POLITICS can often feel like something which is far removed from everyday life, and something which most young people don’t easily relate to.
Yet if you’ve been a youth worker for any stretch of time, you’ll understand that youth work is political with a small “p”.
It’s very much about engaging young people to enable them to make positive decisions for themselves as well as giving them the skills to be able to interact positively with the world around them.
Inevitably, issues that most affect them in their daily lives will be discussed and addressed in the course of youth work. And that’s the crux of it. Issues that most affect people in their daily lives are precisely what make up politics.
And different parties with different world views feel that they have the answers to how they could solve the problems of the day.
Encouraging young people to engage in politics is about giving them a voice, and helping them to understand and debate problems and issues which are important to them and their families.
I’m seeing young people becoming more and more politicised and prepared to fight injustices they feel are taking place in the world.
Youth issues are around cuts to youth services and youth provision in Zimbabwe, where young people recognise the value in good youth work and knowing where to go when they need information, advice and guidance and kicking back at centres being closed and services being dismantled.
The “occupy” movement and the injustice they see regarding bankers’ pay and bonuses, and the sacrifices they see other people (the 99%) being forced to make through redundancy, unemployment and financial hardship concern youths.
Early in the year I sat down with a group of about 15 fellow young people who had plenty ideas and without really getting onto the subject of politics myself, young people were very quick to say what they thought.
One young person asked me what I thought of Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube. The young person is from Bulawayo, which is a Movement for Democratic Change led by Tsvangirai area.
I told them I was a member of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Welshman Ncube, and would most probably stand as a Member of Parliament in the 2023 elections.
One of the young people said “Good!” Although ideally, I would prefer to use a less partisan approach, I realised that being honest and open with fellow young people was a big part of my own youth work style, and this conversation would allow for further discussions about politics in the future.
My hope was that through the brief introduction, I would be able to push and challenge them to see other points of view as well, and encourage them to understand more in the coming weeks about why people from different backgrounds and experiences have different ideas about how to solve the country and the world’s problems.
So why then, should young people engage in politics? My answer: Because they already are, and they just do not know it!
Shephard Dube is the national organising secretary of the MDC youth assembly, writing in his personal capacity