"Transforming young people from Subject to Citizen"
When we imagine the Africa we Want, we see an Africa that is peaceful, prosperous and a serious global player. We see confident and skilled young people participating meaningfully in the leadership of our continent.
As the Africa Alliance of YMCAs (AAYMCA), we are now guided by Agenda 2063, the African Union development plan for our continent which places the youth agenda and youth participation firmly in the forefront of social, political and economic growth. We see youth who have the voice (confidence and skills), the space, and the ability to influence. These three aspects form the core of our African YMCA Subject to Citizen (S2C) change model.
However, when we see present day youth, we have to acknowledge that while they constitute more than two-thirds of the population of the African continent, they remain voiceless and invisible. Because they are deprived of both space and voice, African young people are easy targets for “bandit politicians”, armed groups and radicalised formations, who recruit them into warfare and bad politics. Indeed, Africa’s young people have become more subject and less of citizens of their lives, with limited rights and obligations beyond loyalty to the ‘masters’. This intolerable situation needs to be reversed: African young people need to be in the driver’s seat of the African Renaissance, as citizens enjoying their full bundle of rights, with the voice and space to engage governments and other duty bearers in order to influence for positive change.
For the African YMCA movement, young people constitute our core business. Their political and economic exploitation are our primary concern, especially in the struggle to end poverty, war, and bad politics in Africa. The African YMCA movement has resolved to be a constructive force for promoting social, economic and political engagement aimed at moving the youth from their current status as subjects to becoming citizens: citizens capable of leading change in Africa.
Under the leadership of the AAYMCA, working with the national YMCA movements, young people organise themselves into youth clubs that are safe, inclusive, and creative.
The youth gathered in the clubs are known as S2C ambassadors. Youth trainers facilitate learning through the training modules in this curriculum. The thematic area of Transformative Masculinity a crucial aspect of a training approach designed to encourage young people to rethink the way they approach their lives, their peers, and the decisions they make on a daily basis. In particular, it is a vital approach to changing the way that young men think about themselves as men, and what it means to be a man in relation to other men, and in relation to the women around them.
The social development sector has, for many years, made assumptions about adolescent boys and young men when it comes to their holistic socialisation and upbringing; specifically that they are doing well and have fewer needs than young women. Other times we have assumed that they are difficult to work with, aggressive, or not concerned with their lives. We have often seen them as the perpetrators of violence – violence against other young men, against themselves, and against women – without stopping to understand how it is that we socialise boys and encourage this violence. New research and perspectives are calling for a more careful understanding of how young men are socialised, what they need in terms of all round development and how educators and others can assist them in more appropriate ways.
Furthermore, over the last two decades, numerous initiatives have rightly sought to empower women and redress gender inequities, through the engagement of men, both young and old. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICDP) and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing provided a foundation for including men in efforts to improve the status of women and girls. The ICPD Programme of Action, for example, seeks to “promote gender equality in all spheres of life, including family and community life, and to encourage and enable men to take responsibility for their sexual and reproductive behaviour and their social and family roles.”
When young men talk about violence, they must also talk about peace and peaceful coexistence. Too often, we hear about “stamping out violence” or a new program to “combat violence,” or even a “war against violence.” The language we use for talking about violence and preventing violence is itself violence-laden. We want to combat it and to punish, often violently, those who use violence. At the level of schools and communities, we often hear residents talking about wanting to punish those young men who are violent, to repress them; less attention goes to thinking about what would actually prevent violence.