By Muhammed S. Bah & Saikou Suwareh Jabai
Young people in the Gambia, on Friday, 12 August 2016, celebrated International Youth Day across the country. The celebration of the event took the form of march pass and a symposium in the various regions and which served as a platform for young people to discuss issues that affect their lives and find solutions for them.
It was in December 1999 that the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a resolution which declared 12 August every year as International Youth Day. The theme for this year is “Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”.
The major event was organised by Activista The Gambia in close partnership with the National Youth Council (NYC) and held at the Friendship Hostel in Bakau. It kicked off with a parade from the Bakau police station to the Friendship Hostel where there were speeches, drama presentation, songs by young people and a video documentary on the voices of young people which was collected by the campaign team on the challenges they face at their respective regions.
Speaking to the participants, Kawsu Jadama, representing the ministry of youths and sports, said the national theme for this IYD 2016 is “The road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty, Inequality and Achieving Youth Power 1.8 Billion Youth Strong’.
“This focuses on the leading role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and equality through amplifying the voices of the 1.8 billion youth globally,” said Mr Jadama.
He underscored the need to invest in the youth who constituted the majority of the population of Africa.
“This demographic reality points to the need to invest and transform our youth into bankable assets to sustainably transform our continent as highlighted in the African Youth Charter and Decade Plan of Action on Youth which are both in line with the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and the 2017 year of Demographic Dividend,” noted Mr. Jadama.
Mr Jadama concluded that in order to harness the Demographic Dividend, governments must invest in youths now through empowerment, strategic investment in quality health care services, relevant education as well as creation of quality job opportunities for them.
Mr. Lamin Darboe, Executive Director NYC, reiterated the need to invest in young people. He called on young people to champion the cause for its realisation.
Oumie Ceesay, Activista Communication Coordinator, gave an overview of the challenges that were raised by young people all over the country during the voice collection campaign. She emphasised on the lack of involvement of young people in decision making processes and further called on them to be prepared in holding policy makers and duty bearers accountable.
This event was chaired by Alhagie Jarju, Program Officer NYC, and attended by various national youth groups, and members of the two youth committees Banjul and KM, NYC, ministry of youths and sports, UNFPA officials and Activista members.
A similar event was held in the Central River Region and where the regional chairperson of their Youth Committee, Omar Jammeh, noted that young people are the cream of every nation, adding that the development of any country is predicated on the full involvement of young people.
“However, I join you all to observe this most important moment in our history but also will challenge policy makers, funding agencies and Government to involve young people in the process of development in attaining sustainable development through youth empowerment,” concluded the chairperson of the CRR Youth Committee.