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Where are we headed and why do we care
Chitanana, BornFree Trust
October 21, 2012
This past week, a short
documentary film that I helped make, was chosen as the winner for
the best short documentary at the Silicon Valley African Film Festival.
I (being the Director/Producer) received several congratulatory
messages and invitations to screen the film from all parts of the
world. Myself and the rest of the team at BornFree we still feel
very elated by the results of the work we put into making the short
As with any well meaning
storyteller, our intention with the story was to make people listen
to what we had to say. As part of my personal reflection upon the
receipt of the award, I wish to reiterate the question upon which
the film is based, where are we headed and why do we care?
most developing nations has a very youthful population. The past
few years have been a very decisive period in Zimbabwe's history.
First, the 2008 elections
offered a window into the possibility of an alternative government
(a formidable opposition can win an election and change the status
quo). Second and most important, the constitution
making process which started 3 years ago is unique opportunity
for the masses to rebuild the foundation upon which the future of
this country will be based on. The third and last thing would be
the impending elections as they hold a key to countless possibilities.
Given the fact that young people are a significant number of the
population both the next election and the constitution (to be delivered
by the current processes) have a strong bearing on the youth than
any other segment of the population both in the present moment and
in the future.
On the outlook it looks
as if there is a lot that can be done by young people. Some well
meaning adults often say to young people, ‘in our days, we
would have taken action'. I have no doubt there are lots of
young people who would want to take action and change the status
quo (some are already doing it-at the cost of their lives sometimes)
but it is easier said than done. The participation of young people
in the creation and function of these delicate yet decisive political
instruments has been neither here nor there. As I have argued in
The complex regime that
governs the perception of politics, power, leadership, governance
and decision-making in Zimbabwe is woven into a thoroughly strong
socio-cultural tradition that relates authority, power and leadership
to age. It is borrowed from a strong patriarchal tradition that
places fathers as heads of families and chiefs and kings as natural
rulers. This culture of fathers and rulers has found its way into
modern politics: political leaders are treated as fathers who are,
by some sort of divine ordinance, in control. They are fathers who,
instead of leading, rule. The political participation of the youth
in such an environment has automatically been reduced to that of
children, subjects and servants who by 'fate' are expected to obey
their fathers and serve their rulers with extreme subordination.
Young women, like their mothers, are expected to occupy nothing
but the kitchen and to bear children.
The term ‘youth',
also sometimes wrongly used to mean the same as ‘youths',
has been or is being used within a wide and elusive range of meanings
in Zimbabwean society. In the domestic and social realm, ‘the
youth' implies children. In political party doctrine, ‘youths'
are the confrontational and mobilising arm that has little role
in decision-making platforms. In police and security terms ‘youths'
denote a collection of rowdy touts who are moved by indiscipline
and violence; a population sector which the police have to confront
with little remorse. In economic and human development platforms
‘youth' is synonymous to immature and undeveloped persons.
They are the able-bodied labour force which has to toil, toss and
turn for their employers regardless of their potential to be business-owners
and employers if given enough capital, infrastructural and legal
In governance, ‘the youth' are treated as lacking experience,
bookish freshers who have nothing to share but everything to learn.
In social activism, ‘youths' are the needy partners
who are often driven by excessive and misguided passion that will
soon die down with experience and frustration.The youth remain treated
as that segment of the population that is violent, unruly, undisciplined
and underdeveloped. (Chitanana, T. 2010)*
Such an environment has
contributed to the creation of a generation of young men and women
who are strongly disenfranchised and apathetic to politics. Yet
in that apathy, young people yearn to belong, they yearn to contribute
and they constantly seek direction.
When we made Toindepi:
Reflections from a Discarded Generation, our intention was to use
a specific case to explore the broader phenomena of youth participation
and role in society. The story of Moreblessing became an insight
into the thoughts of the generation of young people created by the
socio-economic and political environment we have lived with since
1980. A generation that did not fight in the war of liberation but
has seen a lot, most importantly the downward spiral of our country's
economy and governance. A generation whose concerns have not been
adequately addressed, whose contribution has been underestimated
It is my hope that the
documentary will help contribute to the soul searching process as
Zimbabwe writes its constitution and prepare for the forthcoming
election. In the midst of all this grand political activity, there
are some who are scheming and some who are planning, some are for
personal gain and the present, some are for nation building and
the future, to both I say, "It is easier to build strong children
than to repair broken men".
*Shouting to No One in
a Vacuum: Mechanisms of Exclusion, Disempowerment and the Missing
Voices of the Youth in Zimbabwean Politics. Published in Political
Participation in Zimbabwe, edited by David Kaulemu (2010).
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