Malagasy youth represented at the High Level meeting on youth
As part of the International Year of Youth, the United Nations high-level meeting on ‘Youth: dialogue and mutual understanding’, was held in the UN headquarters in New York on 25 and 26 July 2011.
Ida Mahajery and Tolotraharimanga Ramaroson represented Madagascar at the meeting and shared their views with us.
“It was very important for me to have the chance to interact with young people from different countries. It not only gave me the opportunity to know more about what is going on in other countries, but it also allowed me to assess where I am and where Madagascar is when it comes to issues on youth,” said 21-year old Ida.
“I was especially struck by what a Serbian participant said about youth expression: ‘one of the reasons why adults do not want the young to speak out is because we spontaneously express our views and what we say does not necessarily please everyone. But they are actually aware that what we say is true, although they will not admit it. They prefer to stay in their comfort zone and baffle our rights to speak out’.
“But the meeting made me also aware of my own weaknesses,” said Ida. “There is a lot I do not know yet. Some areas require specific training, but thanks to information technology and social networking valuable information is becoming more and more accessible. I am aware that I cannot build the whole world just by myself, so I need to engage other young people, starting with those who belong to the different associations that I am already a member of. I also plan to explore how to develop strong networking relationships with other youth associations at the national and international levels, which I was able to start doing at the meeting through the Panafrican Youth Union.”
Tolotra, the President of the Regional Youth Council in Madagascar’s Atsinanana region, is 34 now. He has a strong background as a youth activist and has long been involved in activities to develop opportunities for young people at the local, regional and national levels.
“I thought that Madagascar had already made some progress on promoting youth participation, but now I’ve heard about what other countries do, I must admit that we still have a long way to go,” he said.
“Some countries have structures where young people can meaningfully express their views before any decision is taken on youth-related issues. Others have clear, operational mechanisms that allow young people to get actively involved in policy making in monitoring the implementation of these policies,” he continued.
Tolotra is a strong believer in the virtues of voluntary service, action and dynamism; and he has made his own oath, or voady in Malagasy. Tolotra has sworn that he will do whatever he can to contribute to the development of his country as long as he has the opportunity. “The message delivered by one of the olo-maventy (senior leaders) at the meeting reaffirms what I treasure: if you want your country to move forward, you must always bring your own contribution to all efforts undertaken for its development, at all levels.”
Tolotra’s call for Malagasy youth is: create and always seek for opportunities to contribute to the development of your fokontany (village), your commune, and our country.
For Tolotra and Ida, the ultimate goal is not only to advocate for policies that empower young people, but to see that these policies are effectively implemented .
There are over 5.7 million adolescents and young people aged between 10 and 24 in Madagascar, representing 32 per cent of the total population. To participate meaningfully in the economic, social, and political spheres of the life in Madagascar they face many challenges – not least a lack of access to adequate education and training to enable them to pursue their goals. Unemployment among young people is very high, and many are left vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.