Nerima Martha Wako
Nairobi, Kenya
Youth and the African Union (AU) are words that are not regularly conjunct. For many of us, we only hear of the AU every year when we see in our television sets and newspapers that the different Heads of State in Africa are attending a meeting.  Due to the coverage, we put two and two together and recognize that “this must be important”. However, several youth cannot articulate to you what was discussed at the meeting; what were there resolutions made? And do they impact me?  Most youth are actually unaware that the AU has platforms for the youth. 

The African Youth Charter was endorsed in July 2006 in Banjul, Gambia and I think of it as one of the most progressive legal documents that encompass youth.  Why would I say that?  Reading the document one can find the usual freedoms, which are Freedom of Speech, or Freedom of Association etc. However, there was one that stood out; The Freedom of Thought.  Some of the national constitutions in our continent do not even have such a freedom. This made me curious to read more.  

I was surprised to find that young people have the right to own property. These are such advanced and futuristic expectations considering that in countries like Kenya, for example, widows still struggle to prove ownership of property. In many countries there still exists a patriarchal system. But then [the charter also stipulates] that youth led organizations were to lead in development of the continent: Meaning that youth organizations are to be in the forefront in participation, inclusion and decision making of development agendas.

The Charter mentions the guarantee of participation of youth in Parliament. Again, a policy that was written 9 years ago and still appears to be ahead of its time. In Kenya there are two members nominated in the Senate to represent youth and another two for people with disabilities.  The youth are the majority not just in Kenya, but it is the same for every country in Africa.  They constitute more than 60% of the population - how can they be represented by two people in the senate? 

In Article 23, it focuses on girls and young women. While Article 24: Mentally and physically challenged youth.  These are populations of youth that often tend to be marginalized. The word "youth" is so ambiguous, in fact in many instances the youth are clumped into a homogeneous group, yet within that group there is so much diversity!

One thing stands firm, these are some of the key issues that you find several youth fighting for.  Youth are fighting for accessibility, inclusion, participation, peace, security, employment, development and the right to education. Speaking on education - the charter does not just illustrate the right to education but of good quality. The African Youth Charter was brilliantly written and different countries are to work on implementing these policies and making them a reality. The only way that they can be implemented is if the youth are aware of their existence.  

For access to the African Youth Charter, follow the links below. 
For English:
For French: