2019 Aug 12
They can be a creative force, a dynamic source of innovation, and they have undoubtedly throughout history, participated in, contributed to, and even catalyzed important changes in political systems, power-sharing dynamics and economic opportunities.
Youth are the future of the world and if their views, concerns, and truths are not represented how will we ever be able to make sustainable and effective decisions. With International Youth Day rolling around the question of youth representation in the decision making process will obviously be at the crevices of our minds. Why have we gone this long without being truly represented? And when I say represented, I mean having our voices actually heard as opposed to being used as a token or to fill a quota.
Even with the new wave of revolutionary youth like Alexandria Occasio Cortez, Ilham and other motivated young people ready to take a stand, the amount of young people under age 30 constitute just over 2 percent of the world’s parliamentarians. And to make matters even worse the global age of parliamentarians is 53 years old. Sorry, but what does a 53 year old generally know about the problems that plague the youth?
“Young Parliamentarians”, as definition goes, are those at or below 35 years of age. Sri Lanka has lower youth representation in parliament than either the world average or the Asian average. What’s more, as far as legislative participation goes, even these few young parliamentarians in Sri Lanka seem to be more seen than heard.
Sri Lanka has precisely seven MPs in parliament who are below the age of 35. That means only 3% of the parliamentarians in Sri Lanka are “youth”. This is half the global average of 6% and less than the Asian average of 4%.
Promoting the participation of young people in political life is becoming a higher priority worldwide and Sri Lanka really needs to catch up. Over one third of the 169 targets established as part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relate to young people and the importance of their empowerment, participation and well-being. But what is really happening on ground level?
Youth involvement in the political process has been debated for decades, but consecutive governments have failed to address the issues concerned.
The youth quota was introduced in 1990 by an amendment to the Local Authorities Elections (Amendment) Act no. 25 of 1990, to provide 40 percent of youth candidates between 18 – 35 age places in the nomination lists. The government decided to introduce a youth quota following a recommendation made by the 1990 Youth Commission which was set by late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. It was set up in the aftermath of the JVP insurrection to examine the underlying causes for the insurrection.
The Commission found that young people felt alienated and marginalized. Lol, you think ? We did not need a commission to tell you that. And as fast as that quota was introduced and ignored, it was abolished in 2017.
Instead of riots that just hinder our already failing road system, we need to divert our youth to more effective means of getting their voices heard. But sadly not a lot of them do get the exposure or opportunities as such.
Think about it; if you had a parliamentarian representing your rights would your life be so much easier in comparison. Because take it from me, trying to explain to an old codger what exactly I need from my government and country is futile as they can not even begin to comprehend their smartphone, how will they match us in that front.
Get involved folks and lets celebrate youth day and make the right choices so that we can all enjoy the freedoms, liberties and opportunities we all deserve.