I was a facilitator at the just-ended “Participate 2015” Conference whose theme was Creating Space for Youth. It was such a profound space interacting with young people from many parts of the world including but not limited to Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Kenya, Uganda, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Norway, Belarus and Cambodia.
Opinion,Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje
It was such a fusion of culture, language, tradition and, above all ideas, insights, creativity and innovation. I was left feeling energised and hopeful that there is possibility and a future after all. The presence of diplomats at various levels and our very own Members of Parliament made the space even more deep and worthwhile. This had me thinking on Zimbabwe and prospects of being a young and progressive mind. Is there hope for sure?
President Robert Mugabe capped about 3 451 graduates at the University of Zimbabwe the other week. This shows that a growing number of people are becoming more and more educated. What is also true is that this number of people is piling up the number of educated yet unemployed youth of this our beautiful Zimbabwe.
Despite efforts by government to have some sort of deals with other countries so Zimbabwe exports labour, this has not helped much in halving this crisis. Moreover, the insistent power cuts that have further crippled industry are a sure sign that the struggle continues despite inroads made in ensuring the restoration of power. However, we are a resilient lot, thus creating alternative power sources for ourselves.
This means that the candles, solar power and so on have supported us in these very difficulties, but we still hope for a better way of life. Quality of life is critical for innovation and creativity, but again this has been dented. I do know that now our sleep patterns have changed so that we cater for the lack of electricity at so many levels. To those of us who are able to have inverters and generators the better, but all this at the expense of our ozone layer and now the climate has clearly changed.
The heat wave is one small example of how the climate has surely changed for the worse. Things are bad, yes, they are and it is very tempting to remain stuck in a rut and be dismayed.
In another world of activism, there is a constant battering that the young people of Zimbabwe are no longer dedicated members of the struggle for democracy, liberation and you name it. Those who are braving the status quo are faced with incarceration or the dangers of a militant system and are branded mafikizolo in some respects. This depends on which side one picks to give their analysis. Some of the young people are branded sellouts and accused of all sorts whether it is that they are siding with the system and are part of the State intelligence or are merely not activist material. Well, we are all entitled to our own opinions and are free to express them at all costs. Please do give us a break as young and progressive minds. Who gave you the right to be lord over our lives? We appreciate advice and hand-holding, but certainly not at the expense of our youthful passions, vision and desires. In our entrepreneurial explorations, please do give us a break and let us lead in the very best way that we can. After all, it is part of our growth trajectory.
The young people of this nation are not living during the liberation struggle era. We do appreciate the many lives lost and sacrificed so that today we are “free”. What is freedom with a low quality of life? Again this is not what we seek to unpack today; what is clear is that we are here and doing our very best. Despite the sad realities that surround us today, we chose to remain resolute as young people. Of course, there is the naivety and stupidity of youth, but guess what? That is what growing up into adulthood is all about.
So we cannot take arms and begin to fight like you did during the liberation struggle — wake up, comrades, that violent struggle is behind us. We see how extreme young people can get — look around you and study the trends of politics and there could be a lesson to learn from Nigeria, Syria and you name it. Is that the kind of struggle we want? Certainly not! Do you want us to get up and throw stones and destroy the very infrastructure that is already ailing and will take even more time to redevelop? Not our way of doing things, sorry.
Ours is a struggle for safe space. A struggle that desires we move with global trends and ensure that Zimbabwe develops at the rate that other developing countries are doing. We look at South Africa, Malaysia, China, USA, Japan, Canada and you name it with envy because they have what we are looking for — technological advancement. Part of our struggle is the cyber battles; we desire a life that is technologically advanced. Honestly yes, we are with you in this struggle, but might not look at things the same way you did and still do.
Stop telling us how the job market was 40 years ago; it is right now so let us move with the times. How then do you lead me, a young progressive mind, without my input? How will you know what my aspirations are when you merely politicise empowerment and indigenisation and make it look plus sound like am a renegade? Let me speak for myself and let you know exactly what it is that I truly want to see happening. Yes, this struggle for emancipation might not look exactly what you want it to, but guess what I am actually doing my very best as a young person.
Zimbabweans are generally regarded as a hardworking and patient people. There is a lot of resilience and strength in our midst. As young people we do have the strength to stand for what we believe and are doing what we can to ensure that our lives have a near-quality vibe to it. We refuse to be branded lazy, uncouth and unbecoming by a system of leaders that has failed us in many respects.
We are focused on doing what we can and that is what we will keep doing. Yes, we might be utilising unconventional means to cope sometimes, but that is the sad reality of years of abuse, intolerance and you name it. This is not an excuse, but our lived realities. Young people of Zimbabwe are an intelligent and resolute lot whose efforts should be applauded. It might not be going as smoothly as we all might like, but something good is happening to us.
Let us not kill the flickering light and give the young people of this nation a chance to lead and do their every best. After all, it is not like we have been given a conducive environment to flourish and blossom and yet we keep our eyes on the vision and do what is necessary to keep ourselves from completely sinking.
We celebrate that young person you know struggling with whatever reality, we respect you. There is need to rethink how we do things, but, meanwhile, we do what we can. Let’s do this!
Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje writes in her personal capacity and loves stimulating conversation. She would be excited to hear from you. You can contact Grace on firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on twitter @graceruvimbo or Facebook: Grace Ruvimbo Chirenje. Chat soon.