In meeting the crisis of youth unemployment head on, we need to contemplate the lived experiences of our youth.
Our desire to create opportunities and employment for young people must reflect our desire to ensure that young people have full, and tangible access to the rights and freedoms afforded to them by our Constitution. Understanding the lived experiences of our youth is essential to create employment opportunities, while simultaneously ensuring that young people enter into forms of work within a truly equal, just, non-racial, non-sexist and of course, secure and inhabitable society.
As it stands, young South Africans are perpetually affected by a wide variety of social ills. We find ourselves immersed in a brutally violent, uncaring, exclusionary, and increasingly unstable and insecure context. Due to the interlinked nature of our existing crises – be they Gender Based Violence and Femicide, Climate Change, Inequality, Hunger, Homelessness, Intergenerational Trauma, Mental Health related issues, Poverty, and Youth Unemployment – we cannot separate the need to create employment and opportunity from the need to address all the other issues, which also work to unravel the fabric of our society.
If we are complacent, and if we do not center the qualitative experiences of young people nor vigorously measure the real-life impacts of policy interventions, I fear that job creation will become a simple check-box activity
Why Youth Mobilisation Matters.
Against this backdrop – one which is rooted in relentless profiteering, dispossession, exploitation, and the destruction caused by extractive industry – young people need to mobilise and organise to ensure that the crisis of youth unemployment is a priority, alongside the widespread upliftment of substantive freedoms and significantly improved climate stability.
If we are complacent, and if we do not center the qualitative experiences of young people nor vigorously measure the real-life impacts of policy interventions, I fear that job creation will become a simple check-box activity; the numbers game that is played on inaccessible platforms by those who neither understand nor empathise with the reality of being young, systemically uncared for, and excluded in South Africa.
Through organisation and mobilisation however, we will be able to achieve collective and democratic ownership of an economy that is underpinned by sustainable, participatory, and meaningful forms of work that serve the common good, aid the mending of our institutions, support the healing of our people, and realise material abundance for all.
Unfortunately, blissful ignorance is no longer an option for young people in our world today. The unravelling of our society and the proliferation of hardship is a direct result of the corruption, ingenuine leadership, clout-chasing, money-grabbing and divisive politics that typify the realms of governance and development in South Africa.
Why young people can create a brighter future.
Existing forms of politicking are outdated and unhelpful. Likewise, our economic orientation is flawed and cannot be sustained. Both are narrowly focussed and are beholden to the sinister and destructive desires of profit and competition. For this reason, neither can attend to the intersecting needs of our people. Afterall, both polity and economy fail to contemplate, with understanding and empathy, the lived experiences and aspirations of millions.
‘It has become the task of young people to provide an alternative, and to save ourselves and each other from a disaster we did not create.’
Subsequent to the failures of many who came before us, it has become the task of young people to provide an alternative and to save ourselves and each other from a disaster we did not create. We are legitimate stakeholders in the developmental, governance, and justice agendas and we must conscientise, organise, and mobilise one another in simultaneous pursuit of each.
Youth Unemployment is a crisis as much as it is an opportunity. Collectively, we can use it to fight for jobs and opportunities that do better, and which are qualitatively better. As it stands, we are noticeably neglected and have yet to be put to work in defining and creating these jobs and opportunities. Let us then put ourselves to work in pursuit of a society that is wholly just and wherein people are taken care of and have tangible access to higher forms of freedom and equality.
Zaki Mamdoo is the Education and Training Officer at the Youth Activism Programme at the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation. The Youth Activism Programme is a proud supporter of Youth Capital’s Action Plan.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Youth Capital.