Young Somalis turn out in large numbers to mark International Youth Day
Thousands of youths across Somalia commemorated International Youth Day with pledges to build peace and promote stability and prosperity in their country.
Celebrations were held in the capital city Mogadishu and in the regional capitals of Garoowe, Kismaayo and Baidoa, among others.
“Our intention is to show Somali people the importance of peace. It’s the youth who can make change in society and bring about development. Youths are agents of change,” said Abdiwasa Idris Jelle, the founder of the Somali Youth Civic Organization, during a peace procession on the streets of Mogadishu.
The youth also participated in music and art activities as well as discussion forums on youth engagement in peacebuilding, their role in enhancing democratic practices, and how they fit into Somalia’s formal and informal justice systems.
“We need the youth to lead the drive for peace. We need to say no to bloodshed, we need to denounce violence and to support the Government and the leadership, to move our country forward for economic development,” Somalia’s Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled said at the opening of a forum in Mogadishu. The forum was attended by over 200 youths.
While pledging unwavering support to the youth, the Deputy Prime Minister urged them to build on the legacy of the Somali Youth League that spearheaded the struggle for a united and independent Somalia in the 1940s and 1950s.
“We have to address production, security, education and to create more jobs. But we can only achieve all these if the youth and we, as Government, support each other and cooperate,” he stated.
Somalia has one of the youngest populations in the world, with over 80 per cent of the country’s 12 million people under 35 years of age. Somalia relies heavily on its youth to carry forward its reconstruction and recovery agendas.
The United Nations is working closely with the Federal Government of Somalia and the federal member states to prioritize youth-related programmes and encourage youth participation in decision-making processes.
“It is really important that the country and its partners try to approach Somali youth differently and engage them as positive agents of change,” said George Conway, the acting UN Resident Coordinator for Somalia. “They are a tremendous resource to be harnessed, to be empowered and to take leadership roles to promote social, economic and other advancements.”
Over the last few years, the UN has been working to strengthen and expand youth programmes and empower young Somalis to become partners in their country’s peace- and state-building efforts. “We need the Government to prepare national policies for us to tap into our creativity, to enable us to develop our country,” said Ilham Elmi, a member of ‘Ubaxa Caasimada’ (City Flowers), a voluntary urban beautification project in Mogadishu.
“We are asking the Federal Government of Somalia to work with us on matters of education, awareness raising, and to combat extremist ideology. Youth should be encouraged to live purposeful lives,” added Mohamed Ali Noor, a youth leader from South West state who attended the Mogadishu youth forum.
In Kismaayo, youth called for more empowerment initiatives. “I urge our Government to educate the youth and equip them with skills to keep them away from joining extremist groups. We are ready to collaborate with the Government in all possible means,” youth activist Abdirahman Mohamed remarked.
Similar sentiments were echoed by youths in Baidoa. Zeinab Ali Ismail, a member of the Inskoy Peace Development Organization, appealed to the government to create job opportunities for all youth, irrespective of their educational backgrounds.
“Somali youth face numerous problems, especially unemployment. There are Government institutions in place at federal and regional levels that can facilitate the educated young people to get jobs. On the other hand, if the uneducated youth get farm tools, they can produce more food,” Zeinab noted.
Youths in Garoowe, the administrative capital of Puntland, lauded efforts by Puntland administration to improve the living standards of youth. The celebrations in Puntland attracted youth, women groups, civil society members, federal state officials and UN representatives.
The UN is supporting the Somali Government’s efforts to put in place key initiatives to help youth participate more extensively in national and local decision-making. A Youth Advisory Council is being established with the support of the UN to provide a platform where youth can express their concerns and receive effective feedback