SAYWHAT joins the international family of progressive countries, Youth-Serving Organizations, Youth-Led Organizations and other development partners in commemorating the International Youth Day on the 12th of August 2019.

This year’s commemorations of International Youth Day marks exactly 20 years after the United Nation General Assembly through resolution 54/120 agreed to have the 12th of August as the International Youth Day. This was a direct recommendation from the Lisbon Conference for Ministers responsible for youth related development issues. This year’s theme of the International Youth Day is aptly crafted, “Transforming education”.

The theme resonates with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda, in particular Goal 4  which reiterates the need for “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” It has always been SAYWHAT`s preferred argument that education is a developmental multiplier and access to education has a direct and indirect bearing on the realization of all other goals. Furthermore, development and education are two sides of the same coin and both variables are a lifelong need hence they should be driven by their relevance, acceptability as well as the ability to support adoption and adaptation. In the context of the youth of today, comprehensive sexuality education is such a fundamental necessity which support young people’s capacity to make informed choices about their sexuality, life circumstances and above all how they live dignified and fulfilling lives. Standard dictates of comprehensive sexuality education subscribed to the notion of it being age appropriate, scientifically proven and culturally sensitive. This requirement, therefore, impresses upon state and non-state actors to review the adequacies of the current comprehensive sexuality education package for young Zimbabweans including students in institutions of higher learning. The review and analysis of comprehensive sexuality education should be alive to the lived realities of young people and not perceived challenges, as responses might fall short of building responsible, empowered and competent young people.

Globally, about 1.8 billion citizens are young people aged between 10 to 24. This population bulge presents great potential for the youth demographic dividend. However, if not planned with intentional and systematic youth participation this can be a demographic disaster. In Zimbabwe, just like in many other African countries, one of the biggest barriers to young people’s potential is their vulnerability to otherwise preventable sexual and reproductive health infirmities. Amongst such are high HIV incidence amongst young people, unplanned pregnancies and parenthood, child marriages, teen maternal mortality, unsafe abortions, sexual and gender-based violence. These challenges have been compounded by the non-realization of government agencies that youth are not a homogenous group and their sexual and reproductive health needs cannot be a “one size fits all”. 

There are some youth who are disproportionately affected and these include youth with disabilities, young people living with HIV, adolescent girls and young women, female students from resource limited backgrounds, young sexual minorities, young sex workers and girls in child marriages. To this end, inclusivity should be the one fabric of all transformative education endeavors, particularly in the field of comprehensive sexuality education.

The future of our great nations lies in investments that they make today at the different levels of family, community, nations and development partners. The narrative of poverty and perpetual underdevelopment by most African states can be reversed if there is collective investments in transformative and inclusive education for African youth.

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