How International Youth Day should have been celebrated in The Gambia?

Friday, August 14, 2015
National Youth Council (NYC) did a great job by joining the rest of the world as demanded by the UN to celebrate the achievements and map out solutions on short comings on global youth progress, on the occasion of the International Youth Day (IYD) August 12.

The statement from The Gambia’s youth house is powerful and reflects some key points the youths are in dire need of.

However, the objective of the celebration would have even been more fruitful had certain qualities characterized the occasion.And if these were faults of NYC then they should reconsider the plan of celebrating this day.

What are those qualities that missed out?

A procession was conducted to demonstrate to the public that it is a youth day, which is good, but there was no ‘open discussion’ that would have created a beautiful platform of sharing different concerns and issues to be raised by the young people from different destinations. This would have dug out matters not covered by the statement of NYC Executive Director since he cannot cover all for possible redress.

I am sure that young people in the hall were set and in a ready mood to express their divergent views and dissenting opinions, hence all of them cannot hold the same mind. The statements from the Executive Director, KM representative and the Deputy Director of Planning Programmes should not have closed that rare, important and most needed occasion without allowing young people to express their views.

Secondly, if the Minister of Youth and Sports was engaged on possible state’s obligations, Permanent Secretary should have been present as a direct representative from the ministry and not from a satellite institution of the ministry as the case was.

All will agree with me that the Deputy Director of Department of Planning and Programmes under the ministry of Youth and Sports did a great job by telling us what strides government has taken in the course of youth empowerment, but could not promise the anticipated young people in the hall on any specific thing other than generally assuring of the continuity of government’s stance for the young people. Here the role of the senior officials comes in.

If they were there, the programme would be more lively and interactive not because they are popular but because they are the policy makers. In the hall, the NYC boss raised our concerns, but almost all the participants went away with uncertainty of whether the point raised will be considered or not. This is because there was no instant feedback, not even a feedback promise of whether they will consider it or not for the fact that relevant representatives were absent.

Thirdly, the celebration of the International Youth Day is not just for an entertainment, but to put our concerned authorities on their toes. This is not to be considered ‘hatred’ but to remind and engage them about their responsibilities as tax implementers. A saying has it that “youths are the cream of the society,’ because they formed the greater population of any country, most energetic and the powerhouse for any meaningful development in all sectors of life.

Therefore, a day like this should not be left in their own hands. NYC should redouble their effort to ensure not only their participation in next IYD, but to sit, listen, respond and promise for greater strides of the youths. This will surely give more hopes to the young people.

Fourthly, youth matters across the world are considered a priority and this is why they have unlimited stakeholders. While sitting in the hall and looking around patiently at all the corners of the hall, I wondered why I was not seeing diplomats such as embassy staff, and UN bodies’ representatives, despite being sponsored by the UNFPA. I could not know whether they weren’t invited or failed to honour the invitation. However, whatever the case may be, as true stakeholders, these offices should have been present and witness the true testimonies from young people of The Gambia for records and reports.

Issues like illegal migration and human trafficking are major concerns and, of course, an international matter since the world itself becomes the victim of such. Wherever such youthful gatherings are set to be staged, even though they aren’t the themes they may come out as growing issues as part of open discussion.

But it would be more effective if they are discussed with the international partners since they are international matters. This could have been avoided by any of the two sides that caused it to happen on Wednesday.

Sadly, where was the Ministry responsible for Employment? This year’s UN theme for IYD is centered on: “Youth Civic Engagement”. It would have been interesting if the Minister responsible for Employment was invited or honoured the invitation of the Youth Council to participate and outline new plans concerning the employment status of youths in the country.

For the fact that a great number of country’s youth population has already ventured into perilous and deadly journey, and many are on the verge; the positive plan from the employers may have deterred lots from forging ahead. This is the rationale behind their presence at that occasion. And this was not what had happened and, therefore, many lives are at stake as hopes were dashed.

Nonetheless, the formal representation of the National Assembly members and the councilors as lawmakers should have been present. Hence youths cannot be empowered without conducive laws and policies in place that will guarantee the operation of their various activities without fear of reprisals or intimidation. The law makers should have been present and let them be engaged until they make promises which we can rely on to make follow-ups until such promises are delivered. The youths in the media can surely perform this duty.

Finally, where were other state institutions? It is obvious that youths are the greatest contributor to economic development of our country. As such during moments large this, all state institutions should participate to show solidarity and compliment them on that course.

There was no active state institution other than Kanifing Municipality and country’s youth bodies that took part in the commemoration of the International Youth Day. Youth activities are cross-cutting on all sectors of government programmes, be it education, health, agriculture, technology etc. and it will be hard for them to handle some of these things effectively without aligning with relevant institution - but what about if they are not there.

In conclusion, I have observed and held that the International Youth Day (IYD) celebration has been taken so lightly in The Gambia, particularly this year, for the fact that there was no balance representation at the occasion. I blame anyone responsible for structuring such an occasion in this manner. What I mean here is that I blame NYC, if they are responsible for the imbalance in representation, or the stakeholders, if they are the ones that failed to honour NYC’s invitation to hear from them. However, NYC must take full responsibility and the blame for not creating an ‘open discussion’ platform.

Meanwhile, I must also say that National Youth Council deserved praise for their open door policy and the transparency they have been condoning. The officials of recent NYC have dismantled the barrier between their activities and the public, by letting the media to do its work without much hindrance.

Let me also take this opportunity to call on my fellow youths and the youth activists to take part in the current NYC Mid-Term Policy Review for your inputs, which is available on the website

To this end, I will emphasize that the contents of this information reflects my true opinion. I wrote this not just to exercise my democratic right of free speech but to share with the readership, particularly concern authorities, what I feel is the right direction for the benefit of the entire youth of The Gambia.

Thank you!!!