As part of our focus on Youth & the African Union, we interviewed Ms. Aya Chebbi of Tunisia. Aya is the Founder of the African Youth Movement (AYM) and an internationally acclaimed Youth Activist. As a very vocal youth leader and public figure, here is what she has to say about her agenda for the African Youth...
Q Please introduce the African Youth Movement (AYM) – What is your “Movement” about?
A "I have had this vision that, in our shared marginalization as young Africans, we could develop a sense of common identity and a critical consciousness that would enable us to challenge the status quo. That is how AYM was born. It is a movement to grow this common identity with strategic collective response to our own challenges. AYM is a movement of young African visionaries, organizers and advocates in Africa and around the world taking the agenda of African youth from the margins of society into the centers of national, regional and international discourse towards the realization of Africa’s political, social and economic prosperity."
Q As a prominent Youth leader, what are your thoughts on the relationship between the Youth and the African Union?
A "I think it is a mutual relationship of disconnection. On the one hand, most young Africans are uninformed about the AU agenda, structure, frameworks and running activities. They don’t either know or have the tools to influence this institution and use it eventually to influence their leaders and national strategies. So young people need to get informed, engage, lobby and mobilize!
On the other hand, the resources allocated to different activities, don’t fully reflect the AU claimed advocacy for youth empowerment. The AU needs to treat young people as stakeholders, not just as volunteers or participants, and it needs to walk the talk and implement the beautifully drafted papers to mainstream youth issues at the heart of its agenda and programmes."
Q The AYM is a continent-wide mission, how do you foresee the impact of your Movement over the next decade?
A "We aspire to be the vision that connects the struggles and unite the voices of African youth in the fight for peace and social justice. We are working to build a large-scale community of million young Africans making change for Africa. In the next decade, AYM will play a major role in bridging divides between youth and leadership (governments/AU and others), North and sub-Saharan, Africa and diaspora etc... Beside mobilizing youth to act as a solidarity network and support system where any member can have our collective advocacy and support backing their meaningful work, ideas and communities."
Q What is your message to the African Youth?
A "Our rights and the leadership positions we seek are not something to be given to us, we shall claim them. We will be in those leadership positions sooner or later as those in power will not last forever so let’s all get well prepared. Be reminded and remind your leaders that they are public servants of the people, not the other way around. So young people, start now serving your community so when you take on that critical leadership, you would still understand your position as serving not entitlement! And finally let’s harness our energy, passion and creativity in bettering this motherland not destroying it."