Creating Responsible Generation: A Call to Hold a Stake

The best way to predict your future is to create it.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

 Last month, I was asked by a young man, Mintesinot Mekuria, to comment on his recent book entitled “ወጣትነት” meaning “Youthfulness”.  I was amazed to read how he strongly advocated that the youth should use their agency to deal with the current crisis of defining what “youth” means beyond the age bracket, emotional and behavioral indulgence, feeling victims of their past, socio-economic, political, and global crisis; and move to assume leadership to be in control of their current situation and determine their future.  I loved his emphasis on the young generation’s ability to operate in their sphere of power to change themselves and influence their outer environment.

Shaping the youth’s future and transforming the Country’s fate requires the youth’s agency to determine their destiny.  However, the collaboration of the government, private sector, and civil society to create the ecosystem by which the youth can thrive and shape tomorrow’s fate is crucial.  

As a developing nation, Ethiopia has a youth population that constitutes a significant portion of its overall population (70% of 120 million are under 30).  Therefore, empowering youth and young adults and creating responsible generations are two intertwined concepts that significantly impact their development.

Youth in Ethiopia face various challenges that hinder their empowerment and limit their potential for becoming responsible citizens.  These challenges include poverty, lack of access to quality education, and unemployment.  Poverty affects most young people in Ethiopia, especially those from rural areas, and limits their access to education, health services, and other basic needs.  This is aggravated by political instability and civil war.

Unemployment is also a significant challenge facing young people in Ethiopia, with over 25% unemployed.  Unemployment limits their economic opportunities, contributes to poverty, and makes them more vulnerable to crime, substance abuse, and other harmful behaviors.

Establishing the National Youth Policy in 2004 provides a framework for addressing Ethiopia’s youth’s challenges and promoting their empowerment.  The policy aims to promote the economic, social, and political participation of young people in the development of the Country.  However, this needs to be revised to show the present challenges and opportunities to tackle the challenges.

In addition, various programs and initiatives aimed at empowering young people and creating responsible generations include the youth livelihoods and employment program, which provides vocational training, business development services, and access to finance to young people.  The government has also established a youth volunteer program, which allows young people to participate in community development activities.

Civil society and the private sectors also play a critical role in supporting the government’s efforts to empower youth and create responsible generations.  Civil society organizations can provide various services and support to young people, including access to education, healthcare services, and vocational training.

How can we create responsible generations and empower youth and young adults in Ethiopia so that they contribute positively to their development and societal transformation?

It requires intentional efforts to equip young people with the life skills and knowledge to make informed decisions and lead fulfilling lives.  It also means instilling in them a sense of responsibility for their actions and their impact on others and the world around them.

Currently, the Ministry of Education is revitalizing the education system by investing in quality education that provides young people with the necessary knowledge and skills to become responsible citizens.  This includes revising the curriculum for civic education to ensure young people develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills and reinstating moral education.  

Second, mentorship is another critical factor in creating responsible generations.  Young people need role models to guide and support them as they navigate life.  Since the older generation has built good experiences, mentors can help young people develop the skills and knowledge they need to become responsible citizens.  AWiB piloted mentorship programs, which showed encouraging results in female graduating students.  Mentorship programs that pair young people with experienced mentors who can provide guidance and support complement education with lived life and enhance responsible living.

Third, community involvement is another essential factor in creating responsible generations.  When young people are involved in their communities, they develop a sense of responsibility for the well-being of their communities.  Furthermore, when cross-cultural programs are planned to go beyond one’s community to serve other cultures, young people will develop responsibility for their community activities and bridging peace as they volunteer in others’ community services.

Forth, empowering youth and young adults in Ethiopia means providing them with the resources and opportunities they need to reach their full potential.  This includes access to employment, which avails financial independence and a sense of purpose and contribution to development.  It also means making the entrepreneurial ecosystem youth-friendly to start and grow their businesses, such as providing access to finance, training, and mentorship, which enables them to be their bosses and contribute to economic development.

Creating responsible generations and empowering youth and young adults in Ethiopia is crucial to the Country’s development and future prosperity.  As the youth will take their leadership position to determine their future, every stakeholder including family, community, private, public, and development sectors must intentionally see our future through the young generation we invest.  

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