Today we have the largest youth population in history. This demographic trend translates to the need for deliberate investment in the development of young people in the broader global development context, because our gains in this regard rely greatly on what we do or don’t do for young people.
As a young person, I appreciate that efforts have been made by African governments to involve us in the development processes that affect us. I can note the increased presence of young people in country delegations to the United Nations, with specific reference to the recently held UN High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS in June 2011 as evident examples.
Let me say however, that in order for these efforts to yield more results they must be more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the very young people they are meant to benefit. Young people must hence be seen as citizens, not subjects; partners, not mere beneficiaries; and as vibrant, not vulnerable in the development discourse.
As young people, we ask you all to think with the mind of today and the eyes of tomorrow in bringing youth involvement to a meaningful reality. We ask that you enhance your concept of young people within your different country contexts in embracing the concepts that bring this pursuit to fruition.
- We ask that you see us as resource mobilizers, as people who live in relative disempowerment economically and in other respects but have a keen eye for resources as atested by the success of your children in making you fork out resources you would have used otherwise.
- We ask that you see us as master communicators, driving the development and uptake of all major social media and communication channels.
- We ask that you see us as political changemakers whose evident potential has been identified but negatively used within African society in perpetrating political violence and other social misdemeanors.
- We ask that you see us as the greatest future investors, the people who hold the money, time and intellect that will drive world issues tomorrow.
- We also ask that you see us as economy drivers, one of the largest consumer groups and a people atuned to entrepreneurial pursuits.
When we look at the young people in this room and those who throng the social spaces of our countries, let us bear this in mind. Know that we climb the highest mountains in tackling the most difficult challenges; we run fastest in responding expediently and being ever-ready for action; we hope harderst as a people with aspirations uncorrupted by experience; we live fullest in enjoying life to the maximum extent possible; and we see furthest as visionaries building the future today.
Now, taking us to where we are today and what we have been up to as youth advocates to this point, the key pursuit we have is that of change. Change is not just an inevitable constant, its the gradual realization of what the past dreamt, the present thought and the future became. As such we have established a change agenda on the premise of maternal health and youth in bringing this process to realization.
We are saying that we can influence change in:
- Working with civil society organizations to build support for youth issues.
- Working with the government to push for the implementation of all agreements including the MDGs and ICPD.
- Calling for quality care for all women.
- Pushing for more qualified and skilled health workers and health systems.
- Asking all organizations and government to engage and include youth in a meaningful way.
- Ensuring that youth reproductive issues are at the top of the political agenda, global agenda, national agenda and in the work of the media.
In closing and in recognition of the work set before us as young people, we want you to know that young women can deliver, young men can deliver, Young People Can Deliver and with your support and partnership We Will Deliver. I thank you.