Youth Leadership for Democracy: A Call to Action this Youth Month

Youth Leadership for Democracy: A Call to Action this Youth Month
Dorcas Dube-Londt

This year Youth Day is commemorated 2 weeks after the country experienced one of the most momentous elections in history. Today, as South Africa navigates the complexities of coalition negotiations, the role of active youth leadership has never been more critical. Encouraging and supporting young leaders in their efforts to strengthen democracy is essential for the nation’s progress and stability.

Youth represent a significant portion of South Africa’s population, and their involvement in the democratic process is crucial, as youth bring about innovative perspectives. It is encouraging that we have almost 30% of the youth assuming office in the 7th parliament however in comparison with the youth population in South Africa, the percentage is inadequate. Young people bring fresh ideas and new approaches to solving societal issues. Their innovative thinking can lead to creative solutions that older generations might not envision. Additionally, youthful energy and enthusiasm can invigorate political discourse and activism, ensuring that democracy remains dynamic and responsive to change. Young people are the future leaders and citizens who will inherit the outcomes of today’s political decisions. Engaging them now ensures a more sustainable and forward-thinking democratic process. Moreover, active participation by youth ensures that a broader spectrum of society is represented in decision-making processes, leading to more inclusive and equitable governance.

Despite their potential, young leaders in South Africa face numerous challenges such as a lack of access to platforms where they can voice their opinions and contribute to political discourse. Furthermore, high levels of unemployment and economic instability hinder youth from participating actively in leadership roles as youth are often marginalised in political spaces dominated by older, more experienced leaders.

To harness the potential of youth in strengthening democracy, it is essential to implement strategies that address these challenges and promote active youth leadership, such as investing in civic education programs that teach young people about democratic processes and leadership skills. Schools and universities should incorporate comprehensive civic education in their curricula and create platforms for engagement. Likewise, establishing youth councils, forums, and digital platforms where young people can engage with political leaders and participate in policy-making processes can empower them to take active roles in democracy. Creating more mentorship programs that connect young leaders with experienced mentors can provide guidance, support, and opportunities for growth as well as advocating for policies that promote youth inclusion in political parties, government bodies, and other decision-making institutions can help integrate young voices into mainstream politics.

After an historic election, Youth Month is an opportune moment to encourage youth activism and to reaffirm the nation’s commitment to supporting and inspiring a new generation of leaders. Ahead of coalition negotiations in South Africa, this is the time to host public forums and dialogues with youth leaders, policymakers, and community members to foster mutual understanding and collaborative problem-solving.

Supporting active youth leadership for democracy is not just an investment in the future; it is a necessity for the present. As South Africa commemorates Youth Month and embarks on coalition negotiations, let us ensure a vibrant and resilient democracy for generations to come and create the future we want. Happy Youth month!

About the Author
Dorcas Dube – Londt serves as the National Marketing and Communications Manager at Citizen Leader Lab. She is a seasoned researcher and scholar known for her dedication to social justice, education and leadership, earning numerous accolades and recognition over the years. Dorcas is a PhD candidate at the University of Johannesburg.