How the youth should exercise their power during the health crisis

By Lesedi Senamele Matlala

As the world faces unparalleled challenges because of  COVID-19 , the youth is currently demonstrating their continued leadership in their communities and countries. Not only are the youth on the frontlines as health workers, but they are also advancing health and safety in their roles as researchers, activists, innovators, communicators etc. As such, decision-makers must commit to ensuring youth voices are part of the solutions for a healthier, safer, and gender-equal world. This can be done by supporting young people to work with communities, governments and health workers to plan, prevent and respond to the pandemic.

In South Africa, the month of June is dedicated to the youth of 1976 who stood up against the Apartheid government and laid down their lives fighting for freedom and the right to equal education. This year marks 44 years since the uprising in which many children lost their lives while standing up against a system that sought to strip them of their identity, and break their spirit. For the first time in 26-years of South African democracy, the nation is forced to commemorate the 2020 National Youth Month with restrictions, as the country and the world battle with the global outbreak of COVID-19.

Despite the hardships and challenges brought by the pandemic, it is important for youth to remain determined and work with the relevant stakeholders (government, NGOs, Civil Societies etc.) to overcome threats brought about by the outbreak. Most outstandingly it is of importance for the youth of 2020 to exercise their power to lead the way against COVID-19, just like the youth of 1976 who exercised theirs to lead the way against an unfair system. Indeed, the youth of 1976 fought an unjust system, thus it is binding upon the youth of 2020 to work together to fight and conquer the invisible pandemic.

Here are just some of the ways that demonstrate how the youth around the country should step up, lead and take actions against the outbreak and shaping the socio-economic landscape of the country:

  • The youth must exercise their power to influence their peers, governments and communities to change behaviour and end the spread of this pandemic.
  • Furthermore they must also step up the fight against misinformation around the pandemic by policing fake news on all social media platforms and begin to share correct information to save lives. Moreover, the youth can also engage on platforms to collect insights on how communities are responding to and coping with COVID-19 and learn from each other using social media networks.
  • Youth-led organisations and movements such as (Activate Change Drivers, YALI, YOUTHLEAD, Woman Lead Movement, NYDA, CEA and TearStearl etc.) should be at the forefront of acting to support youth to overcome challenges to their livelihoods, education and sexual rights, the prospect of poverty, and to counter violence in communities.
  • Last but not least youth must continue to engage on platforms that are created to keep solving the biggest issues of our day, from climate change, to youth unemployment, to gender equality, many of which will be made worse by COVID-19.

During the Apartheid era, the youth of the 1970s had contributed positively against racist oppression, and segregation policies that subjected marginalised people to indignity and inferior status. It is now up to us the youth of 2020 to be immensely positive and continue making an invaluable contribution to our society and to our identity as an emerging nation by helping the international agencies, governments, the private sector, NGOs, academia etc. to combat this pandemic.


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