#NYP2020: Encouraging the youth to speak up and create change

The youth-led summit saw nearly 50 participants from all over the Bergrivier municipality. Photo: Damian Pool

We are generation 2020. We don’t want a hand-out, we want a hand up!

The Draft South African Youth Policy is a review of the National Youth Policy 2015–2020. This policy outlines what the government wants to achieve, in terms of youth development, over the next ten years. The policy also describes the structures and channels through which any type of participation — namely between youth and government — would take place.

As part of our work at OpenUp, we have partnered with municipalities around the Western Cape to work with (and for) the youth, and to increase participation and engagement of young people throughout the province. We call this the CodeBridge Youth Programme, and it currently operates in the Cape Agulhas, Bergrivier, Cederberg and Matzikama municipalities. Our approach is to work with youth-led councils and their constituents, communicating via tools and resources such as Zoom and WhatsApp groups.

On 12 March 2020, in partnership with the Initiative for Community Advancement (ICA), a youth-led summit was held at Dunn’s Castle in Piketberg, which forms part of the Bergrivier municipality. The Summit was a chance to review and solicit input on the National Youth Policy, which focused on redressing the wrongs of the past, and addressing specific challenges and the immediate need of the country’s youth.

It was an exciting day that saw 42 people actively participate in lively discussions and rigorous debate. OpenUp shared a summarised version of the policy in the WhatsApp groups for participating youth to familiarise themselves with the content, ahead of time. In addition to this, we created an online survey to allow young people who could not attend (or host their own) the Summit, to still be involved.

Participants were encouraged to complete online surveys to create a baseline for discussion and debate around the National Youth Policy. Photo: Damian Pool

Through the ICA, an additional survey was conducted by the youth on the state of youth development in the West Coast. These results and findings were used as a baseline to kick-start dialogue on the Draft National Youth Policy, which will cover the period of 2020–2030.

The Summit was a first for CodeBridge Youth participants to be involved in commenting on a national policy from anywhere in South Africa, through digital means. All of the comments collected will be collated into a single document and sent to the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, for consideration in finalising the next National Youth Policy. The collective views and comments of the Summit’s focus groups and individual participants continued to be collected in the WhatsApp groups even after the fact, and allowed participants to continue to exchange their thoughts on the draft.

Participants split up into focus groups and discussed, in-depth, different aspects of the National Youth Policy. These comments will be shared with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation. Photos: Damian Pool

The time allowed by the government for youth to participate was too short, as we only received the relevant information three days prior to the Summit. Participants also alluded to the fact that the document was written in a way that would have been difficult to understand had the Summit not taken place, and had the concepts and terminology been broken down in a more accessible way.

OpenUp communicated these concerns to the relevant department official on the day of the Summit, asking for more details about the consultation process such as where advertising took place, how the public was made aware of the entire process and what the timeline going forward will look like.

They received a prompt response which described some of the platforms and methods used to publicise the consultation process, and encouraged both OpenUp and the CodeBridge Youth network to continue to give input on the draft until the closing date, 16 March 2020.

“That doesn’t mean that we will stop listening to the voices of the youth,” he said.

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