interviewBy Alvine Kapitako
NEW Era journalist, Alvine Kapitako spoke to the Executive Chairperson of the National Youth Council (NYC), Mandela Kapere, on the NYC's involvement in youth development, as well as young people's participation in developing the country.
Could you please tell our readers about the existing programmes of the NYC for youths?
The National Youth Council is involved in a broad array of programme areas. These are youth health, youth political participation, economic participation, as well as education and skills development.
We also have specific programmes such as the 'Credit for Youth in Business' scheme, which is a collateral fund against which we back young people to get loans from Bank Windhoek. There is also a 'Youth Leadership Development Programme.' We have other programmes such as 'Youths Against Crime', which was quiet for a while.
We have been instrumental in establishing a number of new areas for meaningful youth empowerment and involvement in development. The priority has been on the organisations for young business people dealing with issues of reproductive and sexual health, dealing with disabilities and young women. We have also worked to raise awareness about the national and international days such as 'World Population Day', 'International Youth Day' and 'African Youth Day'.
Should the youth be in organisations affiliated to the NYC for them to benefit from NYC programmes?
According to the National Youth Council Act of 2009 the members of the National Youth Council are youth organisations and regional youth forums. Those constitute the membership base of the Youth Council. So ideally the purpose of the NYC is not to mobilise young people in their individual capacities, but to mobilise structures of the youth into an umbrella body.
Our expectation is that the youth organisations should then be working on the ground in those areas. Ideally, the vision is that NYC should not be running any programmes, but rather it should be providing an environment where youth organisations can provide services under our overarching programmes.
NYC should not be doing programmes, it should be building capacity for youth organisations; it should be providing financially resources; it should be doing policy and advocacy work and it should be doing research work and that is the transition that we want to accomplish going forward.
What is the NYC doing to accommodate young people in rural areas, as well as other marginalised young people?
In all our programmes, when we have them and when we plan them, our point of departure is the 107 constituencies and the 13 regions. So even in programmes like for example, the 'Credit for Youth in Business' that we do not have in all 13 regions, we usually prioritise those ones where there is the greatest need or the needs of rural youth. That is why for example the 'Credit for Youth in Business' scheme was first introducede in the Kavango, Caprivi and Ohangwena regions.
But people must also understand that we are an extremely small organisation. We are probably one of the smallest public entities in this country with a full-time staff complement of ten people. We have one central office here and there. We also work with volunteers in the regions. The work that we have to do vis-a-vis our reach, our budget and our small offices is a huge mismatch, but despite that I think most of our programmes have targeted young people in the constituencies.
How does the NYC cater for youths with disabilities?
It is quite a challenge to deal with programming in this area, because of the cost increases involved to make provision for them. But we have resolved that having young people with disabilities into all our programmes is important. That is why despite the high cost you would find a significant number of young people with disabilities at our platforms.
The more difficult challenge is with marginalised young people, because there is no organisation at the youth level that works with young people in this regard and also because the definition of marginalised young people is quite fluid and it's very difficult to pin down who is marginalised sometimes. Is it a tribal thing, is it a thing of exclusion, and is it a thing of vulnerability?
It is something that we are still defining, but we are now where we are looking at the communities in rural areas that have not been able to access development. So we are talking about the Ovatue, the Ovahimba and the San.
The first National Youth Policy was formulated and approved by Cabinet in 1993. When last was this policy reviewed?
It was reviewed in 2003 and is the current policy in use. But even so, part of my major public discourse has been that we need to review our national policy. It is outdated and out of context, because we have since adopted the African Youth Charter, a New World Programme of Action, as well as a new framework of youth programmes in the Commonwealth. Our policy does not take these things into consideration.
The policy defines young as young people between the age of 16 to 30 years, yet the African Youth Charter talks about 35 years. The policy is not aligned with the African Youth Charter that was ratified by Parliament in 2008. These are some of the issues that need to be brought in line. At times one does not know which document takes precedence. The NYC and the Ministry of Youth, National Service, Sport and Culture use the African Youth Charter as the key policy-driving instrument. The other challenge is that the policy is fragmented and out of date. I have been saying this for the past two years.
Namibia needs to have an integrated strategy or approach. Youth development is not only a function of the ministry of youth. It is a function of all public bodies and institutions, from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Safety and Security to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Trade and Industry. There is no ministry that should not be preoccupied with the challenge of how it is serving young people, how it is developing their capacities and what it is doing to deal with their challenges.
To what extent are young people accorded platforms to contribute to the country's development? Does the country have sufficient programmes for the youth?
There are platforms and in actual fact Namibia is one of the progressing countries not only in Africa, but also in the world that provides such platforms. The challenge is in terms of how seriously those platforms are taken. For example, all political parties in Namibia have youth wings. Theoretically, all youth wings through their parties have a voice in parliament. Some of them will even have young people in parliament. The National Assembly has a children's parliament, the National Council has a youth parliament. Quite a number of local authorities have junior town councils. We have youth representatives on regional AIDS Advisory Committees. They even make specific reference in terms of representation of young people or children, on some statutory bodies. In terms of that we are quite progressive.
Whether the young people representing us on those bodies are effectively making an impact is a question we need to ask ourselves. How do we enhance the capacity of those young leaders to make an impact and are these young people and our institutions listening?
My hunch is they are not listened to as seriously as they should be. Youth organisations must be taken much more seriously, but sometimes we also shoot ourselves in the foot as youth organisations by being antagonistic, rather than engaging in a positive, critical discourse around development in our country.
How much does the NYC receive from government per year and is that financial support sufficient to effectively address the plight of Namibian youths?
In the current financial year the NYC received about N$10.3 million. When I joined the council our budget was about N$4.8 million. We are grateful that government increased our budget. But in terms of what needs to be done, what the council is receiving is really very small.
How does the NYC disburse money received from government to youth organisations?
Many of the organisations that request money receive 80 percent if not the exact amount requested. Besides direct funding, youth organisations also benefit through our programmes and activities. About N$1.5 million of our money goes to the regions and youth organisations directly.
The SPYL, an affiliate organisation of the NYC, last year publicly accused the NYC and its leadership of failing young people. Does the NYC report to the SPYL or any affiliate organisation regarding activities concerning the youth agenda?
Off course the National Youth Council has an obligation to report to the Swapo Party Youth League, because it is an affiliate organisation. But we do not report to the Swapo Party Youth League. There are structures in terms of the law to which we report and these structures are the Representative Council and the General Assembly. These structures hold the NYC leadership accountable and in actual fact this is where we expect the criticism to come from.