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20 May 2024

Turning up the volume: Amplifying youth voices in governance

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Our AfriFOODlinks Youth Ambassadors recently shared their insights on the vital role of youth voices in shaping our future. As we confront the complexities of today’s global landscape, the need for a diverse array of voices in decision-making processes becomes unmistakably crucial [1]. The inclusion of young perspectives is not merely beneficial—it is essential for crafting a fair and sustainable future. 

Tsiory ‘Tiakaly’ Rakotondrainitomaho from Antananarivo emphasizes, “It is the youth who will have to live the longest with the decisions made today.”

Traditionally, young people are seen as tomorrow’s leaders. However, a shift is underway, recognizing them as today’s leaders as well, notably in various sectors including private businesses, public institutions, and even governments [2]. They offer innovative ideas, fresh insights, and a unique grasp of community challenges [3]. Despite their valuable contributions, prevailing narratives often dismiss young people as inexperienced, leading to their exclusion from critical discussions on governance and policy making [4].

When young people participate in decision-making, they contribute a rich blend of knowledge, experiences, and innovative ideas that enhance discussions and lead to more inclusive outcomes [5]. Many youths, particularly in the global south, encounter systemic obstacles that hinder their involvement in these processes, such as limited access to education and economic opportunities [6]. This often results in their voices being ignored or marginalized, perpetuating inequality and exclusion [7]. Our Youth Ambassadors, who are advocates for food system transformation, can attest to the significance of including young people in these conversations.

Abass Mbathie from Dakar states, “Having young voices at the decision table ensures that policies reflect the diverse needs, aspirations, and perspectives of all generations.”


Wesamoyo Sam, from Mbale, adds, “Involving youth fosters a sense of ownership and active citizenship that persists into adulthood, empowering them to positively impact their communities.”

Moreover, youth inclusion should extend beyond mere tokenism. It’s about promoting justice and equity. By integrating young people from diverse backgrounds into these dialogues, we ensure that policies and initiatives address the needs of all community members, particularly those who have historically been sidelined from public decision making [8].

Rahmina Paulette from Kisumu shares, “Youth bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a relentless drive for change. My experiences coordinating and participating in major conferences like COP and SB have demonstrated the profound impact that youth can have on global agendas.”

Empowering young people to engage in decision-making not only builds stronger communities but also encourages them to become active, committed citizens [9].

Kaylah Cordom from Windhoek remarks, “Youth should be involved in discussions about the future, as these decisions will directly impact us.”

Thus, it is incumbent upon everyone—governments, civil society, and the private sector—to ensure that young voices are heard in decision-making arenas. This involves creating meaningful participation opportunities, providing necessary resources and support, and amplifying their voices on issues that impact their lives [10].

Inclusion of youth in decision-making is not just a moral obligation—it is a strategic imperative. Leveraging the creativity, energy, and passion of young people is key to building a more inclusive, equitable, and thriving future [11].

Concluding with the words of Awudu Amina, a youth ambassador from Tamale, “Inclusion of youth voices is crucial because it helps understand what matters to the youth, their concerns, and their ideas for improving life for themselves.”

This collective approach ensures that youth participation is integral to the way we shape our world, rather than a superficial inclusion.





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