Building vibrant and tolerant democracies
This is a profound statement coming from a young woman in a southern African country – a region that has significantly high levels of poverty and an equally significantly large population of young people whose future currently is mostly bleak. According to the UNDP Human Development Report (2010), the vast majority of the world’s youth – some 87 percent – live in developing countries and face challenges deriving from limited access to resources, education, training, employment, and broader economic development opportunities. Although there is no disaggregated data on youth living below the poverty line, it is evident that a substantial number of young people reside in areas where poverty constitutes a major challenge. The apposite question is how a 24-year-old young woman can afford to be independent and not rely on others, or take marriage as an option for her economic security.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has identified poverty eradication as the overarching priority and main goal in its 15-year development blueprint.2 Priority intervention areas to achieve this objective include gender equality, economic liberalisation and development, infrastructure support for regional integration and poverty eradication, trade, sustainable food security, human and social development, and combating the HIV and AIDS pandemic (SARDC, 2008,page 5). However, it does not include specific targets for youths, especially women.