’ needs and excludes them from decision-making processes, their mounting frustrations could become a serious liability.